Posted: April 8, 2011
I have now converted this blog series into an article!
As I was playing Torchlight, it brought back a lot of memories of Diablo 2. Of course, I started to compare the two games, but it’s unfair to compare them based on content. After all, Diablo 2 was made by a huge 200+ Blizzard team and Torchlight only had maybe a team of 30 at Runic Games.
For me it’s never been about graphics or length compared to the actual gameplay. Sure, good graphics and good length makes a game better, but the gameplay is really why I play the game. What follows is my comparison of the game mechanics changed in Torchlight from Diablo 2.
When I started thinking about all the changes, they seemed to pretty much fit into a few categories. There are changes to the attributes, which change the way many of the core character stats work. We also have a lot of changes to the skill tree system, so character builds end up feeling very different from Diablo 2. Then, we have changes to the game’s interface, which makes playing the game feel a little different. Finally, there are a bunch of miscellaneous changes that don’t really fit into any single category.
Note: Torchlight comes with an editor that players could use to potentially mod Diablo 2 mechanics into Torchlight. For the purposes of game mechanics, I will be comparing Torchlight vanilla (no mods).
Vitality and Energy removed – Torchlight basically removes both these stats. Energy is kind of still there with the Magic stat, but it no longer increases Mana or Mana regeneration. Instead, Magic increases the damage from elemental weapons like Wands and the damage of some class skills such as Ember Bolt. Health and Mana can now only be increased by level-ups and items modifiers (+health, +mana).
Hit chance removed – Basically, all attacks have a 100% chance to hit in Torchlight. This means Attack Rating and Defense Rating were removed. Whereas Diablo 2 reduced physical damage by this hit chance mechanic, Torchlight reduces it directly by armor. For example, 100 armor reduces damage by 100. If an attack does less than or equal to 100, the attack becomes a Glancing Blow only dealing 1 damage.
New Defense stat – In Diablo 2, defense was largely controlled by Dexterity with Defense Rating. Now there is a core attribute dedicated to this purpose. Not only that, it also increases magical damage reduction (resists) by the same percentage as physical damage reduction.
Secondary stats removed – Stamina was removed completely, along with run/walk. Characters are now capable of running all the time. Also, block chance and critical chance only come from skills and items in Torchlight.
Thoughts: Despite the attributes and stats being simplified from Diablo 2, I actually like what they did here a lot. In Diablo 2, most of the attributes were only useful up to a certain point. It was Strength until you had enough to wear the gear you want, Dexterity until you had a good hit chance, Energy until you had enough mana for your skills, and then all the rest of your points into Vitality.
At a certain point, you just never needed to put another point in Strength, Dexterity, or Energy. Vitality was the only useful one throughout all the levels. The same can be said about Stamina. Once you had enough, you could run constantly except in the rare case you fought a monster that could reduce Stamina.
On the other hand, Torchlight attributes are useful from start to finish. They even made some of the attributes useful to classes where they would be traditionally useless like the Destroyer getting increased damage from some skills with Magic or the Alchemist getting increased magic resists from Defense.
Overall, this makes the attributes a little more balanced and appealing to different classes. I would prefer there to be a few more secondary stats to worry about, but Torchlight’s attributes are good enough for a casual game.
Skill Tree Changes
No prequisite skills – As long as you have the required level per skill tier, you can put points in any skill across any of the three skill trees. This opens up a whole lot more skill combinations, and you don’t end up feeling bad experimenting a little with some of your skill points.
Only 10 ranks per skill – Skills used to have 20 ranks in Diablo 2, but now they only have 10. This also fosters more experiementation. You just have more skill points to work with than is “required” to survive.
Class skills vs Shared skills – Each class has 15 class skills and 15 shared skills. The class skills are unique to the class while the shared ones are available to all classes. Shared skills are always passive and offer many of the secondary stat functions that attributes offered in Diablo 2 like block chance and critical chance. Diablo 2 had 30 unique skills per class, but many of them were not very useful or powerful enough in the endgame.
Fame skill points – You get fame points whenever you complete a quest or kill a champion/boss monster. These fame points are essentially a separate set of experience points. When they get high enough your fame level goes up, and you get an extra skill point. You can get a maximum of 55 skill points from fame.
Skill balance – The skills in Torchlight are balanced much better than Diablo 2 skills were. In Diablo 2, almost all early skills were completely useless. You would put exactly one point into them just to unlock the later skills. In a later patch they added synergies to get you to spend more points in early skills, but the early skills were still basically useless. You only put points there to boost the high level skills you were actually using. Torchlight does this much better by never letter a high level skill completely replace a low level one.
Thoughts: Overall, it seems Runic Games removed many of the restrictions in the skill trees that Diablo 2 had. You’ll notice there is a pattern here of making skill points a lot more available. This is a great change from Diablo 2. I always felt restricted in Diablo 2, because most of your points were tied up just to get the core skills and damage you needed to survive in Hell difficulty. In Torchlight, though, I feel like I have more than enough skill points to get the core skills I want as well as several backup skills for different situations.
Tab skill toggle – you can set two skills to the right mouse button and use the tab key to toggle which one you want to use. Since the tab key is so accessible, this change essentially gives you two skills mapped to the same button.
Skill hotkey bar – Here they took something from MMOs. Torchlight gives you 10 hotkeys mapped to the 1 through 0 number keys. You can pretty much set any usable thing in the slots including potions, spells, skills, and scrolls. I really liked this over the Diablo 2 way of Function keys where you had to “ready” a skill before using it. The only annoying thing is that you can’t use the skill by clicking on it like was possible in WoW.
Items only take up one slot – This is a pretty big change from Diablo 2. I found it annoying in Diablo 2 having to always reorder inventory items to make space for a few more. Torchlight solves this with a simple item slot inventory similar to MMOs. While not as “realistic” as Diablo 2, it makes the game more fun to play.
Show item names toggle – Torchlight has an option to always show item names. I really like this feature, because I found myself holding Alt almost the entire game of Diablo 2 just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. The only problem here is with the layering. Torchlight layers the item names on top of the monsters, meaning a lot of items on the ground can start covering up your view of the monsters.
Thoughts: I’m not sure I like both the tab skill toggle and the skill hotkey bar together. I found it confusing to use both of these in combat at the same time. The skill hotkey bar gives overall better control than the tab skill toggle, so I ended up ignoring the tab skill toggle pretty early. Diablo 3 seems to have both of these as well. Maybe it just takes time to get used to using both of them.
Shared stash – This is one of the best changes from Diablo 2. In single player there was no way at all possible to move your items around to other character. In multiplayer you either had to trust strangers to help you trade or create a passworded-game and hope Battle.net would keep it open while you switched characters. I lost many items while trying to move them to my mules. Torchlight fixes all this with a nice, big shared stashed you get from the beginning of the game. I use it to store uniques and gems, the longer lasting items you get.
Character retirement – This a fun little feature that let’s you upgrade an item for your next character. The new character also gets all of the fame skill points the ancestor had. There are some tradeoffs with retirement, like not having a high level to farm equipment for your new characters. Still, I like how your old characters can be sort of immortalized. It’s similar to in Diablo 2 when your Hardcore character died, it still remained on the character screen. You could remember all the good times you had with it. Torchlight just adds bonuses for it.
Class roles – Well of course the classes are different, but a change I really liked in Torchlight was how the classes could play different roles. Based on the videos and screenshots, I assumed the Destroyer was the warrior, the Alchemist was the wizard, and the Vanquisher was the ranger. After looking at the skills, though, I saw they could actually play other roles. The Destroyer could be great at ranged weapons if I pumped up Dexterity a lot combined with skills that had the knockback to keep monsters at range. The Destroyer could also be more of a mage if you pumped up Magic a lot to increase wand damage with spell item drops for support magic.
Spell drops – Unlike Diablo 2, Torchlight has spells that can actually drop from monsters. These spells go into special spell slots in your inventory. A spell is just like a skill except all classes can potentially use it if it drops. So they are essentially nonpassive, shared skills. You just have to find them from monsters instead of spending skill points. Spells are another bonus for customizing characters, but I thought they were too similar to skills. Spells like Identify and Town Portal were good, freeing up space in your inventory you had to use for scrolls before, but most of the spells were not redundant enough compared to the skills available. They were a nice bonus, but could easily be ignored. That’s not what game designers want to hear. If they spend time working on a system, it better be used by most players. Otherwise that time could probably have been spent elsewhere with better results.
Hireling/Pet – Torchlight brings back the idea established in Diablo 2 of having a permanent minion to serve you. This time it’s a lovable pet. Unlike hirelings though, pets have a lot of empty inventory space to carry whatever you want. In fact, it’s the same size inventory as your character’s inventory. So you basically have double inventory wherever you are. Not only that, the pet can run back to town to sell items for you. In hack ‘n’ slash games most item drops are going to be sold to a vendor. Having a quick way to get rid of junk items for gold is a huge change. It gets rid of a tedious action and saves time in the long run. Every hack ‘n’ slash game needs a feature like this. If they don’t, there better be vendors close, so you don’t need much backtracking.
It was a lot of fun comparing these too games. People always talk about how similar Diablo 2 and Torchlight are, but you see there are quite a few differences as well. I think most of the changes were for the better, though. It will be exciting to see if Blizzard puts any of these Torchlight features in Diablo 3. I think I have seen some of them in the Diablo 3 previews, but things can change before release.
By the way, I plan to do another one of these comparing Diablo 2 and Diablo 3, but not until Diablo 3 is out. It will be fun to see how the old classic stands against the new hotrod.