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No. of Recommendations: 9
I've finally given up on Diablo 3. I have no regrets about buying it, but I have no desire to sink any more time into it. D3 is a lot of fun and I definitely got my money's worth. I think the graphics and sound are great, the character classes are all unique and fun to play, and the various skills are very well done. I actually like the new skill system, where you just unlock new skills when you hit a certain level and you don't put points into stats or a skill tree. I like the fact that you don't have to reroll a character from scratch to try out a different combinations of skills.

My main problem with D3 is the loot, or the lack thereof. It's way too difficult to get the really good stuff, such as legendaries or set items. I think that D3 really shines for casual players (due to the simplified stat and skill system) or for the serious gamers that can sink 100s of hours into the game. But for all those players in between like me, it's a frustrating grind with a poor reward system.

I didn't like the idea of the auction house when I first heard about it, but felt reassured when some of developers said in a Q&A on Reddit that loot drops would not be affected by the auction house:

The auction house has absolutely no effect on drop rates. There are conspiracy theories and misunderstandings but I do want to re-iterate, there is NO interaction whatsoever.

I like to play single-player about 90% of the time. I like to find all of the gear that I use so that was good news. As I wrote in an earlier post here:

To me, the whole point of the game is to advance further so that you can get better equipment, not get better equipment so that you can advance further, but to each his own.

I tried to stick to that plan, but I ended up hitting a wall at around level 50. I was at the point where it would take me 5-10 minutes of hit-and-run tactics to kill a champion mob. It started to feel like work instead of fun. So I finally decided to visit the auction house even though I swore I wouldn't, but I was done with the game unless something changed. I quickly discovered that I could buy pieces of armor that had literally 3 times better stats than what I was wearing for about 5K to 8K in gold (i.e. a pittance). That was when it really sunk in that Diablo 3 is designed around the auction house, regardless of what the developer say. With prices for great gear already that cheap, how could they do anything but keep drop rates extremely low?

I thought that I would give the game a chance with the auction house. But then it just becomes a game about getting more gold to buy the items you need off of the auction house. And that is not a fun game, IMHO. I tried it a little longer but I haven't played in about a month. In the end, I probably played for 70-80 hours total and I had a level 55 Barbarian, a level 41 Demon Hunter, and a level 28 Wizard. During all of the time, I did not find a single legendary or set item. Not one. And we are supposed to believe that the auction house isn't a factor in those low drop rates? I'm not buying it.

So along comes Torchlight 2. I was kind of sitting on the fence about this game, especially after having just sunk a lot of time into another dungeon crawler. Then I read another Q&A on Reddit with the developers of that game, and one of them said something was music to my ears:

re: D3, while I think its a tremendous accomplishment, there's a couple things they did that really hurt my personal ability to keep playing. The auction house, even the regular one, detracts from my own loot gathering. I hate seeing all the great stuff that's so easy to purchase and is so much better than what I can find on my own.

So I went from sitting on the fence to being a first-day buyer, which at $20 was not that hard of decision to make. And the loot is good. They did it right. I have a level 29 Engineer and so far in about 15-20 hours of play, I have found 6 uniques (legendaries) and 10 set items. That's about the right amount to keep me motivated. The game itself is very well done, with production values for graphics and sounds just as high as you find Diablo 3. It's a little too cartoony, but then again, Diablo is a little too dark.

I do miss the simplified skill system in Diablo 3, but there are console commands that allow you to respec your character. I guess that's because the developers believe in having fun and playing the way you want to play instead of creating an online-only, hack-free, loot-greedy game entirely designed for pi$$ing matches between the 1% of players living rent-free in their mom's basement that can play 100 hours a week.

The loot itself has some very fun attributes, much more entertaining than the same 3 or 4 attributes that everybody wants in D3. The socketable items are much more varied that the 4-5 gem types in D3. Beyond the loot, they've made some other great improvements. The skills have been very fun to play around with. I thought the pets would be gimmicky but they are very useful. They can run errands such as selling loot or buying potions, which means less time having to go back to town. And the non-traditional half-fantasy half-steampunk setting is also very cool.

If both these games were priced at $60, I might debate the pros and cons of each before recommending one over the other. But with Torchlight 2 at only $20 on Steam, recommending it is a no brainer. Great fun and well worth your time and money, particularly if you had some of the same disappointing experiences with the loot and auction house in Diablo 3 as I described above.

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