Combat (Shields & Execute), Rewards, Difficulty (NG), Learning Curve & Tutorial, Progression, End Game & Mapworks and Replayability
TL2 is a fun game to play. The combat is engaging, the rewards are bountiful, the game is easy to learn and get involved in, the difficulty settings allow the player to customize their experience, the progression feels just right, and the end-game replayability is good with Mapworks, fame, and looking for the best gear. The Synergies mod also offers new end game dungeons which are extremely difficult and fun.
The Combat in TL2 is well-balanced and smooth. As a character progresses there are often so many enemies on the screen the battle turns into a monumental orgy of fun and carnage. You get to burn, shatter, sicken, electrocute, slice, dice, dismember and smash your opponents, and often face dozens of ugly critters barreling down on you all at once. The game does a great job of displaying the damage delivered and received, often filling the screen with juicy numbers, CRITICAL, and SHATTERED messages, which are very nice to see. Shields are a very big deal in TL2 as they can protect both you and the monsters from multiple forms of damage. If you encounter a group of shielded monsters, better hope you can break their shields before they get to you or you might be in trouble! Another important mechanic in TL2 is that of Execute, which causes a character to strike with both weapons at the same time (and is thus only available to dual wield characters). Execute is a passive action that can take place based on a default low percentage chance which can be raised through item properties and gem augments.
One weakness of combat is the fact TL2 is not good at informing you that you’re dying or almost dead. While a red glowing border appears around the screen when your health is very low, the game is so interactive you often don’t see the border until it’s too late. I would like to see a mod that did some sort of screen fade as your health goes down; I think that would be a much better way of presenting the life status to the player.
One thing TL2 does a very good job at is providing rewards to those who play. With a ton of chests/other containers, destructible items, gold and item drops, there is always something to loot. Golden Chests are also available on many levels, but can only be opened if you find the Bittersprite that’s carrying the key. The Synergies mod also causes unique chests to spawn randomly throughout the world that can drop custom weapons and armor.
Enemies in TL2 never regenerate, including bosses! This allows a character to continually return to a boss encounter and slowly hack away and kill their target even if they die a number of times.
There are two categories of Difficulty. The first is the base difficulty setting which is either Casual, Normal, Veteran or Elite. Casual is basically a “never die” mode (good for kids), Normal is pretty easy, Veteran is for more experienced players, and Elite is the hardest. The higher the difficulty the more damage the monsters do, the more hits they have, and less gold drops. You can choose the difficulty only when you create a character. Once chosen it cannot be changed without creating a new character unless you play via Internet or LAN; but it won’t change the single player difficulty setting. The second category of difficulty is that of “New Game” or NG. This is similar to D3’s Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno. When a character completes the first play through of the game, they can move to the next, which is called NG+ and starts at Level 51. The next is NG++ (81), NG+++ (100) and NG++++ (120). NG5 is available, but it won’t scale higher than 120. When a character progresses to one of the NG difficulties they cannot go back and can only play with other characters in that difficulty.
The Learning Curve of TL2 is a short and easy one, and the selection of difficulty allows anyone to choose a starting point that’s either ultra-easy or extremely difficult. Ultimately, nearly anyone can jump into this game and quickly be running around and having fun. The game also has a basic tutorial which does a good job of walking new players through the basics.
TL2 is really a PvE game. While you can engage in PvP via multi-player and mods, it’s not something I’ve tried.
The Progression of TL2 is very linear, but it works very well. Rarely do you find an impasse of progression your first play through, and if you encounter progress problems later on (NG+) you can reset the maps or visit some of the dynamic levels through Symergies or the Endless Dungeon.
One great thing about TL2 is the game is very forgiving. Unlike D3 and especially PoE, the game doesn’t punish you later on if you don’t build the “best character” for end-game survival.
End-game in TL2 consists of Mapworks and running the Synergies/Endless dungeons. Mapworks opens after you defeat the Netherlord (usually around level 50) and talk to a NPC in Minehead. You can purchase maps for a cost from Compass the Map Seller. Maps are one of five categories and range in level from 48-105. Combining the categories, there are 38 different variations of maps, and each one can have custom modifiers which impact both the monsters and the player. For example, a map can have 25% health stolen for players and pets while also giving 15% additional electrical damage to the monsters. Many maps also have a unique boss at the end.
The Replayability of TL2 is good, exercised through the NG system, Mapworks, Synergies/Endless dungeons and item hunting for the best gear possible once a character reaches level 100. There is also a lot of fun to experience by trying out the different classes and their builds.