The Heart of Torchlight 2’s Darkness

The light dances across their skin. Sitting by the campfire, a group of warriors savors a moment of peace during a slow night. Suddenly, a beast’s howl in the distance is cut short. By the faint light, they see a figure coming towards them. They rise shouting and run towards this unexpected threat with their swords drawn. In moments, they are silenced.

The scene repeats seconds later. From the forest to the desert and back again, I have slaughtered everything in my path. Moving across every land, I leave a trail of destruction. Dead bodies and broken containers litter the path behind me. The game tells me I am the hero.

Death is the central currency of Torchlight 2. Progression means spending spilled blood to find and combine the best weapons and armor. Mastery of the game leads to faster killing which leads to greater power. Each feeds into the next until every action is aimed at finding the next target. Whether a creature is a threat or not does not matter, each is merely a means for personal gain.

It’s simple too. You click on it and it dies. After 90+ hours of playing, I understand this well. The types of monsters blur together. The areas are all the same. Even my own techniques have become second nature to me. I enter an area, I merit out death, and then I leave. Only when I pause to assign skills or equip a better weapon am I reminded of the reasons behind my actions.

The plot of Torchlight 2 is based in a classic twist. One of the heroes from the first game has become corrupted and is the new villain. The Alchemist, infected by the very evil he helped stop, is now disrupting the natural balance of the world in trying to rid himself of his madness. The only way to save the world is to stop him, the game tells me.

I’ve defeated him three times now. After each, I’ve begun the game again with The Alchemist stronger than before. He rampages across the world, drawing power from ancient sources. And I follow. We both start the next cycle more powerful than the last and meet up to fight again. Nothing else matters.

The first time through the game, I dwelled on how evil was seeping into the world and came to the aid of those who asked. The second time, knowing which quests gave the best loot, I began to ignore some cries for help. During the third time through the game, I optimized even more. For the fourth, I no longer cared when I empowered The Faceless King in Act II and Cracklespit of Act III. Letting them wreak their temporary havoc works towards my plans. They are but minor annoyances in my larger scheme.

Throughout it all, I uphold my routine. Enter an area. Kill everything. If there is some reaction by the game, I watch and then proceed onward. From one land to the next, I merit out death to all I see and only pause when I am stopped. Accidentally trying to kill my pet, the only faithful companion I have on my journey, has become normal. A few clicks without her dying reminds me I must move to the next target. And there is always another to find.

In the distance, I see another campfire. I kill the beasts in front of me, search for better gear and then move closer to those in the light. I know their deaths will fuel my desires. In my darkness, I am ready to kill again.