Each game, in my opinion, managed to score well on very specific fronts. What individuals found most important about the Diablo II legacy dictated which game they preferred. If you wanted a dark, gritty atmosphere, Path of Exile was the winner. If you wanted the continuation of the Diablo story line along with the Blizzard logo and all of its attendant polish, you had Diablo III. And if you wanted something lighter on its feet that supported offline play and modding, there was Torchlight II.
Each did the “click things to death” thing well enough, you just needed to choose what toppings you wanted on your Action RPG sundae. None were, however, quite as good as Diablo II was back in the day, though that is more likely a context of the times than any fault of the newer games.
That is, was, and probably will remain my synopsis of the way things played out. You can argue about the details, but we ended up with three good but different attempts to remake what was great about Diablo II. In the end however, as interested as I was in all three games, I have other things I would rather play these days. It just isn’t 1999 anymore.
The games have not stood still though. Or, at least two of them have not. Path of Exile has continued to refine its game and has released new content. There have been some rough spots for the game, with the always online aspect making for some annoying latency issues, but the developers carry on.
Blizzard, slow but persistent, finally cleaned up their auction house and itemization issues in Diablo III, launched console versions of the game, and then came out with an expansion, all of which seem to have gone over quite well. I enjoyed the revamped version of the original game, and friends I know who went with the expansion really liked it as well.
In the last year before it went live, there was all sorts of wild talk about what Runic games would do after they launched Torchlight II. There had been talk of the game being a stepping stone to a Torchlight MMO. Also possible seemed to be official mods, user mods being picked up and sold as DLC with some sort of profit sharing, expansions to the game itself, and all of the usual sorts of rumors and nonsense that seem to catch fire from the spark of optimistic interpretations and wishful thinking when parsing every word the company and its devs utter in public or private.
And there was going to be a Macintosh OS version of the game available shortly after launch. Based on that alone I bought a copy of Torchlight II for my daughter, who has to play her games on an iMac.
After the initial flurry of the Torchlight II launch though, the tone from Runic games changed. The tone from the company seemed to indicate that they were burnt out after the big push to get the game out the door. I’ve been there, once having gone through a five month crunch time stretch of 12 to 16 hour days seven days a week, when only our copy of NBA Jam kept us sane at times, after which the team was pretty much dead for months.
Runic was tired of the whole Torchlight thing. There would be no MMO. There would be no further Torchlight games. There would be no expansions. And due to some problems, it seemed unlikely that there would be any Macintosh OS version of the game.
I don’t miss the $20 so much as the opportunity to play the game with my daughter.
Some founders left the company after about a year to work on a new game (the premise of which sounds vaguely familiar), while Runic Games itself fell into an SOE-like silent mode, coming up for air only to note when the game was on sale at Steam for the most part. And with Runic’s corporate masters complaining about US operations being a drag on earnings, the future for a studio with apparently nothing in play seems a bit grim.
And so it goes.
Of the three games, Torchlight II ended up being the one I played the least. Play time is the only real measure of my preferences. I often SAY I intend to play this or that, but what I actually play is the reflection of the deep truth. You can my choice that how you like, but I guess in the end I wanted polish and story most, atmosphere second, and offline play and mods third. Though, as noted above, none of the games became long term staples and I haven’t bothered to reinstall any of them since the great Thanksgiving computer blow out.
So the news that showed up last night indicating that Runic games would at last be releasing the Macintosh OS version of Torchlight II on February 2nd got something of a bemused look from me.
It is too late for me to care much. My daughter is a couple years older, is interested in different things now, and doesn’t even have Steam installed on her system anymore. The time has passed at our house. Runic has a cute little video up making fun of the delay, but they have otherwise been so quiet that I wonder who will notice. I am sure it will sell a few more copies of the game, and the Macintosh world is used to there being a delay on some game launches, but I wonder if this was more of a contractually obligated action as opposed to a push to sell more units.
Is this the last hurrah for Runic Games, or do they really something else for us?