With both Borderlands 2 and Torchlight II dropping, loot fatigue is more common than ever.
By Daniel Wilks on September 24, 2012 at 5:41 pm
My eyes are gritty and I’m not regulating my body temperature too well. It’s a sure sign that I haven’t slept enough in a while. As an insomniac I’m used to the sore eyes and fatigue sweats, but today there are some lovely extra symptoms nagging me. My lower back is killing me, and depending on which way I hold my neck I get a stabbing pain in the back of my head. I haven’t felt this way in over a decade, since days passed unnoticed outside as I was first playing Diablo II. I have all the warning signs of loot fatigue and it doesn’t look as though it will be getting better any time soon.
Depending on how you look at it, the last week or so has either been very bad or very good for the addictive gamer or obsessive. In the space of only a few days two games have released, both almost entirely predicated on a scaling system of reward that keeps you hanging on for just a few more minutes in the hopes of snagging that next iterative gear upgrade. Borderlands 2 and Torchlight II are very different games, but at their core they both revolve around the same thing – the primal desire to have the biggest and best thing and the almost pure distillation of the relationship between risk and reward.
The two games couldn’t be more different in approach outside of the fact that one is a first person shooter and the other is old-school click-to-kill. Borderlands 2 features a great story, characters and dialogue that give the world of Pandora both a real sense of place and a villain who all but begs to be shot in the face, whereas Torchlight II has the most perfunctory of plots and NPCs who function as nothing more than quest vendors and occasionally expositrons. The approaches may differ, but the same heart beats inside both games. Frequent loot drops are the order of the day, and a system of colour coding that it all but part of gaming DNA ensures an entirely disproportionate flash of excitement every time you see the glint of blue, purple or orange.
Most of the appeal of loot based games is built around getting the next big thing, be it a gun, piece of armour or some kind of other treasure that improves your character in a noticeable way, but for me at least, some of the appeal comes through the ludicrous way in which some of said loot appears. I’m not simply talking about the way that enemies often seem to be little more than pressurised sacks of gold, gear and goo that explode when you poke them, but rather the sometimes nonsensical distribution of loot. The rather brilliant 2004 action RPG, The Bard’s Tale, parodied this rather beautifully in the opening of the game when the eponymous hero kills a random wolf only to have the narrator question the logic and logistics of the amount of treasure it drops.
I love that ludicrousness in games based around loot. I love seeing a tiny monster drop an item far larger than they are, or drop something that they have no right in having in the first place. Torchlight II is a case in point. My Engineer now wields a giant vampiric, flaming axe that was dropped by a sword. That’s right – I killed a cursed sword and it dropped an axe. Forget the sound of one hands clapping or that stupid tree falling in the woods, Torchlight II is responsible for a modern day Zen Koan – “Why does a sword carry an axe?”