During our brief hands-on demo with Torchlight II, the RPGamer team got a taste of a few new features in this hotly anticipated sequel. Anna Marie Neufeld and Mikel Tidwell were with me for the demo. The three of us teamed up to try out the game's new LAN feature. Anna Marie played as the Railman class, Mikel played as the Outlander, and I got to try out the brand new Berserker class. The Railman is a tank-like class that specializes in large, two-handed weapons. The Outlander is a fast-ranged class that Mikel describes as a gun ninja. One attack that he was particularly of fond was the ability to dash backwards while dropping a bomb in front of him. This is a good attack for dealing damage and getting out of trouble. The Railman and Outlander had been previously revealed, but E3 2011 marked the debut of the Berserker class.
The Berserker, unlike the Railman, is meant to be a fast melee fighter moving in and out of combat situations. To fit the Bersker's fast and wild combat theme, the class specializes in dual claw type weapons and fist blades. The Berserker sports a shamanistic motif and is clad in animal pelts and can summon forth animal spirits to aid him combat. When the Berserker summons an animal spirit, his mana is consumed and various fiery spirits with different effects emerge from the Berserker's body. For example, during the demo, I could call upon either a dragon spirit that spewed out flames in front of me, a wolf spirit that slashed enemies in front of me, or a wolf pack that erupted out of me to attack all surrounding enemies. Overall, the shamanistic theme fits very well with the Berserker's fast combat focus.
While I was playing as the Berserker, I also got to chat with the Runic Games team to see what they have been up to since PAX Prime where Torchlight II was last shown publicly. They have been hard at work creating new content and art assets. The game features three full acts with some sort of endless act afterwards. I was told there is as much content in one of these acts as there is in all of the original. There are also some plans for some kind of NewGame+ mode if you want to play through the game again with a beloved character.
I also learned a lot about the multiplayer in Torchlight II. Runic is implementing its own standardized, multiplayer matchmaking in the game that doesn't rely on any third party software, like Steamworks for example. The game also features PC and Mac cross platform play, so no matter where you choose to buy the game and what platform you play it on, you will be able to easily play with your friends. To go along with the standardized matchmaking, the game will also have its own back end update/patch system. If you buy a retail boxed version of the game, you no longer have to worry about figuring out when patches come out, finding them, and then manually installing them. However, there is no word yet on if those retail boxed versions of the game will still be DRM-free like Torchlight 1.
The Mac version of the game should be available much sooner this time around since they optimized the code under the game's hood. The more universal code should make porting it that much easier. Finally, the game features some basic customization options during the character creation process. Choices include: gender, class, skin tone, face, hair style, and hair color. They may even add more to those customization options. This is a real nice change from Torchlight 1 where you had fixed characters. I'm also happy to see a skin tone option. It is a tiny feature that I appreciate in character creators that devs sometimes forget to include.
The game still isn't done, but it is already looking great. The new outdoor areas are large and full of detail, the new classes have a lot of personality, and the animations are pretty fluid. I can't say much about the UI since we were told that once E3 was over, they were going back to redesign the UI to make it easier to use and look nicer. I look forward to seeing how the finished UI improves upon the previous game. I am also really excited for the unveiling of the game’s final class. My guess, based on the other three classes, is a heavily magic-focused class. We should know the answer to this and to all of our other lingering questions later this year as Torchlight II is still on track for a 2011 PC release. The Mac version should follow shortly there after.