It’s tough to live in the shadow of a bigger, more widely known franchise, but such is the case of Runic Games’ Torchlight 2. While the third installment in Blizzard Entertainment’s behemoth Diablo franchise garnered widespread popularity, to the tune of over 2 million preorders, the Seattle, WA-based developer was hard at work on the sequel to the 2010 Game Developers Choice winner for Best Debut Game. Currently in beta, and set for a summer 2012 release, Torchlight 2 seems poised to take a bite out of Diablo 3’s dungeon crawling apple.
Not content to rest on the success of the original Torchlight, which sold well over 1 million copies between PC and XBLA, Runic Games has expanded on the mechanics set in place by its predecessor – literally. Tight, dank dungeons have given way to open fields and snowy mountains, though there are still plenty of caves and caverns to plunder. Gone are the three basic character classes of the original. In their place are four hybrid classes – Engineer, Outlander, Berserker and Embermage – which mix various forms of skill, strength and magic together for a much wider variety of combat.
Take the Engineer, for example. His/her (yes, you can customize the sex and appearance of your little loot getter now) mix of heavy melee attacks, fire magic and steampunk machinery absolutely mow through the hordes of skeletons, spirits and various wild fauna you may encounter. In addition to new classes, Torchlight 2 also sports eight pets, including various breeds of cats, dogs and a weird dragon lizard thing, among others.
Torchlight 2 retains the cartoony, not-quite-World or Warcraft style of its predecessor, and even takes it a step further, with some characters looking more akin to the Batman animated series than Blizzard’s MMO. It may not push the latest and greatest in graphics card tech, but Torchlight 2 has a clean, simple look that should have no trouble running on most modern machines.
With the beta set to close on May 24, Torchlight 2’s full release looks to be right around the corner. At $20, Runic Games’ latest release could very well be one of 2012’s best bargains – and a good alternative to Diablo 3.