My Take On Torchlight II, Stress Test Week

For a bit, I thought I didn’t make into the Torchlight II Stress Test weekend (and I’m using the word very freely ’cause, although called “Weekend”, it started on Friday and went all the way to Thursday). But then, Saturday early morning, I got the email with the key (and it was the first time I was kinda glad I had another insomnia attack). And there I went, even before the sun shine it first light, I was playing.

Also, beware that I may spoil some stuff, but this should be in the first 10% of the game — and, by my calculations, this game is huge. But be happy, lots of screenshots in this one.

The Beta

So, what’s in and out of this beta?

First, all classes are available. What classes? Don’t worry, I’ll get to that in detail soon.

Also, all pets are available. What pets? Don’t worry, I’ll get to that in detail soon.

You can level all the way to 21, but then you will stop getting XP. Fame also have a threshold. You can only see the first two tiers of skills — although you won’t get enough points to open all those in all three trees. All trees are available, by the way. And you can only complete the first 3 parts of Act 1 (where you’ll receive a nice message about the end of the beta).

By the way, to reach the end of the beta, it probably took me about 10 hours in normal mode (two afternoons and one night). So yeah, the final game, with all acts, should be, again, huge.

Same Old, But With a Twist

The Style

The style didn’t change much, compared to the first Torchlight.

It’s a bit zoomed out, yes. Some will like, some won’t. I had only one small problem with it: Due the low contrast between static and dynamic content, it’s kinda hard to see enemies going around. More than once I thought it was done, time to collect my loot and found that there was still enemies around ’cause, instead of picking said items, my character was swinging his weapon. The fact that enemies follow the map style — snow people in the snowy areas, brown/green monsters in the forest zones — make this a bit more complicated. Sure, a snow yeti in a forest zone would make it easier to spot, but that won’t make any sense.

If they are using the same engine, I must say that they improved the lightning and particles effect a lot. You can clearly see this inside the dungeons.

And the maps, man, they are huge now. Not only you have your town quests, you have random quests appearing everywhere, mostly leading you into a dungeon — including a lantern that will take you to One-Eyed Willy ship in a cave (yes, it is a reference to Goonies).

In a nutshell, what Runic is doing is walking the same path they did when they were Blizzard North: This is much closer to Diablo II than anything else — well, with the cartoony style on top and huge maps, but you get the idea.


Your faithful companions are back — and now you have 8 options of pets instead of only 2.

And, with pets, the “send pet to sell the trash” also returns.

The change now is that now not only they can sell stuff, you can also put orders for them. Running low on identify scrolls? No problem, send you pet to sell all that trash and bring some scrolls back. Some potions. Pets also wear gear. ok, it’s only 3 slots, but enough to make them more useful than simply extra casters — which still exists, by the way.


Yes, potions are back. And here is a tip if you get the final game: Remove both potions from your skill bar. You will still need them, but you don’t need them there and staying there will one deceive you. There are two shortcuts, Z and X, that will make you use the appropriate potion when necessary. Only a scratch? No problem, Z will take the smallest potion in your bag. Your huge mana pool is almost empty? Pressing X will get the biggest mana potion you’re carrying.


Fishing is also back, although I haven’t extensively used (or the fishes, to be honest). There is a small change, though: Wild fish pools now have a number of possible casts. So no more sending your pet to sell your shit and have two minutes all by yourself fishing around — which I did a lot in the first game and that’s probably why I haven’t played extensively this time.

You can also buy explosives and send the pool to the sky, getting everything at once, with the downside of reducing the number of fishes you’d normally get if you did it properly.


Shared chests are back, but now they got a little brother: Your character personal chest. So you end up with two chests, increasing the amount of trash you can save even further — which is a good addition, nonetheless.

Unidentified Loot

Unidentified items are also back, but now you don’t need to search for a scroll in your inventory and then find the item to be identified: Only right click the item and, if you have enough identify scrolls available, it will automagically identify it.

Streamlined to awesomeness, if you ask me.


Waypoints are back, but they don’t appear every 5 levels deep into the dungeons. Actually, I don’t think I ever found a waypoint inside a dungeon this time, but never mind that. Once you enter a new zone, you will find the waypoint that can take you back to the town or any other waypoint.

What changed this time? If you’re playing with friends, you’ll get an option to teleport directly to where they are.

The Town

The first Torchlight was centered around the town of Torchlight and it’s infinite dungeon right under the graveyard. This time, though, you start in the middle of nowhere and then make your way to the first town. And there, magical things happen.

First thing you’ll notice is that the city is kinda empty. There are two vendors, one for potions and scrolls and another for gear. There is the guy who can refund your skills points and that’s basically it.

But thing is, as you progress through the level, you find other denizens which will move to the town and offer you special services, like the enchanter (up to level 1 enchantments) and the gem recover and gem removal twins. Being beta, that was the ones I could find, but one can expect that, in the full game, you’ll have a lot more people coming and bringing more life to it.

(There are also the special appearance of a known personality of Torchlight 1, but I won’t tell you who she is. Actually, the whole game seems to go around old known faces from the previous game.)

The Classes

Instead of the 3 classes you had in the original Torchlight, you now have 4 distinct classes.

  • The Engineer: Is the strong-man in the pack. It probably covers the barbarian class in the original.
  • The Embermage: Is the caster. It covers partially what the Alchemist did, but I got the feeling that it was more ranged than its older counterpart (the Alchemist had more melee-ranged skills but, then again, we only could see the first 2 tiers of skills).
  • The Outlander: It’s the physical ranged class, encompassing what the Vanquisher did in the first game. It still have the preferably-range feel, but can go into melee without a problem.
  • The Beserker: It’s another melee class, which I think covers the other half of the Alchemist. It’s much more closer to the Druid in Diablo II than anything in Torchlight, though.

The new classes are not tied to any gender like the first game. You can have a female engineer or a male Outlander (or vice-versa). It’s all up to you.

As the original Torchlight, all classes can wield any weapon: From claws to swords, from long swords to hammers, from pistols to Bazookas (and I’m not kidding here). All classes also have a Charge mechanic, whose effect change from class to class.

For the engineer, Charge make some spells more powerful: Your energy shield will absorb more damage, your special attack will do more damage; The Embermage gets a few seconds of mana free casting; At full, the Berserker gets some seconds of continual critical damages; and for the Outlander… well, that was the only class I didn’t play in the beta, for no particular reason.

The problem with this mechanic is the same we have with any “charge up” mechanic: In most times, it will reach it’s peak when the last guy dies, which completely wastes it. Sure, it’s not a design problem, it’s more of the random number Gods displeased with me or something, although this problem is greatly diminished with the Engineer ’cause it can use a partial charge bar: your energy shield won’t be as thought, but it will reduce some damage, nonetheless; the skill that does more damage uses only one charge and a full bar have at least 6. Maybe some sort of partial Charge usage skill for every class would be a good idea here.


All trees, for all classes, now have a column with only passive skills.

What is interesting here is that it doesn’t matter what the tree is for, the passives are useful no matter what. For example, if you pick an Engineer and specialize it in “Aegis”, a tanky and damage absorption tree, you’ll find a passive that increases your damage based on your shield. But, on “Construction”, the tree for minion-based Engineers, you’ll find a passive that increases your armor. And, on “Blitz”, the pure damage Engineer tree, you’ll find a passive to increase the rate you get Charge, which you can then use for your energy shield. This solves a small pet peeve of me, when on high level content in the first Torchlight I had absolutely nothing interesting to waste my skill points. Now, no matter what path I chose, I still can put points everywhere and have an effective build.


Combat needs its own section for one single reason: Everything is tied to way the weapons work and the clear and nice balance Runic put on it.

For example, every melee weapon, with the exception of claws, swing in arcs, damaging every enemy in front of it. The larger the weapon, the wider the arc and more damage split around — but it does have a slower swing, as you’d expect. So, to maximize your DPS — and survivability, as mobs that die faster are also the ones that do less damage — you have to use your knockback abilities to pile them up and then attack.

Claws, as a mentioned, doesn’t have an arc. They are specifically designed to hit single targets, but they also do a lot more damage (the ones I found could do about twice the damage of another “arc” weapon in the same level). So, when using claws, your tactic is actually to split enemies, then focus on each one individually — or make them come in a “conga” line and deal with each one in succession.

The embermage, as the caster class, relies on, obviously, ranged magic, but you can clearly see there is a nice balance on the spells. The initial spell, a fire blast, fires rapidly and can pierce through enemies, but have a initial build up, which makes it not simply stop firing at will to save mana. A blizzard like spell, which hits everything in the screen (and you saw how large the screen is) have a somewhat hefty cooldown. A strong spell with no build up, rapid fire and lots of different damages types have a huge mana cost.

Speaking of enemies, it seems Runic took a route similar to Path of Exile about enemy numbers. One enemy? Pffft. Two enemies? Easy peasy. Three enemies? I’m invincible! Seven enemies? OH GOD, FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK! And the game really pushes to always have seven or more enemies all over you. But, at the same time, when you have seven enemies all over you, it’s the point when you see more loot falling around, which makes surviving those encounters a lot more rewarding — even if it’s a bunch of white items, you feel like you did accomplish something great, you fought, you survived and you got lots of stuff. Instant rewarding.

Another cool addition is was I call “random Arenas”: You’ll find some strange place where enemies will simply pop up and come attack you. Once you beat those guys, another wave of enemies will pop up and attack you, till you fight a huge enemy with drops a nice pool of loot.

It’s really interesting when you find one of those and I wish there were more — in my way to the end of the available content in the beta — Up to part 3 of Act 1 — I only found two or three of those.

Still into combat, let me tell you about traps. Yup, trapped chests are back and your character will warn you about them. But the thing is, traps are now neutral instead of being part of the “enemy” gang. This means that if you open a trapped chest and it spills poison around, anyone going through it will get poisoned, including enemies! And vases with bombs inside, if you walk away and let an enemy go over it, BLAM!, explosion damage to them!


I know this will be a though thing to say, but I don’t like Matt Uelmen music that much. Don’t get me wrong, the guy is good and what he did for Diablo 1 and specially Diablo 2 is awesome. But when you play Torchlight 1, you have this nagging feeling that he was trying too hard to redo the same atmospheric music he did in Diablo 2. It was almost like Torchlight had no personality in itself.

But I’m glad to say that, although the base tones are still there, the music really pumps you up in boss fights. It is impressive. Everything else, I still got that “trying too hard to be Diablo 2” vibe.


The game is fun and rewarding, but the setting is a bit off putting, to be honest. The way it’s hard to spot enemies sometimes makes it a bit annoying. But when you think how many deep mechanics are buried in Torchlight 2 and how those mix together, how large the game play seems to be, that you can mod it, that you can play when offline, that you can play either by lan with your friends or even online with Runic servers and that it will cost only U$ 20, it’s almost like signing your stupid certificate if you like hack’n’slash games and not buy this one.

My Take on Lord of the Rings: War in the North

After completing Mass Effect 2 twice, I thought it was time to pick another game. On the top of my wishlist it was “Lord of the Rings: War in the North”. I saw Jesse Cox, Wowcrendor and Trilian playing the whole campaign as multiplayer and it seemed fun. Just before pressing the “Buy” button, though, I saw that it had a metacritic rate of 66/100 and that got my worried.

Honestly, the game doesn’t deserve 66/100. It’s not a 90/100 like Skyrim, Mass Effect and many others, but it surely deserved a bit more than that.

In its very core, LotR:WitN is an action-RPG with two buttons: the left button does a fast attack and the right button is for strong attacks. You can dodge and the mobs have a 2-3 second telegraph which gives plenty of time to avoid it. Because pressing two buttons all the time is boring, they added a special quick-time-event to give increased damage, in the form of a small triangle on the top of the head of the enemy.

When you get that, you press the strong attack button and receive a small special bullet-time animation and extra XP.

While you level up, you can unlock special attacks on your “talent tree”. The trees are different based on the character you chose, which is locked to race and gender. So you have the magical elf chick, the ranger male human and the tanky male dwarf — and, although apparently they seem tied to certain aspects of a holy trinity, every class can be ranged and melee, if they have the appropriate resource: Elf needs mana, human needs arrows and dwarf needs bolts.

The tree open 3 more “melee” skills and 1 ranged. But you still will be, most of the time, clicking mouse button 1 and mouse button 2.

Also, the combat happens in zones with the game throwing waves of enemies over and over again. For the type of action-RPG, this is pretty interesting, at first.

Unfortunately, for a very fun combat system, they put a lot of crap around.

For example, the maps are pretty linear and you end up moving from one arena to the other. And in the very few places where you see a fork in the road, it only forks into two different paths — and one leads to the end of the main quest and another to some sidequest. And you don’t even have to think: Press “Q”, see the little map pointing towards the main quest and take the other one.

And then you have the secrets.

The problem with secrets is that only one class can see them. For example, the dwarf will see walls that can be burst open; the elf will see walls guarded by sigils and the ranger can follow special tracks and find hidden caches. It’s fun, I can’t deny it, but as you can only play it as character at the time, you can’t find all the secrets in one level. And by the videos I saw, some secrets are chained, like there is an elven sigil inside a dwarven secret.

You can change characters though, but only after you complete the level.

But changing is also weird: You are there, playing with one character, seeing your companions using special skills and such, sporting some cool looking gear and then you decide to play another class. Suddenly, you see yourself playing without any skills and absolutely no gear.

I can’t really understand how to gear up companions. I completed the story with the elf and then kept going (the story restarts in higher difficulty) with the dwarf. And then I saw the elf running around in complete starting gear. All the awesome gear I collected in the first run was completely gone. So I thought “Every single piece of extra gear I get from now on, I’ll give it to her”. Thing is, half way through it I noticed she was wielding weapons I never gave to her. So, apparently, you have ansolutely no control over your companions gear. And giving gear to them is like storing stuff in black holes: You’re never sure if what they are wearing/wielding at that point is better than what you want to give them and they never return the old gear (in case you need the gold).

And we have the story. It does a lot of retconning just to give the idea that your group is actually helping Frodo and the Fellowship in completing their quest — the story everybody knows from the books and movies. And then there are some weird dialogs were you get information from said books and movies: There is a line of dialog where your character asks if Bilbo knows Frodo and the NPC goes into a full discourse about how they are related, and how Bilbo actually found the ring, and how everything went on Bilbo 111th birthday… Everything you already know from, again, the books and movies. But it doesn’t add anything in the game story or plot, it is just there only to give some connection with… ok, I’ll say it again: with said books and movies.

In a way, the game feels like a Michael Bay movie: It’s entertaining, but don’t expect anything brainy.

My Take On Mass Effect 2

You know, when I got too pessimistic about some game, I always thought “Maybe I’m getting too harsh, maybe I didn’t get what the developers wanted to say. Was I having a bad day or something?” but, when you get some news about it or try the newest version (or things finally click in, but that’s not the case here), I see that… well, I wasn’t so wrong at the first time.

That’s what happened with Mass Effect 2: It seems all my issues with the previous game were addressed.

First most “Assignments” are now out. On my first run, I may have found fewer than 10 of those (and even with that, they were just something like “talk to this guy, get an assignment, go to your mission and you’ll, eventually, stumble upon the solution for the assignment. Deliver when the mission is complete”. This also means that the number of missions are, in Mass Effect 2, way higher than in Mass Effect. But they fit, which is more important.

So your Shepard is getting a new team (almost new, some old faces appear again) and you have two missions for everyone: One is acquiring said teammate ’cause he/she is in trouble/being chased/cornered/trapped in some planet/under arrest. Then you have them to solve their troubles/kill their chasers/get out of the corner/get out of the planet/get out of jail. Then, after a while, you have a “loyalty” mission: Those missions deal with some old problem/issue that teammate have, so you go there and solve it. It works ’cause, except for two old faces (sorry, spoilers), you do need to prove you’re a good captain and you want your team to fight without any worries. So, story wise, it works pretty damn fine. Sure, out of the story, you can get more credits, which allow you to get better armor/weapons, some nice things to your room — there is a captain’s quarter now — and some research plans.

Second, mineral surveying, which I thought was pretty off, now is couple with the research plans, so they make sense going after now. Also, they completely removed the vehicle parts, so you don’t need to deal with the bouncy-bouncy tank. Also, it’s a damn fun minigame.

You have a scan, which will visually and aurally indicate when you’re near some usable mineral. Then, to retrieve said minerals, you use probes. Those probes can be bought in any fuel station — fuel now is required to jump between star systems, but I barely scratched my fuel tank, to be honest.

Another huge improvement is the removal of the silly Frogger-solver, which I didn’t mention in the previous take. To open locks or hack computers, you had a single frogger-like minigame. This is now gone, in favor of two new systems. The first is a “bypass” system, which requires connecting the right dots — like if you’re trying to short-circuit the lock. In practice, it’s nothing more than a memory game, but it fits the context by filling the lines when you find two of the same kind.

The second system is a “find the one that matches” with pieces of code, to bypass some firewall. Again, it works ’cause… well, it looks like code. All you need to do is navigate in the see of coming codes and find the ones that matches, while avoiding the red blocks.

A nice “quality of life” improvement is that fact that they added a NPC to tell you when one of the teammates have a new quest — like when they are finally ready to give you their loyalty mission. This means you don’t have to talk to Wrex every time trying to make him spit out some old story that will give some assignment — I know it’s fun talking to Wrex every time, but it gets tiring after a while.

So story is greatly improved, bad things are out… So it’s a 10/10?

No, not quite.

The game is still a corridor shooter. You still go around and, when you find some cover, it’s time to fight. It’s not even fun, as Katie Tiedrich form Awkward Zombie sums it. It works better than the original game, though, but the combat mechanics changed so much, I can’t be Rambo anymore and simply go around shooting everything.

The Paragon/Renegate system is still there, still providing the same functionality with an added “are you paying attention to this cutscene?” element: During some scripted dialogs (the ones you have no choice but sit there and hear whatever they have to say), you can get the chance to Renegate-interact or Paragon-interact, either by interrupting the person by shooting something (or them) or stopping them from shooting someone. The way you acquire said points, though, is a bit more confusing: On my second run, I decided to be a mean John Shepard (after beating the game with my all nice and cute Jane Shepard) and, even picking the dickish dialog options, I’d still got Paragon points. For example, when I found Tali in one of the first missions, I basically told her to fuck off. And then, to fuck her team. And then that, since they are a bunch of pussies, they should let real man deal with the problem. End result: 9 Renegate points and 2 Paragon points. WUT?

The inconsistency of those options are scattered all around. Not only that, but I knew, from reading the wiki, that if you don’t complete the loyalty missions of your teammates, they would die in the last meta-mission — which actually involves two or three different missions. I had in mind that one of the guys would die ’cause he said I was sending him in a suicide mission (but he was ok with that), only to see him survive the mission and then die with a rocket in the face in the post-mission cutscene. Yeah, I knew he would die, but that way was… weird. Later on, I wasn’t really trying to finish the mission, but just trying to save teammates. “Hm, ‘Send someone to escort survivors’? This means this guy will survive ’cause he will head back to the ship. Which one I like more…” It wasn’t a matter of “not sending the guy that I’ll probably need in the future”, it was more like “I want to save this guy”. Even more, in the very last mission, I was more worried about my companions dying than actually trying to finish it. “Oh God, oh God, don’t let this guy die.” And, in the very final cutscene, one of the guys that I didn’t expect to die, died. I mean, come on! I got his upgrades, I did his loyalty mission, I did talk to him every fucking time and he still died? The fuck!

This fucks up all the “your choices matter”, when it actually doesn’t. It’s more arbitrary than your real choice.

Another thing that annoyed me was the fact that they removed the shortcut to access your journal. I know it’s small, but that means that, to check your missions or whatever, you have to navigate through their menu, which is not good with thousands of things blinking (the Journal will blink if there is anything updated, like finding a new mission ’cause you found some random artifact or because you spoke with someone and there is a new entry to the Codex or someone in your team — including you — still have a single point available)

Also, they changed the reticule that shows some usable item/someone to talk to. Long gone are the days of the huge reticule, now you have a small one that is almost transparent. It will also capture anything in a huge arc in front of you and, even showing what you’re targeting, it’s a pain to see it.

Those two last points are small, I know, but you can’t deny that being completely random about success/failure or paragon/renegate is stupid. I complained about the rice options in the series before, but now it’s like you decide to have Australian rice and they deliver a half Australian, half Hydroponic bowl in front of you. Sure, both are rice but it’s not what you asked!

I enjoyed the game, but the way it ended burned more than the first one. The second run, still in its early stages, will be a pain to complete.

It was Mordin. I did his loyalty mission, I made him sing for me and he died in the end. And nobody said a freaking word about the escort needing a freaking doctor.

My Take on Mass Effect

(I’m taking the “Early Review” out and bringing the “My Take on” on it’s place. I mean, most games I’m commenting these days I already beat or something and “My take” would fit in any position.)

I completed Mass Effect (the first) last weekend and I’m going again for a second, more complete, route. And I must say: It’s a below-average (to be nice) game with a really interesting story.

What’s Mass Effect all about? You start with this guy/gal that works for the human alliance in a far future when suddenly you get inside a plot to destroy all living beings. And I’m using the word “work” here very loosely. First, ’cause you’re, effectively, a soldier for the human federation. At the same time, if you go with full customization, you can pick different “professions”: You can be a soldier, able to use all four types of weapons and heavy armor or an engineer, which only access to one weapon and light armor, but a lot more tricks under your sleeve to take electronic devices.

Whatever profession you chose, you don’t need to worry about “Oh, but if I take the soldier, does that mean that I can’t use electronics anymore?” ’cause the game provides a list of companions that you can pick two every mission to supplement your skills. The flimsy engineer doesn’t need to worry about combat too much ’cause there is a companion who is a soldier.

While in combat, you can order your team to either switch weapons, stay, attack or use their special abilities, although they are smart enough to, say, use their shield boost ability when under heavy attack or switch to a sniper weapon (if they have the skill to use it) when the enemies are too far.

The story advances through missions, which is perfectly fine. But there are also some side missions, called “Assignments” that you can complete to get better gear or some cash to acquire said better gear. The problem I found with them is that they feel… out of place.

The story is compelling enough to make you go after this guy — after you pass the initial, slow start, which may make you give up completely in the first two hours of gameplay — but… would you stop around every planet in every system to survey for minerals? Doesn’t that feel out of place, like “well, the bad guy may find the thing to bring the bad guys back at any minute, but that doesn’t matter, at least I found a new cache of rare metals”? One could argue that “Hey, it’s your character, you can do whatever you want” but it still feels out of place.

Also, most of the missions fall deeply into the “corridor shooter” category. The map is so straight-forward sometimes it’s not even funny. Also, there are sections where I simply can’t understand why the “best damn helmsman in the Alliance fleet” would drop me in a long section, far away from the whatever signal we are following, make me go through a zig-zag section and then simply wait for me when I’m out. If he could get there, as he shows in the end, why the freaking hell he had to drop me in the freaking other side of the planet? To give me a long corridor to shot enemies on the way, that’s why.

Your profession have a talent tree. And with that talent tree, there is a morality system but, as the rice options scatered around, it doesn’t really change much.

Basically, when you pick/do something bad, you get renegate points; by doing nice things, you get paragon points. What those things do, deep down is this: Increasing your paragon points by being nice, you increases your charm skill which allow you to be even more nicer; increasing your renegate points by doing bad things, you increase your intimidade skill which allow you to be even more doucher. Basically, it’s a self-feeding system that, at some point, doesn’t give any flexibiliy: You want to be nice to the universe and a dick with the bad guy in the last battle? Well, though luck buy; you’ll end with a bunch of charm and no intimidade to do so.

And then we have the bugs. Seriously, I’m impressed how a game that’s 5 years old still have some very silly bugs. For example, you can’t quick save the game while standing in an elevator. And with my Femshep, elevators became a huge problem, as the game would simply get “stuck”, without being able to do anything — a problem I never found with my male Shepperd, to be honest. Couple both problems and you can imagine how scared I was when taking an elevator. Also, in one mission, where you need to go to three bases, finding a body in the third, I actually managed to find the same body twice in two different bases, simply by saving the game while in the second and then returning to the game later. And then you have some vehicle sections that are simply attrocious. The all-terrain vehicle you get seems to have been build with bouncing balls, including the tires and they drop you in planets with half of the Earth gravity. So any single obstacle in the terrain, when hit at full speed, will make your car almost fly around, bouncing everywhere.

I know that now you may probably asking yourself “So, is this game that bad?” Well, no. The game isn’t bad: If you follow the story, it’s a freaking good game if you focus on that, as the pace will make things smooth out. Now, if you ask me if paying U$ 19.90 for a game that lasts around 15 hours is well spent… Well, that’s where I have no idea. For a lower price, I’d strongly recommend it, due it’s well tied story, but will the issues and the incoherence of everything around it, even U$ 20 seems slightly higher than it should.