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PAX Prime 2012: Up close and personal with Torchlight II

Torchlight II is marching toward its September 20th launch date. Actually, it's probably skipping joyously with a little ferret or adorable puppy trailing along behind it. Is your clicking-finger ready? We took some time at PAX to dabble our toes in the game and splash around a bit. Now we have damp toes and a hands-on experience with Torchlight II.

I started off my adventure by picking a class, and I'll shoot straight about this: I probably would have picked an Engineer anyway, but the fact that the pre-made Engineer character had a ferret pet made it the only real choice. Pets in Torchlight II are pretty swell. Not only are they largely adorable (I had my cute li'l ferret and my adventuring companion was being shadowed by a little poof of a dog), but they're also dead useful. Pets have their own skill lists from which they randomly cast, which means slapping a summoning skill on a pet will present you with summoned allies at times as you run through the world. They can also be sent to town with a shopping list. Stuck in a dungeon and desperately in need of some health and mana potions? Your little buddy is totally willing to be your lackey.

Torchlight II isn't stingy with the good stuff. It seems as if every baddy you run across just finished robbing an armory or pharmacy. This leads to tremendous amounts of loot littering the battlefield after you're done slaughterfying folks. While that can lead to some storage problems, it's mostly just fun. People like stuff and getting stuff, so even if that stuff isn't always super valuable, it's nice to have corpses that are, uh, rife with loot. Yuck.

I could say that the combat feels super smooth, but that says pretty much nothing. It was easy to jump into and get the hang of. Keys bound to the most potent heal, and mana potions in your inventory make resource-management simple. As a tanky Engineer with a knack for ticking off a lot of mobs at once, I was super grateful for the regularity of health potion drops and the ease of quaffing them.

PAX Prime 2012 Up close and personal withTorchlight II
The Engineer is about being all up in the monster's wheelhouse. With big weapons (I was running around with an intimidating poleaxe for most of my time) and big attacks, I felt kind of awesome. With a friendly healing bot and a handy shield spell, I waded fearlessly into battle.

The healing bot and other support-type spells work for all allies. When I was adventuring with an Outlander (a class that, after I saw it in action, I'm highly motivated to play), my little healing bot was just as happy to throw splashes of health her way as my own. The game works to reward cooperation: Encounters scale based on how many players are in them, and XP is equitably distributed.

I had a spider mine skill which threw out, well, little spider-like mines. The life goal of a spider mine is to find a foe, run up to it, and explode -- a brave if short-sighted ambition. The beauty of these little guys is that they're ambulatory, so if you were a few seconds too late on the trigger or hope to have some running with you as you lead into an encounter, they'll just follow you until they find someone to blow up next to. At one point as I ran between fights, my Outlander companion and I were leading a puppy, a ferret, an ambulatory healing bot, and a little clutter of spider mines. I experienced a very special kind of glee at that moment.

It wasn't all just a carefree jaunt with my little buddies, though. A very somber Sphinx gave us a quest to go kill things, rescue folks, and save the day. We were led into a desert full of things just waiting to let loose on any passers-by. The big bads flew thick and fast. Teleporting hulk skeletons kept us busy when we first started adventuring. Around one corner, we ran into a number of crab-like creatures and their mighty progenitor, named the Trollthrower. I was deeply displeased to find that her unique mechanic did not involve throwing trolls at players. Instead, she spawned little dune burrowers to do her painful bidding. One big bad wasn't all that heavy a hitter, but he was surrounded (very closely) by towers and turrets. Encounters switched up enough to stay interesting.

I don't know whether you've been to a convention before. Maybe you have. What you need to understand is that conventions are loud. I can't really talk to sound design because I could hear very little. At one point, when a Sphinx was being all poetical about the quest it was giving me, I leaned in very very close to the speakers. I could almost hear its rumbling voice, and I thought it sounded pretty good. Who knows, maybe the sound design is all super spooky and would have changed the mood of the whole thing from a gleeful, murderous adventure to a dark and chilling struggle.

Torchlight II has a release date! The booth staffers seemed extraordinarily relieved to be able to talk about that, and they get just 19 more days to talk about when it will release. Starting on the 20th, they'll talk about how it has released.

A man walked up to the booth and asked if there was going to be a beta. No, was the answer, no; it's about to launch.

Massively's on the ground in Seattle during the weekend of August 31st - September 2nd, bringing you all the best news from PAX Prime 2012. Whether you're dying to know more about WildStar, PlanetSide 2, RIFT: Storm Legion, or any MMO in between, you can bet we'll have it covered!

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