Torchlight: A Worthy Addition to the Dungeon Crawler

      My experience of “Torchlight” is that of a game that pulled inspiration from the source but went it’s own way. This was not my experience 6 years ago after playing “Torchlight 2.” Looking back on that earlier review I will definitely be returning to that game and seeing if the harsh criticisms I gave still hold up. This is a game that obviously takes inspiration from the APRG that “Diablo” is one of the most obvious starting points. Given how much my analysis has hopefully grown since that time I plan to return and do a replay to see if I still generally agree with the initial review. I really enjoyed this game to the point of finishing it over a weekend. I can see the “Diablo” dark inspiration but the “Dungeons and Dragons” inspiration seems more-so as I hardly remember goblins, trolls and dragons are something this game did really well. I don’t remember “Torchlight II” doing this as well.

“Torchlight” was created by Runic Games and published by Perfect World.

The story follows your character who is an Destroyer, Alchemist or Vanquisher as they arrive in the town of Torchlight as you are pulled into Alric and his plot tied to the powerful corrupting Ore of Ember as you investigate the source of the corruption.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The World – The world is fantastic. This world feels like it more pulled from “Dungeons and Dragons” than Diablo as you fight through a goblin fortress, a corrupted Dwarf keep and a hellish landscape dominated by Dragonborn and demons. It is really cool and your character is naturally pulled in as you follow an adventurer who is tracking his leader Alric. Syl his apprentice is the main person trying to stop Alric after her corrupts the third member of their party Brink is transformed into a monster by Alric, solidifying his corruption and drive for power at any cost. The fact that this story is what you are investigating as Alric’s journals give you taste of what each area will be like really enriches the game and makes the world rich.

Gameplay – The gameplay is a lot of fun for a dungeon crawler. I never felt overpowered and had to strategize to get through some areas. What helped along those lines was the level variety and unique bosses as well as the fact that you have a pet who can sell your gear in town.

Level Variety – There is a huge level variety that stood out for me more than “Torchlight II.” The goblin fortress feels like a goblin fortress and it makes sense that they’d set a big troll on you that they control and heal. Same goes with the corrupted Dwarf Fortress being ruled by a Demon and the undead area being ruled by ghosts. The levels made sense and built upon each other, which only enriched the world and the experience.

Unique Bosses – The one thing all the bosses have in common is that they are almost always bigger than you. What is different is how you fight them. You fight a giant Troll that you can only beat after you kill the goblin healers who are constantly calling in adds and you fight a demon who replicates herself so you have to focus down the real one and then the final boss has constant adds that he kills to heal and it becomes a war of attrition. The final boss fight feels worth it in the end and it is a victory you earn. In the first game The Dark Alchemist was difficult and I think the only one I died against but didn’t even compare to the difficulty of the dragon Ordrak.

The Pet – One of my biggest issues with APRGs and Dungeon crawlers is the need to go back to town to sell loot or simply dropping loot in order to wait for the good drops. Having a pet that fights with you and sells your gear solves this. This is one thing I wish “Diablo III” had done as it would have solved the overload of gear problem that none of the “Diablo Franchise” really addresses.

Story – The story is simple, but it works. You are helping Syl stop her corrupted master from summoning Ordrak who will conquer and corrupt the world. When you fight Ordak he clearly can do this as he sets tons of Dragonborn and undead against you over the course of the battle. To get this point you fail to save Syl’s friend Brink and you get corrupted by the Ember too. Syl saves you from the corruption only to get captured and after you save her…only to get corrupted at the end when you hold Ordrak’s ember heart. It is well done even if on the face of it it is following the corruption ark of the Warrior in the first “Diablo.” There are enough “Dungeons and Dragons” elements as well as you following the story of the other adventurers to set it apart.

The Cons:

The Hero’s Motivation – Your character shows up but we don’t really get his motivation. I played the Alchemist and he was almost immediantly corrupted after defeating the final boss. There was not motivation and setup, which is a shame as I felt I got to know the characters who surrounded him.

I ended up really enjoying this game. So much so that I’m giving “Torchlight II” another chance. Here is my Old Review of Torchlight II. This was a solidly great game and I enjoyed my time in the universe as well as the fact that I could keep on playing after defeating Ordrak. The graphics and world feel unique and I’m really curious to see if “Torchlight III” will be any good. If you are looking for an older dungeon crawler to play, definitely check this one out.

Final Score: 9 / 10 It is a shame the sequel doesn’t live up to the original. This one improves on the gameplay of the first “Diablo” while still telling an original story without getting cartoony.

 

 

 

 

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) – A Fun Adventure That Gives Justice to the Characters and Plot

Hellboy 2 Poster

        The blog is finally back! I’ve been on a bit of haitus since I’ve been moving to a new apartment, my sister got married this week and I had car trouble in Seattle and had to replace a flat, which took a few days. There are reviews upcoming, the first of which is this one that I’ve been working on. Enjoy.

       “Hellboy 2” is a lot of fun. This is a film that takes everything that worked about the first film and focuses it (with some of the same problems still around as well) and creating a few new problems. It is the better film though, as the characters in this are more memorable and Hellboy isn’t the only character driving the plot this time. Non-spoiler thoughts, check this film out if you like the Hellboy comics and enjoyed the first film.

    The film was directed and written by Guillermo del Toro and produced Lawrence Gordon, Mike Richardson and Lloyd Levin.

    The story involves Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and the team working top the evil elf Prince Nuada from summoning the immortal Golden Army from ancient that nearly wiped out humanity before.

The Pros: The World – Guillermo loves the dark world of fairy mythology (see “Pan’s Labrynth”) and here he gets to show and express that love in the mythos on display. His world is fascinating and all characters look so real and alien. This is really him in his element as this film had some of my favorite character designs.

The Soundtrack – Danny Elfman once again creates a powerful score! This is a guy who specializes in dark fairy tales and that is what this Hellboy film is. he does a masterful job capturing the tragedy and loss in scenes and the soundtrack is worth checking out just for what it is.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is stunning. While the last film was too dark at times this one embraces the dark but also the light to create beautiful contrasts in locations and characters, giving the film and otherworldly feel. Guillermo Navarro did a fantastic job.

The Introduction – A little Hellboy is being red a story by his adoptive father Trevor (yay, John Hurt is back!). It is a touching scene as we learn that fairys and humans lived in harmony until humans started destroying the land leading King Balor to create a Golden Army of magic. He regrets it all after the death toll rises and makes a peace treaty with humanity. His son leaves in exile as he wanted humanity wiped out and he and his daughter hide the pieces so the army may never rise again.

The Characters – The characters are what drew me into the world of Hellboy (though Hellboy isn’t as interesting as Abe of Krauss in my opinion) and they are the reason I will continue to see these films.

King Balor – The King is awesome and shuts down his son when his son tries to call for war again. It takes his son killing him for him to be stopped. I wanted more of this guy as he was a fascinating and powerful character.

The Goblin Smith – This guy makes a deal to save the life of Hellboy and we learn he was the smith who made the Golden Army and fears his creations. He brings Liz to the Angel and she makes the deal to bring Hellboy back even knowing it could lead to the end.

The Angel – The Angel sees Hellboy’s future and in it only destruction. She is a dark and haunting figure with eyes of a large cranium and great black wings. She has my favorite design in the film and if they make more I hope we see her again. She saves Hellboy’s life.

 Hellboy – Hellboy’s arc is learning to communicate with Liz and work on a team. He is by the end and has rubbed off on Krauss who rebels against the agency. His arc is cool as we see even though he is stupid, his heart is in the right place and he is a talented fighter.

Liz – Liz makes the choice Hellboy made last movie where he risks all to save her, she does the same this film. She is the one who has gotten control of her powers (I would have liked to see more of how that happened) and is the one helping Hellboy become responsible.

Abe Sapien – Abe has a character arc as we see him love and lose as he brings the crown to Nuada that awakens the army (and rightfully calls out Liz and Hellboy for doing the same thing). Sadly not all love works out as Nuala dies to save them all. It is a touching scene and we see how perceptive Abe is. I really liked his character after this film.

Prince Nuada – The Prince is in it for revenge and has a great design as a dark warrior. He trained for centuries and his plan nearly works because he is the only one who doesn’t love and only wants to control. Luckily he is stopped in the end by his sister, who it turns out was the only one who could unless the heroes were willing to kill her by killing Nuada.

Princess Nuala – Nuala should have got more screentime. We see she is compassion and a healer, while her brother is the warrior and she is shown to be wise as she knows that the war will only end in the destruction of all as the Golden Army is only built to destroy. She also falls in love with Abe and is lovely until she kills herself to stop her brother keeping up the theme of tragedy that pervaded the film.

Johann Krauss

 Johann Krauss – Krauss is awesome! He is pretty much immortal because he is living ectoplasm in a suit. This leads to him being both smarter and stronger than Hellboy and a better leader on all counts as he doesn’t depend on brute forcing his way through situations. He does see the value in it though and resigns from the agency with the rest of them as they are tired of being tools, given that Hellboy’s existence is shown to be just a tool for his father to cause the end of the world. All of them, including Krauss, reject that control.

Okay: The Ending – It is cool that Liz and Hellboy are going to be parents, the freeze frame for the final shot was a bit annoying though.

The Cons: Disposable Agents – So many agents die, they are basically red shirts and I feel the stakes would have been hire if they’d felt more like characters rather than disposable bodies.

The Prince’s Long Term Plan – What was his plan after humanity was wiped out? He never talks about it and it seems that the Fairy Realm is largely afraid of him. He lived only for revenge when he could have been so much more since he wanted to rule and killed his father to do so.

  I enjoyed this film much more than the first one largely because the side characters got a lot more exploration while still keeping the Hellboy mythos key with him being son of a Demon Lord. The price and cost of choices was explored really well too and using the Fairy World to do so was masterful since in mythology they are all about dealmaking. Krauss was my favorite character and his character growth was a big part of what made the film so fascinating outside of the great world and character designs that we’ve all come to expect from Guillermo del Toro.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): Great World But Story Doesn’t Quite Deliver

The Nightmare Before Christmas

    Before I get into my thoughts, this is going to be one of a few Holiday themed film reviews leading up to Christmas. This review is probably going to be one of my more controversial ones as I know I am most likely in the minority here, but I don’t think “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is great. I think it’s alright but when it came to characters and story it didn’t quite deliver, even though the world it takes place in is fascinating and I see why “Kingdom Hearts” keeps returning to it. Tim Burton is a director and artist who creates wonderful worlds, sadly what I’ve noticed is he doesn’t always fully flesh out the events or characters of said world and this movie truly is a good example of that.

       The film was directed by Henry Selick, written by Caroline Thompson with story by Michael McDowell and produced by Tim Burton and Denise De Novi.

     The story involves Jack Skellington the “Pumpkin King” of Halloween Town having a crisis of want and identity that changes him when falls into Christmas Town. From here he brings Christmas back to Halloween Town and takes up the identity of Santa Claus which causes dire consequences around the world.

The Pros: The World – Tim Burton created an amazing world. The basic theory is each holiday has a town where the denzines of the holiday live…whether it Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc. They can crossover to one another as well, as seen by Jack’s discovery of the place.

The Animation – The stop motion animation is really beautiful. Each place whether it is Halloween Town, Christmas Town or our world has a distinct flavor and tone to it, which lend strength to the events that go down.

Halloween Town – Halloween Town is the best town and is based all around scaring people. The monsters in this town have great designs and everyone in the town is either mad or demented. Sally and Jack are the most normal members of the population.

The Mayor of Halloween Town – The Mayor is literally two faced and has a happy and unhappy face that turns on his head. He can’t do anything himself and is all about Jack the celebrity. He’s a funny character and has some great lines.

Oogie Boogie – Oogie Boogie is a fun villain as he loves to gamble with lives and is a sentient living mass of bugs. He is threatening and is very much the bully of the town who lives to stick to himself unless his boys bring him lives to play with. Ken Page was great.

Okay: The Soundtrack – This isn’t Elfman’s best work, mostly because the songs aren’t all that good. They are okay but “Darkman” had a much stronger soundtrack, as did “Batman.” This one is a very weak Disney soundtrack and I can’t think of any song that really stood out beyond the main theme.

Jack Skellington – Jack is okay, if he wasn’t a major celebrity he would have been more sympathetic but from the beginning he is the man who has everything. All the people of Halloween Town love him, he always wins the Halloween events and the only thing not going for him is he’s bored and feels lonely. I didn’t get the loneliness given everyone wanted to be with him and he just had to open up. He was okay, Chris Sarandon was a good voice acting choice though.

Sally – Sally is the woman trapped in the castle by her evil creator Dr. Finklestein. She keeps poisoning him and escaping, so she is an active character…but I didn’t know why she liked Jack beyond the fact that everyone liked Jack because he was popular. She could have done a lot more and I wish she’d gone from quiet to active. She tries to stop the Nightmare Before Christmas with Fog with Jack’s ghost dog Zero had a glowing nose. I really liked the idea of her character, but like Jack she didn’t feel fully formed.

Message – The message is largely to be comfortable in yourself and don’t try to be other people. This is good but I felt the execution would have been better if Santa had been more explicit to Jack or if Sally had.

The Cons: Santa Claus – The character is pretty useless. All he does is fix the Nightmare Christmas Jack causes on the populace, but for a Magic guy he was useless against Oogie Boogie.

    This is a film that even given my criticisms of it, and the fact that it is a bit overrated is still worth seeing at least once. Tim Burton’s creativity is on full display and Halloween Town is a lot of fun. This is a also chance to see some beautiful Stop Motion animation and even though this world isn’t fully formed on screen, it is still a lot of fun to visit.

Final Score: 7.3 / 10