If you had told me five years ago that Perfect World Entertainment would not only own but make many of the games that they bought from other studios into something great again, I would not have believed you. But here we are, and PWE owns and operates Star Trek Online and Neverwinter from Cryptic, and one of the two games I’m going to talk about today: Torchlight Frontiers.
As I mentioned in my Remnant: From the Ashes article, PWE ran me through demonstrations of three of its games, mostly giving me free rein to explore where I wanted. In Neverwinter, I was set free in a dungeon written and voiced by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade fame. PAX West 2018 couldn’t have been a better location to try out that particular dungeon. And the Torchlight devs let me run around the open-world before jumping me into a personal dungeon.
Both of the games had some good points and some bad points; let’s discuss them.
Penny Arcade writing D&D
I like to call Neverwinter my guilty pleasure. I know that it’s not everyone’s favorite MMORPG, and although its developers say that they are going to lessen the number of currencies overloading that game, there is still a lot to navigate. I believe the thing that keeps drawing me back to the game a few times a year is the fact that you really don’t have to think about anything. You just click on the quest and go. There is even a lighted path most of the time showing you exactly where you need to go.
The premise of the demo was that I was a new hire at Acquisitions Incorporated, and I was being tested to see if I was worthy to be a part of AI. I chose my favorite class, the Trickster Rogue, and set off on my adventure.
It started with a character that looked surprisingly like Jerry Holkins but with hair introducing me to the company and explaining that this test would not be easy. I was instructed to get into a rail car like you would find in an amusement park. Mike Krahulik’s character started up the ride, explaining that the sparks erupting from the levers were completely intended.
From there it was a series of small encounters clearly intended for players who haven’t really touched the game before. I dispatched them so quickly, I don’t remember any of them save for boss at the end of the demo. He comes across as this frightening ghost but ultimately turns out to be a dead intern still attempting to impress his bosses.
The demo falters in the same places that the game itself does. The only real way to make an encounter more difficult is to throw more and more enemies at you. The animation was choppy at times, and if I were to be a complete snob, I would say that the graphics are very dated. Part of the reason I can push past the graphics and animations is that the classes have fast, responsive mechanics.
But most of all, the reason that I will be jumping back into Neverwinter when The Heart of Fire launches on November 6th is the writing from Jerry and Mike is hilarious, and I would regret missing out.
Torchlight Frontiers lighting the way
I apologize ahead of time to all Torchlight fans: I am terrible at the controls for click-to-move games like Diablo II, League of Legends, and now Torchlight Frontiers, but that’s not to say that I hated the game. In fact, just the opposite; I think it’s a great little game, and it might fill the void left by Marvel Heroes.
For those not familiar with the setting, Torchlight Frontiers is an isometric dungeon crawler set in the same fantasy-steampunk universe of the first two Torchlight games. It’s full of quirky goblins, industrial dwarves, and in the case of my character, a steam-powered robot.
First of all, there are very few games that match the aesthetic of the Torchlight franchise. The world can be fun and quirky, alive and beautiful, and dark and scary all within in the same zone.
I was dropped in a kind of community instance. It was out in the forest just outside one of the main hubs. I was on a private server for my demo, but had this been on a live server, I would have seen around 12 or so other players farming the same area as I was. I was told that the dev studio is still tweaking the number of players allowed in these open-world instances, and the number it is looking for is somewhere between being frustrated that you can’t find anything to farm at all and having too much to farm.
I took my time in the open to explore, and honestly, try in vain to get a handle on the controls. The robot I controlled looked like an old wood stove or a tiny boiler with a grilled door on his belly. His left-click weapon was a hatchet, that I traded out for a sword later on. But his best ability was his belly cannon that would shoot high-power bullets at enemies from quite a distance. He also had special abilities that would fire a mid-range cone in front of him, spin him around flaying his arms, or release all of his built-up heat in an AOE burst.
I ended the session by taking a dive into the personal dungeon. Unlike the outside world, the personal dungeons did not house mobs that respawned. Of course, this being a demo, the dungeon was more to show off the aesthetic of the game than it was to show off the difficulty. I made it to the dungeon boss, and I’m terrible at these controls. Now, of course, I didn’t beat the boss, but I did enjoy myself, and I would have no problem recommending this game to those who like ARPGs. It’s an absolute no-brainer: Torchlight fans should pick this up. You will not be disappointed.