Welcome to the first ever installment of this "roundtable" edition of Second Wind, where the best and brightest (or barring that, whoever's available) here at Massively get together for an evening to act stupid in video games and then talk about it. For our first trip down the rabbit hole, Bree, Eliot, Lis, and I decided to give our mouse-clickin'-fingers a workout by way of Runic Games' Torchlight II.
Our intrepid party of fearless adventurers was made up of Viase the Engineer (played by Eliot), ZERKIN the Berserker (played by Bree, and yes the caps are necessary), and a pair of Embermages played by Lis and me because it was the only class neither of us had played yet. We spent a few hours hacking and slashing our way through the first couple of zones of TL2's campaign, and much hilarity ensued. Click on past the cut for our full, insanity-fueled conversation on the ups and downs of our joint Torchlight II experience.
Matt: I hereby call to order the Torchlight II judgment council!
Lis: I've gotta say, the majority of my attention throughout that session was devoted to how difficult it was to get my Steam and Runic Games accounts linked and then play with people.
Bree: Ugh, definitely. It's pathetic, and I hate when we have reviews that deal so much with technical difficulties because people just think we're morons. And we might be morons, but four morons together is at least as good as one not-moron.
Eliot: Even disregarding the "account within another account" crap (which is also complete dickery, since I need another login like I need a foot growing from my nose), it was seriously one problem after another.
Bree: It's weird because Runic has been touting multiplayer as the key difference between Torchlight and Torchlight 2, yet the multiplayer stuff sucks and seems tacked on and non-functional.
Lis: On the other hand, you can summon a horde of purple zombies.
Matt: They were pink. PINK! It's as if they game knew how fabulous I am.
Eliot: Which is awesome, but the fact that the online interface seems to date from an era of dial-up modems and AOL keywords is just plain bad. Friends mysteriously come online and then vanish from your friends list, joining a game requires some sort of arcane sorcerery, and nothing works the way it's gorram intended to.
Matt: Right, I think we unanimously agree that that the hassle of setting up an online game in TL2 is too damn high.
Lis: Other than that, though, the multiplayer is pretty friendly. I'm a big proponent of separate loot and XP tables.
Matt: Agreed. Nothing kills the pace of a dungeon crawler more than arguing over loot.
Eliot: Unfortunately, I did have some visibility issues. I seriously could not see half the [poopy-doopy] that was going on or tell when something was happening. Not good for coordination.
Lis: Particle effects, whee!
Matt: Yeah, my general strategy was to just click on the big mass of spell effects until whatever's under it was a fine puree.
Lis: That's not helped by how difficult it can be to distinguish live mobs from each other, the scenery, and dead mobs.
Matt: What about the combat itself?
Bree: I thought it was pretty balanced, but then I hadn't played on Veteran before either. Aside from a few sloppy deaths, we did pretty well.
Lis: I didn't notice any kind of call system, which would be useful. Like, "Hey everyone, attack purpleface here!"
Bree: Would anyone use the calling system if there were one? I mean, I'm too lazy for that.
Matt: Probably not. The game's target-marking system is the super flashy mass of spell effects that surrounds whatever people are shooting at the time.
Eliot: Well as much as I whine -- and y'all know I'm not a huge fan of Diablo-likes -- the game was fun to play the whole time. There were points when I was annoyed with having to stop playing to manage my inventory or pissed at the online functionality, but there was no point when I broke down and felt like saying, "Seriously, screw this game."
Matt: I think as Diablo-likes go, TL2 does it better than Diablo III did (not that that's saying much).
Lis: I'm a big fan of light-hearted button-mashing and wholesale slaughter, and this delivers both of those very well.
Matt: Also cats.
Eliot: And dance animations. And owls.
Matt: And FERRETS WITH GOGGLES.
Lis: I can't remember what I named my ferret and it's distressing me...
Eliot: The game's never boring, that's for sure.
Matt: It's quite stylish, too. And more than a bit silly. Really, I loved it. I'm not the biggest fan of the game's limited respecs, though. I don't want to have to roll multiple characters of the same class just to see what would happen if I put a few points into different skills, and it's not a lot of fun only being able to respec the three most recent points.
Lis: The game's random elements are also great. Like the little pop-up events/portals/challenges. So many exciting scenarios for killing things!
Matt: And GHOST FISHERMEN. Spoooookyyyyyyyy.
Eliot: I really appreciate a game that doesn't take itself too seriously. TL2 pretty much has one speed: kill. And it works on making that as much fun as possible.
Matt: What about the classes? Personally, I wasn't terribly fond of the Embermage. Ranged classes aren't generally my cup of tea, and after having played the Outlander and Engineer (both of which feel fairly unique), the Embermage just felt like your standard robe-wearing finger-wiggler.
Bree: I was surprised at my 'zerker. Wouldn't have thought that would be much fun. You know, typical half-naked barbarian warrior. But nope, it had nice elemental effects. It was Eliot's Engineer I was lusting over, though. I'm going to roll one of those now. And I shall name her ZERKIN.
Matt: You should name her NEERIN for consistency.
Lis: Engineers are where my heart is, but I had fun with the Embermage.
Eliot: Engineer was a lot of fun. More fun than I expected, certainly, mostly because I had no expectations whatsoever.
Lis: I don't think there's a bad class to be "stuck in," although I'd like to reiterate my displeasure with the lack of total re-skill options.
Bree: Oh hell yes.
Eliot: Agreed. Then again, this is a game where you can just gain moar power, so you respec by just leveling.
Bree: I know complete respecs can be done with mods. But (I think?) modding can flag you as a dirty cheater on Steam.
Lis: But there's an achievement for using mods!
Matt: There's an achievement for everything! But to be fair, we worked for our achievement for forming a party after all those technical issues.
Eliot: Not a huge fan of that, honestly. I sent my pet to sell things and got an achievement. That's a core gameplay mechanic, not a special accomplishment. One of these days we'll have a game that gives you an achievement for just pressing a button and that'll be the end of it.
Matt: I'm pretty sure that's already a thing.
Eliot: I'm awaiting an MMO that awards you for jumping frequently enough in a dungeon while waiting for people to get their act together, or for pulling the boss and then wiping the entire group. You know, rewarding people for being completely spastic.
Bree: We'll call it, "HEY GUYS WATCH THIS!"
Matt: Man, I'd be the achievement king in that game. At any rate, I think we've about run out of clever and/or article space, so let's call it here. Thanks for playing guys, and thanks to you readers who made it through this transcript without dismissing us as a bunch of loons. 'Til next time!
MMOs are constantly changing, and our opinions can change with them. That's why we're here to give some beloved (or not) games a second (or third) look. Has that game that was a wreck at launch finally pulled itself together? How do the hits of yesteryear hold up today? That's what we're here to find out as Massively gets its Second Wind!