Torchlight II behavior says a lot about a person

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My boyfriend, Jer, and I started playing Torchlight II together because he was tired of me beating him at Sid Meier’s Civilization V. I’m sure he’d put it a different way, perhaps denouncing my desire to play the aforementioned simulation competitively and decrying my use of occasional skirmishes and nukes to put him off his game so I could garner a Utopia Project win while he squandered resources trying to mount a defense, but this is my article so we’re not going to get into details. Suffice to say, a consensus was reached that competitive multiplayer was going to another Tekken incident and a cooperative experience was in order.

As we considered what to play, Jer mentioned how he was recently won over by Torchlight, was raving about it’s glory and kept going on about how he couldn’t wait to grab Torchlight II. Thanks to the 2012 Steam Winter Sale, we both picked up Torchlight II at 50% off and decided to begin a cooperative adventure involving dungeon crawling, loot gathering and boss butt-kicking.

What surprised me is how enlightening an experience this has been. Torchlighting, our name for our Torchlight II nightly runs, has helped me understand a bit more about ourselves as gamers. I feel like I understand us better as a people after the experience.

To start, I’ve realized I’m more of a leisurely gamer. Since I’m a video game journalist, I often choose the easiest difficulty level on games because it means I can get through them faster and experience more. It comes in helpful what with deadlines and assignments, plus means I can be a bit more thorough, savoring the ambiance, looking for gamebreaking problems and even allows me to take notes as I play. This means when we started out, I insisted on the Casual difficulty level while he wanted Normal, at least. Jer acquiesed, partially because that’s what good boyfriends do and also because he begrudgingly admitted that with the initial Embermage character build, Casual was a better fit for him.

It also meant I spent the first two areas in Torchlight II chasing after him. He’d be running ahead, beating stuff down, while I’d be in another section about 30 virtual feet back, doing some fishing or seeing where this winding path I’d discovered would lead me. “You missed a chest!” I remember announcing at one point. His response was, “Two champions are killing me and I could use some help.” Whoops.

That would actually prove to be a running theme in our early Torchlight II adventures. Like I said, for the first two areas and probably the first dungeon, I was focused on exploration. I wanted to see everything, check every location and take my time. Any time I found loot with a green title, I wanted to immediately stop and weigh the pros and cons of equipping it or sending it to the pet. Meanwhile, he’d be plowing forward, making substantial progress on whatever quests we had chosen to undertake. He was focused on our given tasks, while I was getting my bearings and wanting to savor these initial moments.

After that point though, roles reversed. By the time we hit the Frosted Hills, I was the one running ahead. I’d recovered from my case of the “Oh, shinies!” and was now brimming with overconfidence. Jer’d been comfortable with Torchlight II from the beginning, due to experience with Torchlight, Diablo and similar games. Despite having acquired Torchlight in a previous Humble Bundle, I’d never played the thing. Now, I knew what I was doing, what I needed to keep doing and nothing was going to stop me. Mind, I wasn’t going to grind, but I was going to efficiently and effectively patrol the Frosted Hills and Forsaken Vaults. Where Jer had taken the lead before, I was now the one dashing ahead.

Meanwhile, he was hitting a point where he was discovering how many secrets Torchlight II could hide. He wanted to check more obscure areas to see what hidden passages lay around the bend. He was also playing as an Embermage, which meant he was relying more on teamwork. As someone who’s been primarily playing single player RPGs for the last 20 years, I wasn’t prepared for that. I took for granted that he wouldn’t be spending the entire game trailing behind me, and would dash off. The result was many more, “Champions killing me hun” messages in the chat box as I’d realize his dot was all the way back there on the mini-map and not just barely off screen. Crud. I guess I’m a more selfish gamer than I thought.

Though, to be fair, I could be considered the more social of the two of us when it comes to Torchlight II. I’ve since remedied my “run ahead and assume he’s behind me” playstyle out of consideration for him. Not to mention, I don’t play the game on my own. Of the 14.7 hours I’ve spent playing Torchlight II so far, about 12 have been spent with him and my Engineer. The other two hours were spent playing with a separate Outlander character either with my friend Dia or with my friend Dia and him. He, on the other hand, has spent 46 hours on Torchlight II as I write this, and will probably have logged more time by the time this runs.

Again, there’s that focus. Jer’s said when he’s playing Torchlight II alone, he’s grinding for uniques. He also used that alone time to build up a Beserker and Outlander character, with both also at the second act as of this writing. Of course, he and I finished the second act last night, so I imagine those other two characters will be at the third act shortly.

Yet, despite that focus, the use of multiple characters makes me wonder if perhaps I’m the more focused one. I also have three characters now, an Engineer, an Outlander and an Embermage. However, I mainly use the Engineer. The Outlander was created to play with my friend Dia since she started playing after I did and we wanted to enjoy adventures together, growing at the same pace. The Embermage was created to test out a pet mod, because I really wanted to see what it was like to have a ginormous dragon. (It’s awesome.)

Still, I always go back to my level 33 Engineer. Meanwhile, I never know which version of Jer will show up in Torchlight II next. I haven’t seen the Embermage in days. The Beserker appeared for most of the second chapter, but suddenly an Outlander showed up to the battles against the djinn and corrupted mana guardian. Not to mention the Beserker and the Outlander were both dubbed favorites at once point in their “lives.” It makes me wonder if the next time I log in, my Engineer will be face to face with a gender-swapped version of herself.

Also, for all his mocking of my aggressive Civilization V tendencies, I do believe Torchlight II has shown him to be the bigger brute. He’s recently created an Outlander which eschews the projectile weapons in favor of a glaive and AOE attacks. The result is a poisonous dervish of death. His character is, as of writing, two levels behind my engineer, yet routinely wipes out areas in moments. This has made playing with him rather exhasperating, seeing as how I stick to my Engineer. By the time I reach an area he’s run to, everything’s already dead. It’s worse than fighting alongside his Beserker! At least there I had a chance at attacking despite his speed, but now he’s game-breakingly awesome.

It makes my Engineer seem positively pacifist! I’ve discovered the wonders of having little robots do everything for you in Torchlight II, much like my Engineer in Mass Effect 3, and delight in watching them float around me, healing or attacking when it suits them. Sure, I deal my own damage with my mighty greatswords and do plenty of button-mashing attacking, but I also get a lot of joy out of watching my minions beat up minor foes and always take the time to set up force fields and even cast a healing spell or two from the ones I have equipped.

There’s one final thing our joint Torchlight II adventures have taught me. Jer is in it for the long haul. He’s going to master this sucker. I have no doubt in my mind that he will not only New Game + Torchlight II, he’ll probably New Game + + it and may even create some mods. I, on the other hand, will remain a casual player. I’ll stay true to my Engineer and be up for some join exploration and extermination when he or a friend is on, but I’ll save my adventures for when I know someone else is around and will move onto the next new thing once the Alchemist is slain.

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