Torchlight II – Nintendo Switch
Developed By: Runic Games, Panic Button Games
Published By: Perfect World Entertainment
Category: Isometric Action CRPG
Release Date: September 03, 2019
Nintendo Switch is now the place to go for quality third party RPGs, but it’s not always been that way. In the NES and SNES era, we were treated to hit RPG after RPG from third parties, with classic series such as Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and the Mana series starting out on Nintendo consoles. However when gaming entered the 32/64 bit era, many of Nintendo’s close partners such as Square, Capcom and Namco left Nintendo’s stables for Sony’s Playstation, to utilise the much larger capacity of CDs to realise their RPG ambitions. As a result, the N64 RPG library was a barren landscape.
Nintendo’s Gamecube showed shoots of recovery with Final Fantasy spin off Crystal Chronicles, Baten Kaitos and Tales of Symphonia, but most Nintendo fans could not help but look enviously at the PS2. The recovery continued in the Wii era, with The Last Story, Monster Hunter and now Nintendo-acquired the Xeno series a particular high point, but many of the top third party RPGs continued to skip Nintendo home consoles.
Then in 2016, Nintendo revealed the Switch to the world showcasing it with a few hand picked titles. Showing us Skyrim running on Switch was a clear sign of intent from Nintendo that third party RPGs were back on the menu. Since then Nintendo fans have been treated to the return of the mainstream Final Fantasy series, as well as games from the Dragon Quest, Tales, Divinity and Diablo series.
Next on Nintendo’s RPG menu is Torchlight II. Published by Perfect World, Torchlight II was developed originally by now defunct Runic Games but has been ported by Nintendo Switch poster boys Panic Button, who did wonders with their ports of Rocket League, Doom 2016, Warframe and both Wolfenstein II and Youngblood.
Arriving in 2012 originally, this isometric CRPG has you traversing a range of diverse fantasy lands, fighting hordes of enemies and plundering loot. You can choose to play solo or team up online with up to 4 of you at once. Before you start you can choose to create your character from 4 different classes, with some options to customise your character’s appearance. You also get to choose an animal companion for your quest, which ranges from domestic dogs, to a headcrab (?), to a Switch exclusive unicorn/pony. You can choose to keep your companion by your side to help out in your battles, with options to adjust their offensive and defensive traits, or you can choose to have them cart your unwanted loot back to the nearest village to sell to the local merchant. Being able to send your pet to town with loot to sell is great, as your inventory quickly fills up with weapons and armour.
The range of weapons and armour is vast. Within some weapons and armour are slots for gems, which evokes materia in RPG classic Final Fantasy VII. Gems can provide buffs to your weapons and armour such as increased attack or defence. You can also pay an enchanter to enhance weapons and armour. You will find so many pieces of weapons and armour on your quests, not to mention those available to buy from merchants in each town, that you regularly have decisions to make on gear for your character.
There’s skill trees which allow you to spend points on a range of skills such as attacks, healing or buffs, with points awarded which you can spend on accessing new skills or improve existing ones. Did I mention stat points? You also get stat points as you progress, with 5 awarded for each level up of your character, which you can choose to spend on improving your character’s attributes.
What this adds up to is a dream for RPG fans who love to dabble with character attributes. Over my playtime I spent ages tinkering in menus, optimising my character each time I got some new loot or levelled up. Getting a new weapon or piece of armour during a quest or from visiting the local merchant in a new town is exciting, kind of like the buzz of getting items from games with gacha mechanics but without the microtransactions.
The game has a range of quests for you to complete to progress the main game, and other side quests which are optional. Side quests are a good way to gain experience to level up your character, as some grinding is required to strengthen your character to survive. Often in main and side quests you face off against sub-bosses along the way then a main boss at the end. Some bosses require an element of strategy to overcome but others can be brute forced, depending on which difficulty you choose to play on.
Panic Button have done a sterling job again, with pretty solid performance throughout on docked and handheld. At times there’s pop-in, and during battles with a lot of enemies on screen the frame rate dips, but it doesn’t impact your enjoyment. Visuals aren’t the most detailed and can look quite angular and polygonal when seen up close. But they have some charm, and you don’t often see the visuals up close with the isometric view slightly zoomed out. And it’s worth remembering this is a non-triple AAA game from 2012. The controls from the PC original can be mapped to the Switch’s face buttons and triggers for attacks and skills, which is sufficient. However menu traversal can sometimes be a bit fiddly when using the Switch sticks or faux d-pad.
The story is, not important. The cutscenes are nice and well animated but are few and far between. There is voice acting throughout which is decent however generic, repetitive phrases are used for many of the NPCs which may put you off speaking to them. This doesn’t help the case for speaking to NPCs, and at times their on screen text doesn’t appear long enough for you to actually read it. At the end of your 20 hour playthrough the game’s ending is a bit anticlimactic, with the game asking if you want to go around again much like Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. But these are minor gripes. The core of Torchlight II isn’t a multilayered story with a vast number of NPCs to speak with and deep lore, but it’s quests, character customisation and progression.
If you were a Nintendo fan back in the N64 days and you were told that you would one day see a volume of quality RPGs on a Nintendo system on a level not seen since the SNES heyday, it would be hard to believe it. Torchlight II has been plucked from the depths of time and reborn on Switch. If you’re searching for a quality RPG, this is a great find.