Torchlight has wondrous high intensity combat and a magnificent loot system offering countless hours of enjoyment.
Torchlight is a modern action RPG that holds an uncanny resemblance to Diablo at a budget price. Indeed some of the developers for Torchlight were in the original Diablo team. None of this is probably as evident as the music you hear when you first start up the game. The guitar strumming will bring you back to the days roaming Tristram. Torchlight is a dungeon crawler featuring progressive loot, high action combat, skill based gameplay and some interesting level design. The game is in 3D but observed from an isometric perspective, the levels are randomized and the replay value is very high. The game has three classes each playing a little differently but are based on archetypes you’ve seen in other RPG games. Within the classes you can play a few different roles based on a selection of great skills you choose to upgrade as you gain levels. Torchlight is the type of game you can pick up and play for as little or long as you want, allowing you to save your progress anywhere. I found myself trying to go a little bit further to finish a quest only to find hours had passed since I started playing. What probably sets this game apart from Diablo is the high frequency combat that has a great feel to it. But the game still holds some striking resemblances to the famed action RPG.
Great design of dungeons, minions and spell effects
There are many familiar enemy types and even some similar dungeons that have come back possibly to haunt players of the Diablo series. There are obviously skeletons, zombies and large spiders and even the familiar floating swords return. There are casters type creatures, an enemy that seemed quite similar to the succubi in Diablo, and a dragon akin to the Balrogs. Even the general flow of level types is somewhat similar to Diablo. You have dungeons then caves and then some lava levels along with treasure rooms, lecterns for scrolls, and shrines for magical bonuses. There is even a town portal system and a waypoint system that opens up gates to key points during the dungeon crawl. All this familiarity is a very positive thing; the Diablo games were great because of the creatures, setting and basic gameplay mechanics.
Torchlight isn’t a carbon copy of Diablo though because the style in particular is quite different. The art design is more cartoony but still with that hint of darkness creeping through some of the levels or creature designs. They actually managed to get the balance pretty right in the graphics design. Due to the high action it would feel a little out of place if the design was too dark or depressing. Items in your inventory now take up one slot which can make them harder to distinguish but it does make inventory management a little less frustrating. Your inventory is now shared with your pet that can make a run for the town of Torchlight to sell your goods. This basically means you can just keep fighting over and over and still pick up items without needing to return to the town.
Maybe if I ask nicely these killer bat creatures will let me pass
I played mostly with the Destroyer class, offering me up close melee action with some high defensive and good attack skills similar to warrior classes of other games. On Normal difficulty immediately you notice that you’ll be fighting a lot more monsters at once, spiders, goblins, trees, bats and even fake treasure chests all like to crowd around you and attack. Some enemy types will run away if in danger and some will be aided by bigger enemy types. Many of the skills however for the Destroyer are suited to just this scenario, stampede for example charges toward enemies and knocks them back doing significant damage. Stomp will clear the surrounding area close to you also knocking monsters back and doing some damage. These skills are designed to just get in amongst many enemies so you can make full use of what bonuses they have against groups. There were a few times where I, my pet, or minions got stuck behind the environment or chests, but this was generally rare. On Normal the game starts quite a bit easier than most other action RPG games, but it’s designed to be more about enjoying the high intensity combat. Higher difficulty levels are available with a hardcore mode, but normal seemed fine toward the end.
It’s not really until later in the game on normal, around character level 25 with my Destroyer, did I really start seeing some of the wonderful combat skills in play. The Black Palace levels featured large numbers of difficult enemies and your focus shifts from using these skills for fun to using them more strategically. There are even a few different combinations of skills as a Destroyer that seemed to work great in the moment to moment combat scenarios. At this point the health and mana potions you have hot keyed on your belt get used a lot more often and town runs might be more common. I got access to the high end skills as Destroyer and soon discovered how amazing the combat can be. Attacking is the best method of defence here and your skills are designed just for that. I was circling fire breathing minions in order to use directional attacks with higher effectiveness. I was chaining combinations of skills to give myself space to heal and recover and casting passive spells for protection or damage boosts.
You can transform your pet into many different creatures
Just as I had found joy from finding unique treasures I was applauding this amazing combat after every battle. After every small battle I was craving the next area of monsters for more combat. Your proficiency in combat, not just your gear plays an incredibly important role, making the game very satisfying. Of course it really is capped off by the great sound effects, the electric buzz sounds, the crunching of bones and the gold pickup sounds. This with the minions who give suitable moans or fall over after death really makes the combat almost infinitely satisfying, well in excess of any Diablo combat. The Alchemist also played really well, even from the start, using directional and area attacks intelligently along with some summoned minions while trying to stay out of trouble. The Vanquisher takes some tips from the Rogue, but is also great with traps, running around enemies in order to lure them in for the kill. There are even some cross skills that allow you to blend some classes adding even further replay value.
Torchlight does offer some solid repeatable combat gameplay with a focus on finding good loot continuously. The progress of obtaining magical and rare items works well, it’s just enough to keep you going almost indefinitely but also enough reward for players who only play for a short time. You can also buy or work for loot in other ways. Fishing, although boring, grants you a series of fish that will transform your pet into another creature for a short time. This creature is one of the minions you will be fighting each with different characteristics and some fish allow for longer transformations. Also included is the ability to transmute items, combining gems to produce better gems for example.
You can even buy enchantments, if you find a good item you can pay some money to add enchantments, such as sockets or modifiers. Progressive enchantments have higher failure chance and cost more money so you still need good dungeon drops. In general the variety is good, between weapons, levels and minions. In the early parts of the dungeon just when I was getting a little bit sick of the level design it brought me to a new overgrown dungeon or a new cave creating a fresh environment coupled with some new monsters. The levels are said to be random but at times some of the sections within those levels felt very similar. On replay with other characters it did became more random. Those who love the dungeon designs will rejoice in the ability to just buy a map that lets to travel to a random dungeon and keep getting more loot.
Revenge of the Treasure Chests
Torchlight excels for a budget priced game, launching at $20 and offering a high amount of replay value with some honest design principles and lots of amazing combat. If you played the demo, know that the full game does get better, the game gets tougher and the skills become more awesome especially when used in combinations. Combine that with the very workable loot system and you have a quality action RPG. If there were some areas I would have liked improved it would definitely be the characters, story and boss fights. This could have been done by voicing more of the town inhabitants, adding some artwork to the narrator story between levels and making some high level boss areas more memorable. The other improvement would be allowing the use of the fantastic skills a bit earlier; after the main story was complete I felt was just getting into the combat. There is a little bit of story here, and it has enough simplicity so you can grasp onto the basics of good and evil. Other minor issues include the annoying pet message once it returns from town, or the fact that loot names overlap each other on the dungeon floor making collecting things harder than it should be. There is no multiplayer in Torchlight; an MMO set in the same universe is coming further down the track. If you end up enjoying Torchlight as much as I did then the MMO, being free to play with micro transactions, will offer a tasty prospect in the future. Runic games have done a great service to the genre; the game will be extremely familiar for all the right reasons.