Where they went wrong with Diablo III AND Torchlight II

Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 logos

2012 was pretty awesome for Action RPG Fans. Not only did we get the release of Diablo III, but also Torchlight II! I, like many at One-Quest, picked up Diablo III at midnight and played, non-stop, well into the weekend. Even to this day I feel that Diablo III is a damn near perfect predecessor to Diablo II in every way. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t get some things wrong. I’m not the only one that feels this way. In fact, there are many out there that would argue against my point of view with every ounce of their being, as is their right. A lot of their feelings are just, but most of them are unfounded. Check out the Diablo Forums for yourself and tell me how silly some of these claims sound.

The eventual release of Torchlight II pulled a mass of hate directed at Diablo III away. It was nice to be able to breathe on the forums and enjoy the game for what it is. That being a sequel to one of my most beloved games of all time, not a remake. After the forum chatter died down, and numerous “THORCHLIGHT II IZ FAR BETTERS THEN DIABLO-STOOPID FAGGOTS-3” posts, I decided to give the game a shot. I wasn’t jumping in blind, I had played the original Torchlight and found it charming enough. There were some interesting visuals, and some design decisions I felt that were better made 10 years ago, but otherwise a fun game. I was quite anxious to jump in and see what all of the fuss was about.

Outlander from Torchlight II

Pizzadog, you look odd. . .

Barbarian from Diablo III

Real barbarians wear pink under armor.

So we started, Shahed and I. I created Clint, the Outlander, and his dog, Pizzadog. Shahed made Hugo Von Borne, the Engineer, and his badger, Mushroom. As we traveled across the land of. . . something, searching for the evil. . . someone, we battled hordes of generic goblins and bats of both the standard and champion varieties. We found crap loads, and I mean CRAP LOADS, of loot in all corners of the world. I’m not kidding when I say crap loads. There’s a counter that shows that in the entirety of our first play through to stop the evil something-or-other I sold over 2000 items. Quick breakdown: I played for a total of 20 hours, and sold over 2000 items. This doesn’t count items I use, ie. potions and other consumables, or spells. Just items sold. So 2000 items in 20 hours amounts to 100 items per hour. That’s 1.6, repeating, items for every minute I played. AND THAT’S NOT COUNTING THINGS THAT WERE USED!

It’s an absurd amount of stuff, but what matters here is the game play, and as soon as we started the game up we both had the same feeling. Torchlight II is a lot faster then Diablo III. I mean this in that your character moves insanely fast across the screen, almost to the point that it makes Diablo III look like it’s trying to re-enact every beach scene in Baywatch at the same time. On top of that you level up insanely fast! By the end of all 4 acts I was pushing level 60, and I only played for 20 hours. That averages out to be about 3 levels per hour, which is crazy when you think about how slowly those last 3-5 levels come your way in Diablo III. Throw that in with a crap load of loot and plenty of generic champion and standard enemy types, and you have plenty to gawk at. But these aren’t the primary reasons the Diablo III forum users love Torchlight. Nope. The main reason is the stat and skill point systems.

So, in Diablo III, when a player levels up they are given a new skill, or skill modifier, and some stat points that are allocated according to their class. The player has no choices to make in terms of what skill to learn, or what points to focus on. They get to decide which skills to use at any given time, without any penalties. This was a basis for the rage induced by the release of Diablo III. In Torchlight II when the player gains a level of experience they gain 5 stat points and 1 skill point to allocate as they see fit. There are 4 stats to choose from, which help determine damage, defense, health, mana, and gauge when the player can equip certain items. There are 39 skills to choose from for each character. 9 are passives and when selected provide bonuses to damage with specific weapons, add heath steal to attacks, summon creatures when hit, etc. The other 30 are active skills and abilities used to deal damage, or defend oneself during combat. Each skill has 15 levels that allow you to unlock special bonuses for skills after every 5 points are placed into a skill.

Outlander Skill Tree from Torchlight II

The Lonely Skill

Both of these games are excellent, but neither one is perfect. Where did they go wrong?

First and foremost, Diablo III is SLOW. It’ll still take you about 15-20 hours to complete the campaign from start to finish, but the entire time you’ll feel like your’re running through molasses. In Torchlight II you’ll fly through the game at an amazing pace. If the characters were slowed down the campaign would easily last an extra 10 hours, and that’s time a lot of players don’t have. Some would argue that item drop rates are too low in Diablo III, and that it should be more like Torchlight II. I’d have to disagree. It is awesome to get so many items in Torchlight II. Every time you fight a champion, or open a big chest, it’s light Christmas. The downside here is that Christmas happens every 5 minutes, and you eventually become desensitized to it. The feeling of excitement you get when an orange item drops fades away after you realize your character is decked out in all orange items. Diablo III makes you work for your equipment. It makes you put time into the game. You want a shiny new sword, you’re going to have to play for a few hours! Neither method is perfect, and while both need enhancements, they both work well for their respective games.

You might want to turn the volume down on this one. . .

Face it, the skills and stats need a lot of work in BOTH games. When I started playing Diablo II I was in Highschool. I had all the time in the world to start a new character and run through the game picking random stats and skills based on what I thought was coolest, and re-starting when I realized some of those skill points were better saved for other skills. I don’t have that kind of time anymore. Free time is precious, I can’t justify spending 30 hours starting a new character just to see how cool a different skill is. I need to know the best possible route now, so I can be as awesome as possible come endgame. Diablo III lets me do this properly, while Torchlight sits around like a stubborn old man who refuses to eat at IHOP because he only eats breakfast at Denny’s! Sure these skill points and stats are cool, sure I can customize my character to be exactly the way I want, but at what cost? Want to know what Clints Skills looked like by the end of my first game? 3 active skills were learned, and 7 passives were learned. I was too afraid to put points into skills I was unsure about, so I never did. Instead I knew I could make myself stronger by placing skill points into passives that benefited his main attack, and I knew what that was like. In fairness you can respec, undo 3 skill points back. You can’t wipe your tree clean and start again, but you can put a point in a skill, test it, and remove it if you hate it. But why limit me then? Why not give me every skill and bonus so I can try them all out at the end of the game when I need to be strongest? Instead if I realize Skill X is better than Skill Y, which I have 15 point in already, there’s nothing I can do. I just have to go on with the knowledge that I made a mistake, and I can’t fix it without starting from scratch. It’s an old archaic system that Diablo III did away with, and they had some extraordinary results! But nerds rage! Diablo III isn’t without flaw, however. Without the need to make choices that are somewhat permanent, like a talent tree, the player feels like they’re being guided too much. We don’t need our hand held this much, but it would be nice to be given a little more flexibility than what is allowed in Torchlight II.

Average Chest loot from Torchlight II

Make it rain!

Average Champion loot in Diablo III

Make it rain . . . significantly less.

Lastly, ENDGAME. Yeah, Diablo II didn’t have one. Nor did Torchlight. Nor does Diablo III or Torchlight II. That doesn’t mean one can’t be made. I will give credit where credit is due. At the end of Diablo III you start over on a higher difficulty with the promise of finding better loot, or encountering scarier, stronger enemies. That’s the endgame. It’s not a bad goal. It has me interested in playing more, but it’s not enough to keep me interested for more than a few hours a week. Torchlight II offers the same New Game + mentality, but on top of that there’s the “Mapworks.” The player can find, or purchase, maps with random locations and properties (like 25% more fire damage dealt, +5% exp received, -30% defense, etc.) to encourage the players to explore new areas. Most of the locaton types are reused from other sections of the game, some are unique to the Mapworks, but they’re all exciting. It’s not perfect, but it gives the player the option to play through new content, with new threats, as opposed to playing through the same area, fighting the same enemies for the umpteenth time only to not get any benefit.

Diablo III End Screen

YAY! . . . now what?

Both of these games offer vastly different experiences, and neither should be chosen over the other in favor of branding. Instead, play them both. Take in the best, and worst, of their design decisions. Your opinions might differ from mine, but the truth of it is, both of these games are flawed and cannot possibly survive without the other. At the same time, both of these games are incredible in their own right and both deserve the chance to grow and evolve in their own way. Let’s just hope they evolve in the right directions next time.

Played Torchlight II and Diablo III? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

is not a boss.

You can Email Eric or follow Eric on Twitter @EricSweeten or Facebook

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  • One-Quest was founded many millennia ago in a galaxy know as "n00b," by a foundation of Nerds. n00b was a small galaxy ruled by an evil empire, known as the "Hipstars." One-Quest formed with the sole purpose of removing the Hipstar empire from power, and restoring balance to all Nerds...
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