The Mapworks is the heart of Torchlight 2. In many ways it feels like the heart of so much that is great in video games in general. You spawn at the portal and then you walk out, along a narrow golden bridge, to a magical clockwork escapement suspended in the void. I can imagine what the floor feels like here: the glossiness of the crystal and polished metal, and that hum coming up through your feet that suggests vast energies twisting and churning beneath you. The Mapworks is where you get to once Torchlight 2 is all but done, but it's also where you realise that Torchlight 2 is just beginning, and that it never has to end if you don't want it to. The campaign is over, and here, in this stately firmament, you can buy an endless supply of procedurally-generated maps that will take you to an endless stretch of procedurally-generated dungeons.
I didn't really notice Bring Out Your Dead on my first few playthroughs of Torchlight 2. It's a side-quest tucked snugly into the game's first act, and it's typically pulpy stuff. Meet a shady character near Skull Hollow, chat for a bit, and then head deep inside the catacombs of the Bone Gallery to fight Mordrox, a giant zombie troll.
This autumn is passing in a wonderful swirl of loot and of levelling. Divided between Torchlight 2 and Borderlands 2, I'm picking over weapon drops, sifting my inventory, and assigning skill points and ember chips from rosy dawn to misty dusk.
This is ridiculous. I must've pressed the wrong button somewhere, selected the wrong option, because every time I step into the Torchlight 2 beta my experience is less akin to a game and more like an orgy of destruction, spiralling further and further out of my control until everything becomes a bloody mist of damage numbers and body parts. I feel like Caligula with a carving knife. I hope that's not my own voice I sometimes hear cackling.
The numbers just keep getting larger. All the stats increase, the body counts rise, the monsters enlarge, the percentages double and the sheer magnitude of the powers at my fingertips is only matched by the volume of the things I have to fight. And it never ends. And I never want it to, either, until I glance at the clock and, once again, see how many more hours of my life I've lost. Playing Torchlight 2 is like being drip-fed a powerful, soothing and hypnotic drug in ever-greater quantities.
That's not to say it's bad. Not at all. The game does one thing and it does that one thing very well indeed - that thing being hurling stuff at you to slaughter, carefully metering this carnage with rewards of commensurate size. Every other monster is a self-propelled piņata just waiting to gift you gold, a shinier shield, a deadlier dagger or a slightly sleeker pair of pants. (Although saying that, right now one of my characters has the most astounding pair of mechanical pants that I can't ever imagine trading in. I try to show off my pants to other players in the beta, but they never seem to want to stick around).