Over the past month, Travis Baldree, President of Runic Games, has been posting a weekly thread entitled "Not A Blog Redux", detailing what he has been working on in getting Torchlight II prepared for release. Well back in June, we posted how the skill panes were being reworked with active and passive skills separated, along with the introduction of tier bonuses for every five points spent in a skill. Today, we finally got our first glimpse at what the new skill panes look like and it's quite the departure from the one seen during the beta.
The one Travis posted was from the Berserker class, seen in the first image below. As the image illustrates, each class has three panes, with each pane containing seven active skills and three passive skills, for a total of 30 skills per class. Unlike the original Torchlight, each skill is unique to that class, with no shared abilities (taking out shared abilities, Torchlight classes only had 15 unique abilities each!). Skills unlock from top to bottom as you level up, with no requirement of having to spend points in previous skills to unlock new ones. The passives unlock at a different, faster rate than the active skills. The other big change you probably noticed were the "I", "II", and "III" underneath each active skill. Those represent the three bonus tiers for each skill – every fifth point invested will grant you an additional "Tier Bonus", with every skill maxing out at 15 points.
To show us how the tiers work, Travis posted a screenshot of the Bramble Wall skill from the Outlander class. A vanilla Bramble Wall spell (1-4 points invested) simply "creates an arc of impassable thorns in front of you, which monsters cannot pass, but you can shoot over." With 5-9 points invested, you gain the Tier I Bonus, which causes the vines to damage foes when they're raised. As you can see in the image, that change is directly applied to the skill description (in this case, +2564-3030 Poison Damage). With 10-14 points invested, you gain the Tier II Bonus in addition to the Tier I Bonus, increasing the length of the vines. At 15, not only do you still get the Tier I and Tier II Bonuses, but you now also get a Tier III Bonus, which causes the vines to exude a poison gas, continuously damaging any enemies that draw near to the wall while they try to walk around it. In the third image below, the top shows your vanilla Bramble Wall, the middle shows Tier I, and the bottom shows Tier III. Where ever possible, Travis said the team tried to visually alter the skills to reflect the bonuses. The last image below shows the difference between a vanilla Eviscerate and a max level Eviscerate – despite the bonuses merely increasing range, the visuals are still very different.
The new skill panes definitely appear to be an improvement and the Tier Bonuses should provide a multitude of different build strategies, which is always a good thing for an Action-RPG. If this has got you yearning to play, well unfortunately the release date is still a mystery. We know that Runic Games will be showing the game off at PAX, which is taking place from August 31 to September 2, so hopefully we'll get a release date then. The original estimation was that it would be released by the end of Summer, which falls on September 21, so it seems like PAX is perfectly situated for a release date announcement.