Torchlight II Vs Diablo III: The Comparison We Had To Make

Torchlight II Vs Diablo III: The Comparison We Had To Make
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I’ve spent the weekend mainlining Runic’s Torchlight II. As of this writing, my level 39 engineer has killed 8800 monsters, collected 161,207 gold, imbibed 535 potions, broken 771 crates and urns, and caught nine fish.

This game is much more of a beast than its predecessor; in terms of scale and ambition, it’s right up there with the biggest names in loot-collection and click-based combat. And so of course, Blizzard’s Diablo III looms large over the entirety of Torchlight II. How could it not?

Below, I’ve catalogued some of the many ways that the two games are different.

As I’ve been playing, it is has been very difficult to evaluate Torchlight II on its own terms, rather than constantly thinking “Oh, so X is different from Diablo III in Y way.” Rather than letting all that mess get into my review, I thought I’d post my impressions of the campaign about 18 hours in, and put it entirely in the context of Diablo III. Hopefully that will get all the comparisons out of my system.

But let’s get this out of the way: If you liked Diablo III, you will almost surely like Torchlight II. Both games feel similar at their core, and both games are satisfying in the same compulsive, clicky way. Seriously — this doesn’t have to be some winner-take-all deathmatch. Both games are fun, and the two can co-exist.

Here we go:

No Internet Required

Diablo III: Internet Only | Torchlight II: Internet? What Internet?
Blizzard made the controversial decision to require an internet connection for Diablo III at all times, but Torchlight II can be played offline in single-player. While I do like the idea of a persistent, online world, in the end, I think that Blizzard’s always-on requirement was and is too much of a headache. Torchlight II‘s approach is the clear winner. What’s more, you can bring it to your next LAN party.

Faster, Avatar! Kill, Kill!

Diablo III: Easy does it. | Torchlight II: Time for another level!
Torchlight II feels much faster than Diablo III — you’ll level up much more quickly, and that speed sustains throughout the game. The result is a steady drip-feed of new skill- and stat-points, and everything feels a touch less grind-y. As a result of all that levelling, you’re going to have a lot more skill points to divy up. Which means you’ll have to make…

Decisions, Decisions

Diablo III: Pre-ordained skill trees. | Torchlight II: You choose everything.
In Torchlight II, you’ll have far more control over your character build. I’ve been playing as an engineer, and have been choosing from among three different skill trees, each of which are tied to a different kind of combat — two-handed, sword and shield, or gadget-based. It feels much more like a standard RPG (or more like Diablo II) than the slot-based, interchangeable upgrades of Diablo III.

On a related note, it’s also worth mentioning that Torchlight II‘s skill trees are much more permanent — you can undo your last three skill upgrades in town (for a price), but you can’t just swap your skills around all willy-nilly like you can in Diablo III. It’s more restrictive, but also truer to its roots. It could be that you can fully re-spec on New Game + or something; I’m not that far yet. It’d be nice!

More Character Flexibility

Diablo III: Very limited skill combinations. | Torchlight II: Choose your own build.
Fortunately, whatever you choose, you’ll still be able to change up your playstyle. That’s because the character classes are much more versatile than in Diablo III. I’ll occasionally find loot that’s restricted to another class, but for the most part, my engineer can do just about anything. She’s an up-close-and-personal kinda girl, but she’s got a secondary weapon slot for a wicked crossbow, and if she wanted she could even wield an embermage’s staff or a berserker’s gloves. Of course, some of her bonuses are tied to specific types of weapons, but the game never tells her that she can’t use an item.


Diablo III: No fishing. | Torchlight II: Fishing.
Er, basically, that. There’s fishing in Torchlight II, just like in Torchlight. Just go with it.


Diablo III: No pets. | Torchlight II: So many pets.
Every character has a pet that follows him or her around, and it’s one of my favourite additions to the Diablo formula. Basically, instead of one of the three boring NPC followers that solo-players got in Diablo III, you get a cat, or a dog, or a wolf, or other beastie. My engineer’s cat, Hans, is a damn sight cooler than any of those three prats from Diablo III, and he’s smarter too — I can send him off to town to sell my loot and even give him a shopping list of potions and scrolls to pick up for me. Sometimes, as a reward, I’ll feed him a fish that magically turns him into super-sweet giant spider.

More Loot, More Numbers

Diablo III: Lots of loot. | Torchlight II: Insane craploads of loot.

If you are into loot and numbers, then you will love Torchlight II. It’s a hardcore numbers-gamers kind of game, with vast statistics screens showing your characters’ every ability and adjustment.

Unfortunately, it’s also a lot less user-friendly than Diablo III — there’s no way to immediately tell, for example, how your item will affect core traits like damage per second and armour rating. There are also three subsets of armour types, one for each element, so you’ll have to take a ton of things into account when comparing gear. And you’ll be comparing gear a lot.

It can all be a bit ungainly and confusing – if a weapon gives you +10 strength but has a slightly lower DPS than the weapon you’re holding, it’d be great to see exactly which one will end you up with the higher DPS (since strength changes your weapon’s damage.) Ditto for pieces of armour that raise your physical armour rating magically. It’s all a little bit opaque, and while the obsessive stat-counting player may like that, there’s so much loot in the game that I can’t really keep track of it all.

More Hardcore. Hardcore-er. Hardercore.

Diablo III: Normal = Always doable. | Torchlight II: Normal = You may even get stuck.
The stat stuff isn’t the only thing about Torchlight II that’s more hardcore than Diablo III — the game itself is more difficult and interesting, even at “normal” difficulty. This may be because of some mid-game tuning issues, but II’ve found that the latter halves of the second and third acts are difficult, and if I’m not careful, I’ll get wrecked even by basic enemies.

It bears mentioning that I’m only playing on normal, and I haven’t had any time at all to explore Torchlight II‘s post-game — it could well be that the high-level Diablo III stuff is every bit as hardcore as Torchlight II, just in a different way. But for a more casual player, Torchlight II is harder core. And yes, just like Diablo III, Torchlight II offers a “Hardcore Mode” where death is permanent.

Potion-Fest 2012

Diablo III: Some potions. | Torchlight II: All of the potions.
In Diablo III, I played as a Monk, and as a result had a few abilities that caused me to regenerate health mid-battle. My Torchlight II engineer has no such abilities, and as a result Runic’s game is much more about potion-management than Blizzard’s is. That’s actually kind of cool — it feels a lot more like Diablo II in that way (or at least, what I remember of Diablo II), and combines with the higher difficulty to make the game more fraught.

Still Just Wrist-Slapping

Diablo III: Not very punishing. | Torchlight II: Not very punishing, in a different way.
Here’s a difference that’s also a similarity — both games don’t really punish you much for death. In Diablo III, you respawn right next to where you die with some damage done to your armour (Well, unless you’re playing in hardcore mode). In Torchlight II, you’re given an option: Respawn where you died for a big chunk of gold, respawn at the beginning of the dungeon for less gold, or respawn in town for free.

It’s a bit weird, since you can usually sprint through the dungeon really quickly and save yourself some money, so you’re really just paying for some time. Which feels a tad arbitrary. But then again, Blizzard’s armor-damage was also just a tax on time and money, so I guess I’m not much of a fan of either approach.

Better Bosses

Diablo III: Decent bosses. | Torchlight II: Excellent bosses.
So far anyway, I’ve found Torchlight II‘s bosses to be more varied and interesting than the bosses in Diablo III. I’d usually run up to Blizzard’s bosses and just start wailing away, maybe drinking a potion if I needed to, until they died. In Torchlight II, bosses follow varied attack patterns, use environmental tricks to trap and disorient you, summon clones and minions, and generally follow more interesting routines. It also helps that the game feels, as stated above, a little more difficult.

It’s a Whole Wide World Out There

Diablo III: Linear, fast-paced narrative. | Torchlight II: Feels more exploration-based.
Something about Torchlight II‘s world feels more open and fully realised than Diablo III. Which is weird, given that Diablo III has such exhaustive lore and such an involved story, but something about the apocalyptic, heaven-and-hell nature of Diablo III‘s story left the world feeling like little more than an arena for battle, especially in Acts III and IV.

Torchlight II, on the other hand, has a world that feels more lived in — the enemies you’re fighting aren’t always demonic invaders, often they’re just the beasties that roam a particular area. Fungus monsters inhabit caves, roach-beasts skitter from hidey-holes, and werewolves leap out of cottage basements. It feels more like you’re exploring and less like you’re breathlessly running from point A to point B. I find that preferable.

Storytelling Shortfall

Diablo III: Silly, cockamimi story. | Torchlight II: Somehow even more nonsensical.
Here’s something I never thought I’d say: Torchlight II manages to have a story that makes even less sense than Diablo III. No, really! I’m sure that fans of the first game will understand what the heck is going on, but I played a good bit of Torchlight back in the day and I often have literally no idea what the hell is going on in Torchlight II. That’s not to say it really hurts the game, it’s just surprising that Blizzard’s mess of a narrative still feels more interesting than Torchlight II‘s gobbledygook hodgepodge.

That said…

Superior Sidequests

Diablo III: Mostly forgettable sidequests. | Torchlight II: Lots of sidequests, mostly meaty.
Torchlight II has some really good sidequests. Overall, I’d say they’re more interesting than the sidequests on offer in Diablo III. In fact, given that the main story feels like a bunch of random sidequests, the whole of Torchlight II just sort of feels like a ton of quests over a big, sprawling world. That’s more my speed than Diablo III‘s breathless sprint against the forces of darkness, and as Torchlight II opens up more and more, I bet that feeling will only grow.

What do I mean by Torchlight II opening up? Well…

The Future’s Bright

Diablo III: Get your mitts off our game! | Torchlight II: Please, mod our game!

The biggest difference between Diablo III and Torchlight II is one that we haven’t seen yet. Namely, that Diablo III is completely closed and controlled by Blizzard, while Runic has invited the modding community to tweak and re-invent Torchlight II however they want.

That means that we’ll be seeing new, user-generated content for Torchlight II for the coming months and even years. As much fun as the basic click-loot-click flow of Torchlight II is, I sense that Runic’s smartest decision may have been to put the future of their game in the hands of their fans, rather than holding all of the cards for themselves.

So, there you have ’em: My impressions regarding how Torchlight II stacks up with its most obvious rival after 18 hours spent playing. I’m still banging away at the game and doing more multiplayer (which is still something of a question mark until it’s been out in the world for a bit), and will have a full review later this week. And in that review, I promise that I’ll keep talk of Diablo III to a minimum.


    • Sorry, i’m not sure of your point here. Are you saying that the comparison was biased? Because, even as a big fan of D3, I don’t have a problem with this comparison. It might be a little naive or uninformed in some parts, but I can hardly make an argument for bias.

      Or was your argument that T2 is so far superior that there’s no point in trying to make a detailed comparison, because T2 already wins? In which case, how can you make such a claim about an unreleased game? Could be more broken than PS3 Skyrim, you just don’t know.

      • Agreed, I was not (repeat NOT) a fan of torchlight 1, it was good fun for a laptop game, but not very interesting to play over long sessions for me.

        I was a huge fan of Diablo 2, however, and really played the heck out of that game.

        Torchlight 2 is, however so much more _fun_ than Diablo 3. I wouldn;t hesitate to recommend TL2 over Diablo3 to anyone.

        TWO critical things that stuffed up D3.

        1. Diablo 3 skill system being designed by a committee for nubs, takes the fun out of actually making a unique character, which can only really be done by loot for D3.

        2. Auction house (real money or otherwise) completely RUINED the feeling of finding loot, and has made the game loose it’s loot finding appeal. WHAT a disappointing bad decision. MMO mechanics do NOT work here, there is not enough of the other supporting MMO mechanics that an action house is actually used for (IE comprehensive crafting) and when used primarily for loot sale in a game all about finding your own loot, breaks so much of the fun.

        Problem 2 makes problem 1 worse.

        Thank god for torchlight 2 is all I can say, the comparison may seem unfair and biased, but please, play tl2 (20$??) and find out yourself. He is spot on with everything, TL1 grew up, brings all the good things that a modern diablo type game should have, and without the fun sapping newby friendly stuff that Diablo3 has.


    • I actually like Diablo 3 and was playing it just last night. Lots of vocal haters on the internet… doesn’t mean everyone hates it.

      • It gets easier to hate the higher the difficulty you are on. There are times I die in inferno because of rubber banding and I always play single player.

        So you think “If I have better gear it doesn’t matter if I rubber band and teleport now and again, Luckily blizzard has allowed me the option of purchasing a set of gear from another player for a total of about 1000 US dollars.”

        I play now and again until I hit this point then I get annoyed and quit. This may not affect you as much if you are a ranged class and don’t have to dodge those slow moving mobs that can insta kill.

          • I’m in limbo between act 2 and 3 on Inferno. 2 is too easy, 3 too hard. Just grinding away until I can afford some gear – nothing useful is going to drop until I get further into act 3 or 4.

            All this, and i still love the game.

            Will definitely get TL2, though. I’m not looking forward to divvying up my time, to be honest.

          • 6 years later….i reply.

            Witch Doctor, had a similar problem with my Wizard once they hit 60, too.

            Largely was about just getting incremental steps in gear, so i’ve made progress.
            The other option is grinding for millions and millions, or using the real $ AH (no and no).

  • I disagree with your point about Diablo 3’s bosses. Running up, wailing away and drinking potions is not something that works for any of the main act bosses. They all have powerful attacks that require you to actually dodge by moving elsewhere and the potions have a large cooldown so you can’t really just stand there and endure. I thought the boss fights were actually one thing that were vastly improved from Diablo 2.

    • Yes, I get the impression that he really hasn’t played a lot of Diablo 3. On the higher difficulties, even with the tankiest characters. “Running up and wailing on them, maybe drinking a potion if I have to” is a quick trip back to the respawn point.

      But what really worries me about his inexperience with Diablo 3 is the point he made with the sidequests. I’m over 100 hours in, and I still get the occasional sidequest or piece of content that I hadn’t seen before. I could only see how someone who hasn’t played much of the game would think so little of the sidequests, The first time you do the sandworm sidequest, holy cow…

      • Even on Normal mode… I got kinda stuck at Belial because I was still in the old habit of running up and attacking till dead. Heck even the Skeleton King will probably kill you if you never try to dodge those heavily telegraphed moves.

    • Ehh I dunno. I never had to kite much at all with my glass-cannon Wizard until about Hell difficulty, even for boss fights.
      Stand still, laser everything , diamond skin if needed.

        • But yeah, it wasn’t until late in Hell that things really got interesting and then before patch 1.0.4, Inferno act 1 was a complete brick wall.

        • Sure but I still never bothered to dodge things, and you were completely fine going up and just wailing on them in normal/nightmare from memory. Hell, you almost still can.

          • >1000 life on hit and a good amount of damage mitigation helps out quite a lot. Shame that it came at the expense of my DPS.

          • Oddly enough, those MF runs I’m doing with my Witch Doctor are to try and get the cash to respec my Monk with increased crit chance/increased crit damage gear. Apparently that does wonders for the DPS.

          • Yeah, my Wiz needs that but as much as I would like to finish Inferno there are things I would rather be doing than loot grinding.

          • I’m going to try and take on the end of Act 2 with my Witch Doctor tonight, if you want to run that again. I can give you some of my MF gear.

            Then we can try tackling Act 3 and beyond.

    • Dunno which boss you’re talking about cause most of them are pretty easy. Probably Diablo is the only one who I had difficulty with but all of them have predictable attacks.

    • He played a monk, and from my experience (my main was a monk) run up and punch in the face was a fairly legitimate tactic, until inferno. The skeleton king was an exception but I could tank through at least 1 rotation of his wind up attack on every level but inferno. Even if you were likely to die, the invulnerability bubble and heal half your health skill solved that problem.

    • It worked for me on every boss up until inferno as a Barbarian. Just hit Earthquake and the ability that turns you into a bigger angrier Barbarian and they all die in like 5 seconds.

      Its even more that way these days, you can buy a full set of yellow gear for your character for almost no gold via the AH.

  • After playing during the beta weekend a while back, I found myself enjoying Torchlight 2 a lot more than playing through Diablo 3. I was hooked after the beta, can’t wait for release.

  • This review was an annoying read and im positive this person hasnt reached endgame in d3. I dont even like it that much but if we are talking about normal mode and build variety i think you really could use any combo and do fine. Inferno is the real game unfortunately, the rest is just training wheels.

    This review is biased and really sullies my confidence in this website. Someone please direct me to a review by someone who has hours logged into d3s endgame.

  • “Diablo III: Very limited skill combinations.”
    I don’t call 8,421,583,874,457,600 skill combinations per character class ‘very limited’. You do know you can turn on elective mode and assign skills from any category to any slot right?

    “Diablo III: No pets”
    Witch doctor has lots of pets.

    I keep meaning to try torchlight one of these days, but the old school D2 ‘pick a skill and you’re stuck with it’ just really bothers me, if I want to experiment with a skill I’m gonna have to spend way too many hours levelling up a new character to try it out, so instead I’ll just either have a sub-optimal build or not get to properly try out most of what the game offers.
    I’m sure I could get something to hack the save file to try things out, but once I have that tool I’ll lose most of the motivation to play anyway.

    • ” 8,421,583,874,457,600 skill combinations per character class” Ugh I really hate that statistic, it’s so inflated when its including all the possible colour combinations e.g. blue swing animation and red swing animations amount to entirely different builds. Just sillyness, having played Diablo 3 it felt like there were very very few builds that actually made a difference to play style, so i’m sorry that’s just bollocks. Also having no build permanence really ruined the whole feeling of building a unique character, so I totally agree with this review.

    • Sorry mate but this combo number is strictly mathematical… most of the skills are useless or very close to it… there are still about 2-4 builds per class with slight variation to it (they are trying to fix it but its a bit to late if you ask me)
      re pets: Demon hunter actually got one as well… you know forgot about it … probly coz u never seen one used they are not as useful…in TL pets actually got some character to them

  • I never have and never will understand the hate towards the D3 story. It’s fine, the only thing I don’t like is the always net-connected thing.

    • People are judging it against Diablo 2 and not on it’s own merits. I was a big fan of D2, no doubt about that, but I love some of the new things such as being able to change skills at any time. The always online bothered me at the very start but in reality the only time I play single player now is a quick login to arrange inventory so I’m not wasting time in a multiplayer game letting the other people down.

  • Yeah Torchlight 1 had no memorable story. I think it was about finding some lost person then just hacking your way to the end of the dungeon to uncover it’s secrets?

    With that said I might give Torchlight 2 a go. Not a top priority though. I prefer games with stories.

  • “I can send my pet off to town to sell my loot and even give him a shopping list of potions and scrolls to pick up for me.”
    I loved the ability to send your pet off to sell your loot (in Torchlight 1), but a shopping list!? Thats just fucking awesome!!!

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