Hey all! I had a chance to play TL2 beta over the weekend for a few hours, and just wanted to share my opinions on it, focusing on it's systems that relate to D3 systems. So in a way, this post will be about Diablo 3 just as much as it will be about the TL2 Beta!
The first 15 minutes
Runic were certainly correct in saying that TL2 is very different to Diablo 3!I chose an Embermage to begin with.
I want to be honest and candid in this review so don't take any of my more critical comments as a sign that the game is bad. I regularly make critical comments about my favorite games.
The first thing I noticed, was I had a hard time visually recognizing what was going on during the chaos of combat. The readability of the combat was pretty rough, and I found myself just clicking on anything that moved around me - including my own character and pet a few times. With that said, this may not be the games fault but rather my "noobiness" at it. I did play TL1, but I never really did any digging about TL2, so it could've been a case of just getting used to it. In fact, I'm 90% certain that this problem would certainly be reduced, or go away after getting used to the game over a longer playing time.
I think I can attribute it to a few things:
- The coloring contrast between your character and monsters doesn't exist. You look like everything, and my eyes couldn't make the distinction instantly. This is further compacted by the terrain and environment colors, which also don't seem to paint a distinct contrast between your character and it.
- The camera angle seemed a bit odd. Likely because of all the "elevated" terrain and hills etc.
- There is no transparency when behind a wall or object. Instead your character silhouette is viewable. Which is ok most of the time, but can get annoying.
Apart from that, the combat was enjoyable to begin with. It felt a lot like TL1, but the skills were more interesting and fun. Some packs were very difficult than others, and some felt a bit too over-tuned for such an early part of the game, but overall it was pretty fun.
The combat is wickedly fun. This is mostly thanks to the skills in the game, which are a delight to use and feel satisfying. The lack of Diablo 3-esk physics does seem noticeable, but that is only because D3 employs such extensive use of cool physics and complex death animations. The combat would've felt a lot more strategic had the readability issue not been such a problem for me, so I can't really comment too much on how interesting and strategic the combat is.
I didn't like monster health bars being shown at the top only, and couldn't find an option to turn on monster health bars at the monster. I may have missed it. And again, the biggest grievance I had with combat was the whole readability problem, in which in its absence I believe would've made combat awesome.
If I was to compare Diablo 3 combat to TL2 combat? It would be an unfair fight, kind of like putting Mike Tyson in a ring with my 4 foot friend. D3 clearly has much more satisfying physics and is generally more entertaining and polished. But that's not to say TL2 combat isn't a blast, it certainly is!
The Skill System
The skill system was interesting, but as many of you know I am in the "skill points pigeon-hole builds and are crappy customization" camp, so please excuse any bias I may have here
So now that that is out of the way, TL2 handles skill points in a smarter way than traditional D2-style Skill points, and did an overall good job of fixing some of the issues with skill points systems. However, having played both D3 (skill-pointless system) and now TL2 (skill-point system) it has further reinforced my opinion that skill-point based systems do not lead to more customization, but rather create an illusion of customization. You will always max damage skills and never put just a few points in, because than that skill would be useless later on. It's like a hammerdin putting 5 points in to Blessed Hammer, it would be useless and not viable.
TL2 does two things to skill points that are interesting:
1) They put level caps on the amount of skill points you can assign into a skill. For example, you can't dump all your points in to the same ability, but rather you have to wait for the next rank "unlock" for that skill. Eg at level 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 13 etc. Rather than being able to dump points in to the same skill every level up.
2) Since many skills are based on weapon dmg, adding more skill points only slightly increases the damage of that skill, allowing the skill to remain somewhat viable without having max out that skill. This means that the difference between 10 points and 1 point in a skill is relatively small - perhaps 10-20% more weapon damage.
However, these two changes only mitigate the existing problems, they do not remove it. It is still far more viable to max a few skills rather than getting a lot of "unmaxed" skills.
I was neutral on the whole stat-point allocation debate. But after seeing it on the perspective of a "new to the game" person, it was very disconcerting.
I spent a long time reading through the tooltips on what each stat did, and still had no idea where to spend the points. I ultimately just threw points in all attributes, and couldn't shake the feeling that I was "playing wrong".
This is probably the biggest eye-opener out of all the comparisons. The stat points really got to the point where I was feeling overwhelmed and wasn't enjoying it. I'm sure that later on after hundreds of hours of TL2 that I'd love Stat point allocation, but as a first experience, I disliked it.
Potion system and combat pacing
TL2 uses a D2-style potion chugging system. Because the game can be quite difficult early on, very extensive use of potions is required. To cut to the chase, I didn't like the system at all. It felt like you had to constantly spam potions, rather than playing defensively and using my brain. It's almost like all pretenses of strategy hinged on continuously chugging potions, and took away combat depth, making combat more like "don't take more damage than the rate the potion is healing you at". And if you didn't have any potions, you would simply have no hope of surviving certain encounters.
It had all the familiar issues that D2 had with potion chugging. Overall, it felt like it ruined combat pacing and hurt the strategic nature of combat, and made other healing-ability effects less pronounced.
Compared to the D3 globe system, the TL2 potion system is amongst my biggest dislikes of the game.
Too much too soon
My biggest criticism of TL2 beta (apart from the readability issues), is how the beginning is structured. It exposes you to nearly every game system at the start of the game. Skill points. Stat points. Big packs of hard monsters. Intense combat. Pet system. All gear slots. Multiple different quests in different areas. Many vendor types selling several dozen different item types.
It was overwhelming, and I consider myself pretty hardcore. It felt like I spent more time reading up on stat / skill tooltips and being confused than I did playing the game at the start. Perhaps I have been "trained" by Diablo 3 to only need to know a small part of the game for the first hour. But the feeling was there, and it really hindered my experience.
Overall, considering the differences in resources and budget etc. Runic did a good job with TL2. It is fun and entertaining, but makes some mistakes in its delivery. If Diablo 3 didn't exist, TL2 would be a lot more appealing to me in particular, but with that said the two games differ greatly. Also, at only $20, the game is great quality for buck, and certainly will be worth the purchase. But in the end, I enjoyed the Diablo 3 beta far more than I did TL2. But that's just my somewhat biased opinion, as I like what the designers have done with D3.
TL2 beta gave me a lot of insight on issues commonly debated about Diablo, as TL2 for the most part took the opposite stance to Diablo 3 on the systems in common with each other. For me, it further reinforced the idea that skill points are an inferior system to what D3 has done, and showed me the benefits of with-holding complexity in the early game, especially on the perspective of a fresh player (particulary stat points).
A few things I would like to see Runic change:
- Remove manual stat point allocation OR defer it later on in the game, like perhaps level 20 onwards.
- Remove potions and replace them with another combat pacing system, such as health globes from Diablo 3.
- Take a page from Diablo 3's book in how they handle the early stage of the game. Expose the player to less mechanics early on, and than introduce them later when they are more used to the game.
Thanks for reading!
*EDIT* I re-read my impressions and noticed that I may have inadvertently made it sound like I didn't enjoy TL2.
So let me clarify
Torchlight 2 was very enjoyable, and apart from a few issues I mentioned in the article, it is a great game and Runic should be commended for it. I favor some of the things Blizzard did with game systems, such as skill points and customization in general, but that is my personal taste. For Diablo 2 conservatives though, you would favor TL2 game systems over D3