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Page 2 of 3I mentioned co-op games in the previous paragraph, and that's one of the shining new features in Torchlight II. Now in addition to playing solo, you can branch out via the Internet or a LAN to play with your friends. For the Internet mode to work, you have to register with Runic Games, but then they allow you to import your Steam friends, and so it's easy to get started. There's even a matchmaking service, so if you don't have any friends playing, you can look for public games that suit your needs. I only played a little of Torchlight II over the Internet, but I didn't notice any lag or synching issues, and the mode appears to work well. Better yet, if you don't want to play online, you're not forced to log into anything, and so the Internet isn't required.
Depending on how skilled you are with action RPGs, Torchlight II offers four difficulty modes (from "casual" to "elite"), plus a hardcore mode where your character can only die once. I played on the default "normal" mode with my Berserker, which I found to be mostly easy, but then I moved up to "veteran" when I created an Outlander and an Engineer, and that was more of a challenge. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be any way to change the difficulty after creating your character, so if you find things too easy or too difficult, there isn't any way to make an adjustment.
Otherwise, what you do in Torchlight II is about the same as what you do in every other action RPG. You kill a bunch of stuff and you collect loot, over and over. Your character can wear 12 items and your pet three more, and these items range in quality from normal (white) to magical (green) to rare (blue) to set (purple) to unique (orange). There are also supposedly legendary items (according to the Steam achievements), but I never saw one so I have no idea what color they are. Set and unique items are fairly common (they even show up for sale in towns), which is nice, and it means you might actually be able to complete an item set without jumping through a lot of hoops or pestering your friends. Of course, to compensate for this, spells, which now include all of the utility skills from Torchlight (including Treasure Hunter and Weapons Expertise), have become strangely rare.
Some pieces of equipment have sockets, which means you can insert gems into them. Most gems are based on the different types of magical damage -- so fire gems add fire damage to weapons or fire protection to armor, for example -- but there are also some unique gems that offer different sorts of bonuses, including extra damage and health steal. As you play through the campaign, you'll gain access to vendors who can remove gems from items (by either destroying the gems or the item), and so there isn't any reason not to put gems into sockets as soon as you find them.
Finally, while Torchlight had an interesting enchanting system -- items could be enchanted over and over again, but each enchantment made it more likely that the item would get disenchanted instead -- Runic Games completely gutted that system in Torchlight II. Now items can only be enchanted at most three times, and they can only become disenchanted if you pay for it to happen (so you can try for better enchantments). Sadly, the enchanting system is far too expensive. I never had a lot of excess money in Torchlight II, and by the end of the campaign I could barely afford anything.
The campaign in Torchlight II revolves around an enemy hero called the Alchemist. As the game opens up, the Alchemist steals the heart of Ordrak (the end boss in Torchlight), and then using it starts stealing power from the Guardians so he can eventually destroy all ember everywhere. You then decide to stop the Alchemist, but you find yourself one step behind him for most of the campaign, and so you have to deal with his minions and the problems he leaves in his wake as you chase after him.
The good news is that because the campaign is a chase, that means you get to travel through forests, deserts, swamps, crypts, caves and more (which is a nice change of pace after all of the underground dungeons in Torchlight), and you get to fight against a whole slew of enemies including trolls, zombies, roaches, pirates and of course helicopters. The bad news is that while the look of the game changes, the gameplay remains the same. The enemies in particular are disappointing. They are colorful and varied, but they all blend together and they fight about the same. Contrast this to the Diablo games, where I'm guessing most people come away loving or hating some of the enemies because of their unique attacks or fighting style. In Torchlight II you might not even remember the names of the enemies at the end of the game.