Originally a PC game that has now been ported over to XBLA, Torchlight is perhaps one of the better downloadable games I have ever played. By Runic Games, it is very reminiscent of the Diablo series (Diablo 1 to be exact). I believe it’s alright to make that comparison as a few of Runic’s employees are former Blizzard employees, the creators of the Diablo franchise.
Upon starting the game you choose one of three classes and make your way to Tristram Torchlight, each with their own backstory, abilities, advantages, disadvantages and general gameplay differences. The three to choose from are the Destroyer (brawler), Alchemist (spellcaster), and the Vanquisher (ranged attack), such as were the options in that other game, (as well as the only female character being the ranged attack).
One addition that I quite enjoyed is that after you choose your character class, you get to choose one of three pets, which I’ll delve into a bit later on. Torchlight is a small mining town you have arrived at, as mentioned before, for differing reasons, depending on your chosen character. After talking with the townspeople you find out that it is town based around mining for ‘Ember’, which has the power to give magical abilities to individuals. Herein lies “the rub” as they say… while Ember may give you magical abilities it also has the power to corrupt you and, much like Diablo corrupting Lazarus, a dark evil has taken control of Alric, a master alchemist. Your goal is to find and slay him (and anyone else who may stand in your way) after making your way through the various levels of the mountain’s mine.
I’ll reiterate, it’s very reminiscent of Diablo and that’s not a bad thing. If no one ever made another first person shooter after GoldenEye, the video game landscape would look a lot different, in my opinion. While the story may sound similar, there are features in the game that give it its separation. For instance, as mentioned before, you are able to have a pet, which has a decent amount of depth. Your pet can attack, store a number of items, go sell them for you (Lassie couldn’t even do that), learn spells and even have the ability to morph/change into an entirely different being either for a short amount of time or permanently. This is in addition to the varying stances (aggressive, defensive) that you are able to give them.
The way things look is more like Warcraft (for those familiar with Blizzard’s other series) than Diablo, as it has that pseudo-cartoonish ambience instead of the grittier, bloodier and more grim (in instances) Diablo. Also, the music is done by Matt Uelmen, who worked on such titles as Diablo and World of WarCraft, and is very well done. The guitar you encounter in Torchlight will most definitely seem familiar.
“So, is this just a cartoony Diablo?”
Kind of, but there’s nothing wrong with that. And though I dubbed it with the “cartoony” moniker, I would say it’s still not fit for children, simply based off the violence and subject matter of possesion. There were some changes made to the menu screen, inventory and the general user interface as a whole in the port (which are all outlined) but the vast majority of things were kept the same way. While I prefer this style of game (the dungeon crawler RPG) on the PC, the mapping of abilities/magic, attacking and navigation throughout each of the dungeons is relatively straight forward and doesn’t require too much effort on the part of the player to comprehend.
Another facet of the gameplay that I enjoyed and became more difficult as time went on was the identifying of items. I was able to collect a number of items, though some of them, especially the magical and better items, I could not exactly tell what they were. The remedy to this situation? Identifying scrolls. While this sounds like an easy fix and a tad frustrating, you encounter the situation whether or not to drop, sell or simply not pick up an item. Your character and your pet can carry quite a few but the amount of loot in the game is staggeringly high, a mechanic that seems to keep you playing and coming back for more. It’s a neat little trick used in games to keep you playing, finding more items and thereby finding more scrolls and so forth and it sure worked well on me. As a note, the inventory system is simply a quantity versus the grid based Diablo.
Initially, the enemies are pretty simple in the easier levels and the game does a good job introducing you to your various abilities and skill sets. You’re able to pretty much take down anything with a pulse straight off the bat and once the difficulty spike hits, it does seem to hit a bit hard, though nothing overly unmanageable, as long as you time your retreats, regroups, ranged and magic attacks correctly before going all Leroy Jenkins.
Overall, the game is expansive and deep. There are tons of side quests that you find talking with the townsfolk, the main story of stopping Alric, while not the most complicated, holds its weight. The revamped user interface is very well done and while it did take me a little bit to fully navigate and understand how I mapped my magic, it works well and things move over at a fast rate.
As in Diablo and other games of this nature, the amount of clicking/button pressing is a bit repetitive and if that doesn’t strike your fancy then you will not like the game (but then again, this genre may not be for you). I do wish the game had a multiplayer aspect, though Runic combats this with NPC’s (non-playable characters) joining you at various times and/or has your pet alongside you at all times. I do wish a bit deeper of a story was present and while throwbacks to Diablo are ever-present, and I didn’t mind them, people looking for something brand new may be a tad underwhelmed and simply say “so, when’s that gimpy little kid coming out?”
All in all, I personally found it to be a great game, with numerous side quests and a multitude of things to do. Now, off to go beat Alric!
Torchlight is available March 9, for 1200 Microsoft points.
pictures from TorchlightGame.com