This faithfulness to traditional RPG progression is a design decision, not a flaw, and while it may be easy to feel frustrated forgoing a powerful item later in the campaign that you haven't specced for at earlier levels, Torchlight 2 has found many interesting ways to reward you in its stead. Core character stats behave as usual - building a tank-type with strength and vitality is still a good bet - but you're often incentivized to expand into stats more traditionally appropriate to other classes by way of items. Most gear doesn't come with class restrictions, but rather an either/or prerequisite system that keeps the majority of armor and weapons technically viable regardless of which character you're playing. For instance, claw weapons generally jive best with Berzerkers, but most give you the option of having either a high level requirement, or combination of Berserker-friendly stats that your Outlander may just happen to have. It's not often that you get to take advantage of this flexibility, but it sure feels great when you don't have to trash a rare magic chest piece just because you aren't an Embermage.
With so many viable options - especially in wardrobe - managing your inventory becomes a sizable part of the experience. Fortunately, the trusty pet you're assigned at the game's start is always on hand to run what's unwanted to the town merchant, leaving you to continue adventuring without the need for long slogs back and forth to town each time your backpack feels heavy. You'll still want to head there every so often, though, as each hub's array of specialty merchants is a fantastic mix of fun and practicality. With the most boring, basic transactions out of the way thanks to your faithful companion, most vendors left offer a series of intriguing decisions to make. A pair of jewelers stands ready to either destroy your armor for the enchantment within, or destroy your enchantment to leave armor intact - never both. Another crafty salesmen sells mystery gear that you'll need to commit to buying before discovering its true value. There's even a touch of crafting - just the right amount to leave the joy of actually hunting for loot untouched. Unwanted, weaker items can be transformed into better versions at a loss, while a batch of four unique items (the rarest available) can be traded for one random new piece, but there's no guarantee that it will be any better for your character than the four you just destroyed to get it.
This sort of playful randomness meshes perfectly with the construction of the world's many large maps, often filled with small, special experiences that serve almost no purpose beyond being something new or different. Perhaps you'll find a pitch-black cave with torches that spring to life as you advance, or a spontaneous portal that transports you to a mine where you must protect a crystal from avaricious goblins. Examined mechanically, these instances offer no significant change to the gameplay beyond adding to Torchlight II's special brand of wonder that permeates nearly every aspect of the experience.
In town or out, it's hard to ignore the sheer effort of Torchlight II, and while it never quite revolutionizes the way we interact with this type of game, it does what it chooses to do extraordinarily well. Though there may be little new of significance behind it's charming methodology, it's succeeded at evolving the formula in way that solidifies the Torchlight series as a viable approach to a genre that Diablo had single-handedly defined for a decade prior. And with the inclusion of cooperative multiplayer (yes, LAN, too) plus the ludicrously low price of just $20, anyone with even the slightest interest in hack-n-slash RPGs should make the time to explore its realms for themselves.
Bottom Line: Torchlight II is a joy to experience, with vibrant landscapes packed full of interesting monsters, items, and lore just begging to be explored.
Recommendation: Even at three times its $20 price, Torchlight II would be a bargain. If you're even remotely interested in the game or the genre, this is a no-regret purchase.
Game: Torchlight II
Developer: Runic Games
Publisher: Runic Games