Diablo III vs Torchlight

I have to admit, I have not played Diablo III 1.04  It just hasn’t interested me since realizing there are some fundamental breaches of verisimilitude.  Torchlight 2 is available for pre-order on Steam and to my surprise it came with a free copy of Torchlight.  Oh, good!  I had lost my copy a while ago, and needed to buy it again.

Wow, what a different feel between the two games!  The pacing is very different between Torchlight and Diablo III.  There are three paces that jump out immediately.  The pace the character moves across the terrain, the pace of attacking and the pace of the weapons drop.  Or looked at another way the pace of movement and the pace of reward.

In Torchlight you run much much slower.  It feels like it takes much longer to move anywhere.  Attacking feels like it takes forever.  It is a big deal if your attack misses, because the monster is on you before you can attack again.  The pace of enemy movement feels very similar between Torchlight and D3, btw.  When you uncover terrain slowly, exploring feels more important.  Going back over old terrain (which you do very little of) is tangibly painful.

Countering the slow pace of movement, pace of rewards such as rare, unique, and set items is much much faster.  These items have relatively low level requirements.  You can use them when you find them or after a level up or two.  They aren’t immensely powerful, but they are powerful enough they retain effectiveness over many levels.  Which is great considering there is no auction house to buy items with.

The slower movement pace of Torchlight is not as detrimental as you might first think.  Gaining levels and powers, particularly speed boosts, and attack speed increases, feels like real benefits.  It really means something when your character goes from Slowest Attack Speed to Slow Attack Speed.  This feels like more of an improvement over time.

Erik Asmussen made a game which dives into the way the pleasure center of the human mind lights up when you get a reward playing a game.  As a psychology student turned game designer he has a great insight into the reward structure of games.  Which he mentions in a funny and informative Boston Indies presentation.  You can feel the effects of rewards on the pleasure center of the brain in Erik’s ‘reductio ad absurdum’ game Shape Shatter.

Torchlight is paced much better then Diablo III and is a more entertaining game because of it.  Slow movement and attack speeds provide tangible rewards over time.  Fast weapon drops and great loot hits the pleasure centers of the brain in the short term.

Torchlight 2 could do very well in sales later this month.  It should be a great game, and the wait is getting exciting.  Assuming they keep a similar pacing structure as the previous game, players should flock to Torchlight 2 as a break from some of Diablo III’s fundamental issues.  Hopefully Runic hasn’t fallen into the Diablo III trap and sped things up as part of an ‘arms race’ attempt to keep gamers with short attention spans interested.  I think Torchlight 2 might end up being the better game assuming they get the pacing right.

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