Torchlight II Console Version Review
At least it’s better than Titan Quest!
Perhaps you’re like me, and you’ve grown increasingly frustrated at the long production cycle of whatever the new Torchlight game is. Or, you’ve turned your back on Blizzard after their recent controversies and you don’t want to play Diablo III. Maybe you’re tired of Path of Exile, you’re too impatient to wait for Grim Dawn’s indefinitely delayed console release, and you have long since given up on the many unfulfilled promises that fixes are on the way for Titan Quest’s absurdly broken console versions.
If you’re that specific person, and you somehow never played 2012’s Torchlight II, then your ship has finally come in. Although the original Torchlight got an excellent console port to the Xbox 360 years ago, Torchlight II was left to sit on a shelf. Now, thanks to the developers at Panic Button, the sequel is finally available on the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch for 20 bucks.
It launched late last year…and although it wasn’t as much of an initial mess as Titan Quest, it still had a number of issues. Interface elements weren’t working. Multiplayer was randomly broken. Items could disappear. And the classic “stuck in the geometry” bug that was also prominent in the original was still present. Some of these issues are fixed up now, but this is still not quite a polished game, and I’m not sure if it’ll ever get there.
Torchlight II is a sprawling, cartoony, loot-driven action RPG originally developed by the now-defunct Runic games. Initially planned to be a massive MMO, just like the recently-canceled Torchlight Frontiers, it morphed in development into the safest possible sequel to the original Torchlight. It features a large collection of overworld areas and dungeons, randomzied level layouts, and a linear quest line that you can tackle alone or with up to three friends...assuming you don’t suffer from multiplayer disconnects.
The main new thing in this console version is the user interface, which has been totally reworked compared to the PC original. It’s almost over-engineered, with heaps of full-screen menus, a plethora of hotkey options, and a jumbled look that’s a little too much on a TV and positively cluttered on a Switch screen. The radial item menu is nice in theory, but it takes a few too many button presses to do everything, and it’s frustrating that your pet’s inventory and your own overlap in the same visual space, separated only by a small icon in the corner of each item. Diablo III went with a similar approach, but augmented it with a quick access menu on the main screen that kept you in the action more often. Torchlight II could have desperately used something like that.
Menus that used to fit comfortably in one screen are now split into multiple pages, with different additional info you can toggle on or off. Nothing was necessarily lost, but it’s all a bit more clunky than the original system, and it doesn’t work as well as the interface in the original Xbox 360 port of Torchlight either.
The gameplay also doesn’t feel as smooth as that older Torchlight console effort, thanks to major issues with the game’s targeting system. The game requires too much left stick input in order to accurately target enemies or breakable objects compared to every other game in this genre on current machines. As a result, you’ll frequently find yourself missing shots and attacks that you were convinced should have hit something, often from right next to the thing you’re trying to hit.
Fortunately, the game’s graphics run nearly locked to sixty frames per second in all three versions, with the enhanced consoles offering a 4K resolution and the Switch going as high as 1080p if you’re docked. Unfortunately, these are the same exact visuals the game had in 2012, with zero enhancements or upgrades.
The sound mix is unremarkable, a problem that this game has always carried. It was mixed for standard stereo setups, and although this new version technically supports surround output, it’s just the stereo sound expanded gently into the surround channels. Matt Uelmen’s score is evocative of his work on Diablo and the first Torchlight, but both of those games had a slightly darker visual tone that fit better with his moody music. With the new focus on bright, varied environments in Torchlight II, the somber music is almost a mismatch that evokes different games rather than fitting into this one.
As I mentioned above, a number of the original bugs are still present, showing that most of the work on this port went into updating the UI. Most commonly, it’s still easy to get stuck inside the level geometry. I started a new character to take early-game screenshots for this article as to avoid spoilers, and within an hour or so I was stuck in a level, unable to move. I captured a video you can watch here. The “official fix” for this is to load up your character in an empty multiplayer game, which will reset them to the main town.
It’s a shame that the gameplay is a little sloppy and that the multiplayer has had rampant connection issues for some folks, because there’s a lot of fun to be had with the underlying game here for $20. It runs great on all three machines. It has at least 20 hours of content even if you rush things. And its stylized visuals hold up okay in spite of receiving no upgrades.
If you’ve played every single other quality loot game that’s out right now, and you haven’t already played this to death on PC, then it’s a solid pick. Unfortunately, this does nothing to improve on the original version of the game, unlike the Xbox 360 version of the first Torchlight. That console version came alongside an upgraded animation system, a better minimap, and a smooth interface and control scheme that made the game a joy to play on a controller. This version of Torchlight II has an unwieldy interface and no other real improvements to speak of.
That might have cut it in 2012, but it’s hard to ignore in a modern world where so many loot games play quite well on consoles. It is great to finally have a console version of Torchlight II, but I hope Torchlight III is tailored to be a better fit for the platform.