The Steam Marketplace is home to many, many, top-down hack-and-slashers, each often bearing different and unique interpretations to a concept which often closely follows a particular formula - and not all these isometric dungeon crawlers are made equal.
The core loop of fighting through ‘arenas’ of enemies, leveling up with enough experience, and building a set of skills to continue fighting more enemy hordes and the occasional boss is this genre’s bread and butter. Surely, most people considering purchasing Torchlight 2 will already be familiar with either other games in this vein, maybe even this series’ own first instalment, so the basics should come easily who starts playing. Character inventory windows, stats screens, spreadsheet-like attribute management, towns full of immobile vendors and individuals who are going to need you to kill X amount of Y monsters for no particular reason other than to balance the XP progression, all that basic stuff is here.
Where Torchlight 2 finds room to innovate is in bodywork of setting, art design, ambience, and immense diversity of gameplay styles that has been expertly crafted over the stock isometric game chassis.
The special world of the Torchlight franchise is the first thing you’ll notice after you boot the game up. It really manages to stand out from the other big names of the genre by avoiding the lifted-straight-from-real-mythology dryness of the likes of Titan Quest, while finding its own niche somewhere between the spectrum of Grim Dawn’s bleak grey hellscape and Fate’s baby-friendly green meadows. The art direction makes uses of a wide palette and a just-slightly-exaggerated style to create a widely diverse array of interesting locales from desert tombs, to fungi forests, to volcanic magma chamber garages and more.
The world this game puts you in is certainly interesting, and the plot - relatively simple and straightforward as it is - relates to the fact that this is a universe where literal magic, legendary creatures, and a underworld filled with angry, writhing, tentacles all exist, and are all merely commodities in a world more interested in their ongoing technological boom and “modernisation”.
The interaction of this world of fantasy tropes and rather advanced machinery fantastically extends to the gameplay too, and where most similar games would have all their players all fall into the typical knight-mage-rogue triad, Torchlight 2 offers up the ability to play as a duel-pistols gunslinger, or a power-armour toting, cannon-wielding, engineer alongside more ‘traditional’ class options.
Once you’ve got that main story out of the way, you’ve got a whole separate post-game dungeon system, New Game+, multiplayer support, and an extensive roster of Steam Achievements and Trading Cards to 100%. If you are looking for a great isometric “Diablo Clone”, this is easily one of the best on (or off) Steam. Above all everything about this game emphasises actual fun.