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January 8, 2011


Throwdown: Torchlight II or Diablo III?

Posted by on Jan 8, 2011

Third and I both recently delved back into the depths under the town of Torchlight.  Though I can’t speak for Third (but I can order for him at restaurants), I have to say I’m even more impressed now than I was the first time I played through the game.  So much so, that, as I told Wade (to his confused mixture of disappointment and disbelief), I am now officially more excited for Torchlight II than I am for Diablo III.

And the music comes to a screeching halt.  Hit the jump to throw it down.

When Torchlight was initially announced/released, it was (inevitably and invariably) compared to Diablo.  The comparison was an easy one to make (for lazy internet gaming journalists…like me), but it was due to more than just similar gameplay.  Runic Games was founded in 2008 by Travis Baldree, Peter Hu, Max Schaefer, and Erich Schaefer.  Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer were co-founders of the now defunct Blizzard North, the company responsible for all of the existing games in the Diablo franchise.  Following the release of the Diablo II expansion, Lord of Destruction, several key members of the Blizzard North team (rumored to be unhappy with parent company Vivendi) left the company to pursue other ventures, among them Flagship Studios.  Flagship Studios released Hellgate: London and was developing a second game when the company disbanded due to financial troubles.  Despite their initial difficulties, the group decided they had a good thing going, reformed under the moniker Runic Games, and, in 2009, released Torchlight to great critical and commercial success.  Still with me?  We’ve now come full circle.  It’s worth noting that we have never seen a Diablo game that didn’t involve many of the people now working at Runic Games.  So, to call Torchlight a “Diablo clone” is both unfair and inaccurate.  Torchlight is more like Diablo‘s half-brother from another marriage.  But which brother is best?

If you haven’t played Torchlight, go do that now.  It takes the formula you know and love from Diablo and makes improvements that are so intuitive, you’ll wonder why things weren’t always this way.  Don’t want to go back to town every time your inventory is full?  Send your pet.  He’ll bring back the money.  Don’t want to waste precious skill points on the useless skills early in a tree just so you can get the later, greater skills in said tree?  You don’t have to.  The only skill prerequisites are level based.  There’s also a pretty great character “retirement” system, and feeding fish to your pet to transform him/her into different creatures finally gives me a reason to care about fishing in an RPG.  Or at all.

Let’s talk dungeons.  Although Tristram (everyone’s favorite little gateway to the underworld) will always have a special place in my heart, Torchlight definitely gives it a run for it’s money.  Because you’re just underground and not, you know, in Hell, Torchlight is able to use a variety of different environments to keep things interesting.  Mines quickly become lost ruins, forgotten jungles, abandoned Dwarven forges, and other, more ominous, settings.  Again, because it’s not, you know, Hell, the mines can feel dangerous without feeling depressing.

How about user support?  Runic Games seems to have embraced the Torchlight fan community, offering a free editor and encouraging the use of player created mods.  The universal criticism of Torchlight was that it lacked multiplayer, and (in answer) Torchlight II will have it, via both LAN and Steam.  Diablo III, on the other hand, will most likely follow Starcraft II and require mandatory registration.  You know,  The one without LAN play.  To quote Hitler, “you think Blizzard actually fucking listens to people”?

Blizzard is famous (or notorious) for their “it’s ready when it’s finished” mentality.  And, admittedly, their games are always incredibly polished.  In contrast, production on Torchlight lasted under a year.  I would argue (and I am arguing it now) that Torchlight is as well done as any Blizzard game I have ever played (taking into account the development of technology over time).  And if that’s what Runic Games can do in eleven months, I can’t wait to see what they do with the increased time and moneys they’re spending on the sequel.

Of course, this may be much ado about nothing. Torchlight II comes out this Spring.  Diablo III may, eventually, come out.  Who do you like?

  • Picking fights I see 😉

    I have played both Torchlight and all of the existing Diablo games, and I’m going to go on record as being *very* excited for Torchlight II, but no where near the level at which I’m excited for Diablo III.

    I have to confess, I have no idea whether or not Torchlight has cool worlds once you get far enough underground because I get bored by 4 levels down without anyone else to play with. This is by far Torchlights biggest weakness, and exactly what the next iteration aims to resolve, so I”ll revise my opinion then.

    However, beyond that, I have never been particularly impressed by Torchlight’s character classes. With Diablo, picking your class meant making a decision about how you would play the game, with no going back. When I play Torchlight I get the impression that I could pick any of the three classes, or a goldfish, and it would make negligible impact on how I play the game. The prevalence of magical scrolls largely usable by anyone, and a lack of real skill specialization (as far as I can tell), makes things largely the same, and a little less engaging to me.

    I guess the answer is, I’ll play Torchlight II without a doubt – but I’m way more excited for Diablo III

    • Tom

      I wouldn’t say that I’m picking fights, but I can definitely see this being quite the Throwdown. Blizzard is as close to a sacred cow (level) as it gets in gaming. Awesome side note, there’s a hidden horse level (same idea, different mammal) in Torchlight, though I’ve yet (read: am afraid) to get to it. Clearly, Runic Games is willing to acknowledge it’s roots.

      As for your chief criticism of Torchlight, what difficulty did you play? I’ve found that the harder the game gets (Very Hard Hardcore FTW), the more you’re forced to rely on the strengths (and avoid the weaknesses) of each class. Just as in Diablo, any character of the requisite level can learn a spell, but if you haven’t invested skill points in magic (and, more importantly, if you’re not playing the mage/alchemist who gets bonuses to magic damage/mana for investing in magic), using spells as your primary offense won’t be feasible in the long run. I would encourage you to roll a VHHC character and play through the game again. I think you’ll find it quite a bit more challenging and enjoyable.

      And, obviously, I’m still very excited for Diablo III. I just remember when Torchlight came out, the general consensus was that it was an excellent distraction before D3. Some people went as far as calling it Diablo 2.5. Now it’s looking like we’ll have T2 before D3 even comes out. From what little we know about both games, T2 will have greater character customization. In D3 you can choose gender, in T2 you can choose gender, facial features, hair, etc. These may be small things, but I think they’re indicative of the greater differences we’ll see in the two games. Even if D3 is “better”, I think T2 will be a lot more fun.

      • I’ll give it a shot at VHHC, but for the most part just can’t wait to be able to play either D3 or T2 with y’all.

        • Tom

          I concur.

  • So I just started a new game on VHHC, and was having a good time. Then I died, and now I’m irritated 😉

  • Chris, I feel your pain. I died in hardcore mode three times before I got the hang of my Destroyer (and learned to keep the important stuff in the shared stash where I could get it later).

    I don’t have a large amount of experience with Diablo – I really only played Diablo 2 with Tom and Wade for about 2 months before someone died in Hardcore mode, and rather than wait around for him to re-level, we all started playing WoW. I really enjoyed Diablo II, a lot, but I’m not exactly into hardcore strategy and skill specialization when it comes to videogames. Torchlight basically eliminates that need in the beginning, only requiring it once you get to higher levels. Also, Chris: what class did you play? Destroyer really requires very little skill specialization, but Vanquisher and Alchemist definitely make you choose your strategy much more carefully.

    Basically, I’m having a lot of fun with Torchlight, and while Diablo 2 is definitely fun, I’m enjoying Torchlight in general more, and given A) the exponential increase of fun that multiplayer will bring and B) the fact that they’re definitely embracing the steampunk aesthetic with the Railman class in T2, I’m gonna go with Torchlight 2.

    • So 2 things. First, I’ve now lost a Destroyer and Alchemist, have given into the harsh reality of the world, and am now playing a Vanquisher on Hard Hardcore. I’m having a blast doing so, and have also figured out the Shared Stash trick.

      Second, when D3 or T2 comes out, we are all playing it together. Since Hardcore raises the stakes, I would suggest that we play Hardcore, but that leaves you open to the accidental problem you had with D2 (and Wade). Thus I propose a solution: we play on regular, but with a “Shame Board” that tracks who dies, and ridicules them properly for it. That way there’s incentive not to die, but less irritation if you do.

  • beast

    will anyone play d2 LOD with me

  • tyrael’s junk

    God I love both of these games.  It’s sad, but I might be more excited for Torchlight II also.  I mean, I’ve been waiting on Diablo III for like 10 years.  And it’s been in production for way too long to keep up with the expectations (see Duke Nukem Forever).  Honestly, they could have just released a 2nd expansion pack with 2 more acts and I would still be satiated…and yes, I still reinstall LOD on my comp every 6 months or so.  

    But Torchlight is so easy and logical.  It accomplishes everything Diablo does for my RPG-nerddom without any of the production value.  It’s like me watching Spiderman 2, or watching the animated series from the 90s (don’t mock me!  I loved that ish).  It can more easily keep me more addicted.  

    I didn’t play a lot of Multi in D2, but when I did, it was either Open or LAN.  And the awesome part about it was that you could level the crap out of your characters, then take them to pwn with your friends.  Sometimes it’s fun to play with others, and sometimes it’s fun to play with yourself (insert joke here).  Torchlight at least takes that into account, with LAN, plus the retirement/beating the game features.  Really hope D3 shocks me here and does something cool here, but doubtful.   

    • First off, nice handle 🙂

      For me personally, the Diablo series IS realm multiplayer.  I have spent so much of my life leveling characters on those servers, and that’s what I’m really looking forward to returning to when Diablo 3 comes out.

      Until Torchlight proves to me that it can deliver a multiplayer experience on par with that, I’m going to stick to Blizzard.