Hypable game review: ‘Torchlight 2’

9:45 am EDT, September 28, 2012

Torchlight 2 is a hack-and-slash action RPG from Runic Games, a sequel to their impressive 2009 effort, Torchlight. What did we think of it?

Whenever I’ve told friends I was playing Torchlight 2 I usually got the response “what’s that?” and I always replied with “it’s like Diablo but cheaper and better.” Admittedly, my knowledge of Diablo is largely second-hand, but as far as I can make out, Diablo III has no offline option, has a real money auction house and doesn’t have pets. Torchlight 2 in comparison has an offline single player option, no way to pay for power, and about a dozen different pets to choose from. On top of that, there is some appearance-based character customisation, full modding support (via Steam workshop) and I picked it up for less than £15/$20 on Steam, with the original Torchlight thrown in for free. By contrast, if I bought Diablo 3 off Amazon now, four months after its release, I’d be looking at paying over £30 /$55.

Torchlight 2 pets

Let’s move on from the inevitable Diablo comparisons. What works in Torchlight 2? What doesn’t? And, most importantly, is it fun?

The four classes are the Outlander, the Embermage, the Berserker and the Engineer. Each has their own skill tree with three different types of abilities to put points into. For the Embermage, the categories were Inferno, Frost and Storm magic. Inferno was mostly about straight-up fire damage, frost more about control, and storm about applying random conditions whilst throwing lightning around. There’s no real need to only invest in one of the three categories, but each one seems to lend itself to different playstyles. I enjoyed the chaotic nature of storm magic, so spent all of my points on it, just to see if it was a viable way of playing. Skills came in two types, active and passive. Active skills included lightning storms, short range lightning bolts that could stun, and an area-of-effect spell that caused enemies to release healing bolts for me and my allies when they were killed. The Embermage’s three passive skills are: additional damage when enemies become shocked, the chance for enemies to be teleported away when attacking at close range, and the ability to apply random bizarre effects to enemies when using a wand.

Every class can wield every weapon, but each classes’ passives tend to only apply when using certain weapon types.

Each time a new level is reached, points can be used to improve and unlock skills and be put in a mostly standard RPG attribute system of strength, dexterity, focus and vitality – nothing new here.

Another important Torchlight 2 mechanic is the charge bar, a bar that gradually fills during combat and grants bonuses as and when it fills. This can easily turn the tide of a battle – for example, Embermages get fifteen seconds of ‘concentration’ when the charge bar is full, enabling them to cast spells without using up mana, whilst giving an extra damage boost.

Returning from Torchlight 1 is the spell system. Spells drop randomly from mobs and from within chests, and can be learnt by any class. They range from fireballs to armor boosts to heals. Four can be equipped at any one time.

The final and arguably most important gameplay mechanic is your character’s trusty pet. Pets generally have more health than you, so they can soak up damage while you’re busy dishing out spells. They can also learn spells themselves – I found it useful to teach my pet any active spells I found, so I could concentrate on casting my class abilities. Feeding pets fish temporarily transforms them into different creatures, giving them access to new skills and stats. Finally, pets act as a second inventory, like in Torchlight 1. You can send them back to town to sell your stuff, but this time around, you can also give them a shopping list of potions and scrolls to buy too.

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After all that talk of inclusivity, Star Trek Beyond falls into the Hollywood trap of implied sexuality.

Mild spoilers for Star Trek Beyond.

Star Trek Beyond, already a wildly anticipated movie, made headlines ahead of its release because of the franchise’s decision to introduce the first openly LGBT character: Mr Sulu, played by John Cho.

While this decision was certainly met with excitement, there was disappointment, too. The original Mr Sulu, George Takei, openly voiced his opinion that they should have introduced a new LGBT character rather than expand on original canon (as they have been the whole trilogy), while Simon Pegg beautifully argued that there was power in using an established character who wouldn’t be defined by his sexuality.

Then came the movie itself, and while the introduction of gay Sulu is still a great thing, we’re left sorely disappointed by Beyond‘s decision to depict the LGBT relationship — or rather, hardly depict it at all.

As reported by our friends at The Mary Sue, the scene featuring Sulu and his husband Ben depicts a “lukewarm” relationship, although Sulu is very affectionate with the pair’s daughter.

This is, unfortunately, a common problem in Hollywood when an LGBT couple — almost impossibly — makes it into a big franchise film. They’re allowed to be there, but having any kind of physical interaction even remotely resembling what a heterosexual couple might have still seems to be off-limits.

Related: Hollywood is failing the LGBT community: GLAAD slams Disney, Paramount and Warner Bros.

And, according to John Cho, there was actually a kiss filmed. “There was a kiss that I think is not there anymore,” he told Collider. “It wasn’t like a make-out session. We’re at the airport with our daughter. It was a welcome-home kiss. I’m actually proud of that scene, because it was pretty tough.”

Cho points out that Ben was played by a non-actor, writer Doug Jung, and says, “Obviously, I just met the kid, and then Doug is not an actor. I just wanted that to look convincingly intimate. We’re two straight guys and had to get to a very loving, intimate place. It was hard to do on the fly. We had to open up. It came off well, in my view.”

And we wish we could have seen it. Introducing a major LGBT character in the Star Trek franchise is a fantastic first step, and depicting two POC actors raising a child together is a great statement — but, unfortunately, the decision to cut out their kiss (which was already chaste, by the sounds of it) is emblematic of Hollywood’s continuous phobia of depicting LGBT relationships and intimacy on the big screen.

As Screen Crush also points out, this exact same scenario played out in Independence Day: Resurgence, too. In Finding Dory, the lesbian couple are only implied, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sequence.

LGBT representation (when present at all) is always so subtle, evidently in fear of offending straight audiences while not totally erasing non-straight sexualities. And, sadly, even that is considered a big step forward — but maybe it’s time we start depicting humanity as it is, and not what society wished it was 100 years ago.

Here’s looking at you, Star Wars.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child reviews from theater critics are glowing, so when the hell can Americans get a chance to see the play in New York?

With just days to go until The Cursed Child script book is released around the world, The New York Post’s theater reporter has spoken to sources who say the play will be coming to Broadway sooner rather than later. Producers are currently holding discussions to bring the play to NY as early as 2017.

They haven’t yet announced a Broadway engagement for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” but New York theater people say it’s only a matter of time. Word is that Friedman and Callender are in negotiations for a Shubert theater possibly for next season. They may hit Toronto first, however.

The idea of The Cursed Child hitting Broadway so soon (“next season” could mean around May 2017) will come as a relief to American Harry Potter fans who would rather not travel overseas to see “the eighth story” (though it’s a little more affordable to do so right now thanks to #Brexit). It also speaks to this important fact: It’s important to see The Cursed Child rather than reading it.

If the show does go to Toronto first as The New York Post suggests it might, a trip to Canada would also be easier for Americans. Sorry, people who don’t live in North America.

This writer saw the play in June and absolutely loved the characters and magic happening on stage. But the story is… not the best. I’m very eager to see what fans, myself included, think of the story after reading the script book this weekend.

For her part, Rowling has promised that fans around the world will get to see the play. Only time will tell if she’s hinting at a movie or a world tour:

If ‘Cursed Child’ comes to Broadway next year, will you try to see it ASAP?

The West End production currently has dates running into May 2017, but additional dates are expected to go on sale in early August.

Present day Han Solo may’ve left the main Star Wars series after the events of The Force Awakens, but the character’s time in movie theaters is far from over.

The new Han Solo film from Lucasfilm — scheduled to hit theaters in May 2018 — might turn into a trilogy for the reluctant hero, according to the New York Daily News.

The paper reports that star Alden Ehrenreich has signed a three-picture deal, suggesting that the studio intends to expand the Han Solo spinoff into a trilogy. “They feel that his character has the right potential to become a central figure in several movies,” a source told NY Daily News. “They’re keeping things under wraps at the moment, but the deal is that he has signed for at least three movies.”

This makes a lot of sense given the popularity of the character coupled with his absence in Episode 8 and beyond. We also know that Lucasfilm and Disney have many, many grand plans for Star Wars in the years ahead: The very first Star Wars theatrical spinoff, Rogue One, opens later this year. Episode 8 then hits theaters a year later (2017), followed by Han Solo’s own movie (2018). Next comes Episode 9 in 2019, followed by yet another spinoff reportedly focused on Boba Fett in 2020.

As for 2021 and beyond? Only time will tell, but we expect more movies set in the worlds of The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and now Han Solo.

The Han Solo spinoff will be directed by LEGO Movie helmers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. They’re currently deep into pre-production, as this tweet from Lord this morning shows:

“This is the first film we’ve worked on that seems like a good idea to begin with,” the directors said last July. “We promise to take risks, to give the audience a fresh experience, and we pledge ourselves to be faithful stewards of these characters who mean so much to us. This is a dream come true for us. And not the kind of dream where you’re late for work and all your clothes are made of pudding, but the kind of dream where you get to make a film with some of the greatest characters ever, in a film franchise you’ve loved since before you can remember having dreams at all.”