The year is 2012. I’m in grade 11, sixteen years old and going through the paces of high-school. It’s September, so the end of the year is starting to make its presence known. Teachers won’t stop going on about how we have to start studying now for our exams while continuously giving us essay after project after presentation to prepare for at the same time. A lot of people tend to forget just how stressful high-school could be at the time; we look back on what were generally carefree days and smirk at how good we had it, but when you’re a teenager, insulated within the very small world of school above all else, everything feels a lot bigger than it has any right to be.
It can be a really stressful time and while many younglings relieve that stress through going out with friends, playing sports after school or having clandestine parties shrouded in the shadows of their complex pool, I was never really keen on many of those things. In the September of 2012 I turned to Torchlight 2 to take my mind off the looming idea of maths and physics exams and to go back to it now, well, it feels like I never left.
I was somewhat concerned about the Switch port of Torchlight 2. I’ve reviewed quite a few ports of my favourite games onto Nintendo’s hybrid console and more often than not I’ve been resoundingly disappointed. The Switch isn’t exactly the most powerful of machines so you expect to sacrifice some level of performance to accommodate for the convenience of taking some of your most beloved games on-the-go but it’s often not worth the trade-off. Many Switch ports are plagued by excessively poor performance, down-graded graphics and all kinds of bugs that stem from a weaker system accommodating for gameplay that was never designed for it. So going I held my breath as I started up Torchlight 2, obviously worried that it would be plagued by the same issues that have made returning to so many favourites on a hand-held device so disappointing.
Standing still on the first map, I was at 60 FPS. I moved further along the path, waiting for the inevitable drop in performance…yet there was nothing. I killed my first enemy, still expecting a dip in performance…yet it did not come. Okay, first horde battle. This would be the thing to do it, don’t let it be true Torchlight! Most of your game consists of killing dozens of enemies with flashy skills, oh I can’t bear to…oh, wow not even a single chug? Torchlight 2’s performance on Switch might just be the best port of an older game to the device I’ve seen since…I don’t know. The game runs at a solid 60 FPS, only ever giving the most minor of stutters when things get frantic on-screen and even then it’s only for the briefest of seconds. Maps load especially quickly, with loading times going by faster than I ever expected them to and the game looks crisp as ever. It’s a game from six years ago so it was never going to have the best graphics around, but Torchlight 2 has always rolled with its graphical quality, utilising it more as a style than leaning on it as a limitation. The game is as bright and charming as ever, with colours and effects popping against the often variety of environments. In many ways, it looks better than I remember it looking on PC.
Which isn’t to say that the port is flawless, mind you. While the game runs like a dream on the Switch there are still some issues I have with this adaption. First off is that it can be quite buggy; while I’ve never encountered anything especially debilitating or game-breaking there are a few annoying glitches that made it into this in the game that are nonetheless impossible to really overlook. Most of them occur in the game’s menus, as descriptions often don’t match up with the items they should. This is especially prevalent in the character menu; I can’t begin to list the number of times I’ve looked at a very thorough explanation of “Strength” while desperately trying to remind myself what stats “Dexterity” effects. Again, while it’s not a devastating bug, it’s still annoying and surprising that something that’s seemingly so obvious got past the QA team before the game’s release.
The other issue I have with the port is the limitations of the Switch’s control scheme, or rather how it’s been utilised for Torchlight 2. As an ARPG, arguably the most important part of the game is the use of powerful skills to decimate groups of enemies for that sweet, sweet loot yet the bindings available to players effectively limit them to only five skills at a time. With literal dozens of abilities, spells and potions to use during any one encounter, having only a handful of them available at any one time is a huge misstep, especially in the later game when there are so many more skills available to use. While the limitation has made me more conscious of the skills I’m using and forced me to make some tactical decisions on what to level according to my character build, it’s certainly not the optimal way to play the game. I’m not sure if this is a problem PS4 and Xbox One players will encounter, but having a single button act as a hotkey menu could have solved this issue somewhat and I doubt it would have been especially difficult to implement so here’s hoping this is something that’s fixed in a future update.
Those grievances aside, Torchlight 2 is still a fantastic game. It’s the same ARPG action with an addictive gameplay loop and quality of life features that set it apart from other dungeon crawlers in the genre. Jumping back into the game after so long has been a wonderful trip down memory lane and I’m still consistently impressed with just how well the game runs on the Switch’s limited hardware. Bar the bugs and control scheme problems that unfortunately sour a fantastic port of the game, Torchlight 2 is the perfect game to play on the go or for anyone that’s looking to kill lots of things, loot lots of chests and slay some intimidating bosses.
Last Updated: September 9, 2019