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Of Barbarians and Engineers A comparison between Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 through the eyes of an ARPG newb

September 27, 2012

 

So Torchlight 2 has been out for a week now and I have been playing it, according to Steam for 24 hours. If that is little and yes it is kind of little, my explanation is that I am trying to go through Deus Ex: Human Revolution as a pacifist (really fun but very slow) so my girlfriend and I can take up our discussion about technical augments to the human physiology. That being said it is about 10 hours less than I played Diablo 3. For reasons I will come to later, I only played the campaign, but I thought it would be interesting to compare both these games from my point of view, who up until D3 had not played any ARPG (blasphemy I know don’t worry, my girlfriend has scheduled a Diablo 1 & 2 session in my gaming calendar and I also own Torchlight 1 now). Anyway with all the great reviews of Torchlight flying around the net at the moment and comparing it to the older ARPGs I thought it might be valuable to see how a newb in the genre sees things. As I mentioned earlier I had only played Diablo 3’s campaign once. My character was a Barbarian (which I enjoyed). Without criticizing the story (in fact I won’t compare them as I am still in act 2 of Tl2) here are some of the main issues I had with Diablo 3 and why I am able to enjoy Torchlight 2 a lot more:

 

For one Diablo 3 required me to grind my way through the same story line over and over again to get to the interesting bits that were challenging and once you got there (I got my hands on my girlfriend’s father Barbarian and the two of us played on Inferno Act 1 and some of Act 2) the game becomes a gear treadmill, or so I was told. I know it is a tradition of the Diablo franchise to do this kind of ramping up of difficulty and I am not saying they should do away with it, merely that it is not my cup of tea, it got too repetitive. I also do not agree with the challenge being provided by relying so heavily on gear as it kind of restricts player creativity, we don’t have to come up with our own tactics of how to solve situations, the solution is always get more resistance gear. I call that boring! Now resistance gear does serve its purpose and it should not be abolished, but neither should it be the end all be all solution. Something that adds to my sense of feeling hampered in my creativity (Note: When I write creativity it also entails me testing out very inefficient and ludicrous builds that still get the job done), was the talent system. Maybe it is just me but I did not find it that enticing to pick up an ability and choose how I want to augment it and that being my character progression. Sure there were all kinds of different combinations of how you could build your character but it still felt very rudimentary.

Compare this to Torchlight 2 where you can for one chose your own difficulty level at the beginning and change it as you see fit! I really like that I mean why should I be separated from the challenge in a largely single player game by the fact that I can’t be asked to grind? Grinding is good, mostly in multiplayer games where you constantly are being compared and compare yourselves to others by virtue of inhabiting the same world. In a single player game it really does not make sense to compare yourself to anyone! There is just you playing your game after all, the only thing that matters is if you beat it or not. But I am willing to write that down to being a Diablo franchise tradition, one that I merely don’t like, but that’s it.

 

Something I am not going to let go so easily though is the talent system in Diablo 3. Maybe it is just me, but I like Torchlights 2’s system more, here are some reasons. For one the absence of a proper respect is such a godsend. This adds a nice amount of consequence and depth to the character that you are playing as you get to make the choice between getting new abilities and how much you want to enhance them, all the way to how your attribute distribution should look like. Most importantly it adds replayability to the game! Your first character will propably be a screw up, your second character not so much and your third one is a god. It gives you as a player the opportunity to learn something while playing the game and that is, what’s fun about playing games in my opinion; working on your character and improving it over time and not getting everything served up. My first character for instance was an Embermage, effectiveness wise he is a total screw up, but then again I went with what looked fun and I don’t care if I kill my mobs 2 minutes slower than someone else, because while I’m slowly killing mobs I can do my favourite Emperor Palpatine impersonation and that just gives me so much fun in the game. When I feel like it I’ll look up a guide and reroll him in order to make an effective character, but at the moment I am enjoying messing around with him and my bow/ wand wielding Berserker. I will most likely do a proper version of each class in time but at the moment I am getting my fun from being allowed to experiment; Diablo 3’s talent system did not really give me the depth necessary to feel like I could experiment a lot. This further addition of player choice and consequence fuel the more experimentally side of myself and I absolutely enjoy the freedom the game offers me. That being said my main character is an Engineer on whom I follow a guide and the effectiveness of it gives me also a fair amount of joy, it is nice to blast things with a big cannon while my girlfriend is doing the tanking business (even though lately I feel like a very glassy glass-cannon, which means I spend a lot of time lately dead on the floor due to bad placements on the map, ergo don’t stand on stuff that has a skull on it no matter how nice the position is). So while guides do exist I thoroughly enjoy the freedom Torchlight 2 has given the player in his character progression and that they had the guts to make that freedom mean something by the consequence of not having a real respect and thus allowing the game to have countless more hours of playtime extending the main story line.

Quickly going off-topic I also want to say how much I hate and love whoever designed the arena event in Act II me and my girlfriend had so much fun in it although it took us several hours to beat it!

 

Another very big part of my enjoyment in Torchlight 2 comes from sets of gear. While playing Diablo 3 and enjoying the secret cow level I also noticed that at later stages Diablo 3 also had sets of gear. Now I am a bit of a collector and I have always liked to collect sets of gear, even the ones that I can’t use (like the scarlet crusade one on my Rogue in WoW). When I saw this in Diablo 3 I sure was tempted to play it again and start collecting the sets but it somehow did not feel like worth the bother of grinding your way through the different difficulty levels in order to achieve this. In Torchlight 2 gear sets are found by the player throughout the play experience and this is in my opinion a very good decision. For one I get to revel in my joy of collecting every set I come across, but it also gives players an additional choice; how to outfit his or her character. Do I want a set or a unique? Which set combinations work well together? Etc. And it is once again this kind of player choice that I felt was absent in Diablo 3, while both Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 are very much on rails regarding the ultimate story, at least Torchlight 2 gives me a lot more choice in how to customize my time in that story!

 

That’s all that to me make Torchlight 2 a very much better game than Diablo 3 and what mostly makes me sad about it is that when I look at it it’s not that big things, most of them like the sets and the talent tree could probably have been easy for Blizzard to implement/fix, but they have not and there game ended subpar, where it could have been highly enjoyable. You might have read between the lines that I mostly played Torchlight 2 in a co-op, I won’t go into if it is better than the one in Diablo 3 as to be honest co-op usually is fun and enjoyed t in both games, in Torchlight 2 I enjoy it more but that is because to me the entirety of the game is better for reasons stated above.

 

So as a last summary all I can say is don’t be afraid of player choice,

it is your friend!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2012 2:14 am

  2. September 30, 2012 8:03 pm

    You haven’t listed how much better the loot system works in TL2 in relation to D3. You mentioned that the sets in D3 intrigued you, but you clearly have not played enough D3 to realize that in order to collect any legendary piece you would need 3-4 days of farming in order to have a fair chance of something entirely random, probably shitty, dropping. In no less than 7 lifetimes you would have collected those funky sets that you fancied, in a mildly acceptable combination of stats that made them usable. That, or you could resort to the AH and get a moderately good legendary for 1-2 gold farming sessions. I believe that one of the greatest features in TL2 is actually the absence of that ill-conceived feature, the AH.

    I agree with all your points, as you probably know by now, though.

    Minor typo = respect* -> respec :*

  3. October 1, 2012 5:29 pm

    Yeah the typo came with my spell checker^^ I should add some gamng vocabulary to it haha. Yeah you are right I forgot about the gear farming process but as you well know the initial farm was already off putting to me, so I do think that with that in mind I thnk it goes hand in hand with my criticism of D3 beng too grindy from the start. Then again I shall rephrase myself in that what would have made D# better would have been ore easily obtainable sets throughout the game.

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