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Torchlight Review

Torchlight pack shot
Developer:Runic Games, Inc.
Publisher:Runic Games, Inc.
Genre:RPG
Platform:PC
Official Site:http://www.torchlightgame.com/
Release Date:October 27th, 2009 (Online)
Reviewer:Greg Alexander (Modo_Komodo)
 

A love letter to Diablo written by Runic Games, Torchlight is a dungeon crawling action RPG that doesn't just take elements from the celebrated Blizzard franchise; it shamelessly copies them - without malice - and creates an addictive, if uninventive, title that is sure to please long standing fans of the original Diablo series.

Torchlight is the brainchild of - amongst others - Max Schaefer, a former director of Blizzard Entertainment. During his tenure at Blizzard, he had his fingers in many different gaming pies and the sticky residue can be found all over his subsequent work, Torchlight is no different.

The game takes place in the quaint mining boom town of Torchlight, famous for its rich veins of Ember; a rare ore with mysterious magical properties. Each of the game's three characters are drawn to the town for their own reasons and soon become entwined in a sinister plot with, as always, rather sinister implications for the region's wider population. It's one of many areas of the game that is almost exactly the same as Diablo. Fans of that series will feel a jerking spasm of de ja vu.

Filled with traders, miners and some of the game's protagonist cast, the town is where you find yourself at the beginning and it is a place that you find yourself repeatedly returning to hand in quests and sell your hard earned loot. Whilst the town itself looks inviting and friendly after battling with the game's numerous enemies, it is always obvious that the main function of this place is to serve the players needs as quickly and helpfully as possible before they head back into the dangerous bowels of Torchlight's mines.

Essentially, it is where the players 'come up for air' and nothing more. Wandering about the town and talking with the various NPCs does very little to add atmosphere or meat to the bones of the game's rather malnourished storyline.

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The real game takes place below the town in it's labyrinth of mines. The structure is simple: work your way through the dungeons from the top to the bottom. When you get to the bottom, the story is finished. Every few levels though, the theme of your surroundings changes which does help to inject a little variety into the endless hacking and slashing.

There is also an interesting selection of enemies; from a swarm of giant spiders, to a horde of fetid zombies - there will always be something slightly different to defeat. However, none of the game's enemies require you to ever change your tactics (mindless hacking followed by mindless slashing) and they aren't very clever either.

The visual style of Torchlight is bold and colourful. It is hard to write anything about this game without comparing it to its Blizzard predecessors but, once more, there are clear shades of Warcraft to this game. The original decision to create an intense, almost cartoon-like style was most likely made so the game could run on moderately specced computers and still look like the polished article it is.

There is however something wonderfully compulsive about Torchlight. It has managed to create similar feelings you got from playing Diablo in that you know there isn't much depth, but that does absolutely not stop it being fun.

The developers make this kind of game enjoyable with two RPG staples: leveling up and loot, lots and lots of loot. Dead enemies drop money and items, which can either be equipped on your hero or sold to a trader in the town. The further you progress in the game, the better the quality of items dropped. These not only change the way a hero looks, but also increase their all-important stats. One of the most gratifying experiences in Torchlight is watching your character grow from humble beginnings into something resembling a god.

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One of the newer ideas in Torchlight that builds on its forefather's structure is the pet. Each character can choose either a cat or a dog when they begin the game and they provide a huge amount of utility. They can fight alongside you, equip a few useful spells and items but also run back into the town loaded up with loot you don't want so it can be sold. This is an excellent addition to the genre as, historically, players have had to break away from the action when their packs were full of loot so it can be sold at a vendor to make room.

As well as all the weapons and armor, there are also other obligatory RPG skills and abilities. Some class specific and others can be bought from traders or found in the dungeons.

There are three character classes in the game; Warrior, Rogue and Alchemist. These form the staple RPG archetypes of melee, ranged and magic respectively. Like Diablo, each of these offers a different way of approaching the game and this can help to add some replay value further down the line.

The rogue character can fight at range just as effectively as the warrior class does up close. No class feels weaker compared to others - the only difference between the three is the amount of skill required to get through the game. The warrior's simple but appealing melee style is much easier to comprehend and master than the alchemist, who has to learn to stay away from enemies. Their power at range is offset by a physical frailty. If not careful, they can find themselves mashed to the side of an ogre's club in no time...flat.

Summary

In all, Torchlight is a simple, repetitive but fun game that fully embraces its place in the RPG genre. It does not go out of the way to re-invent the wheel. What it does is build on a very well established franchise with some well thought out improvements. For those waiting for Diablo III to surface (or if you can get it in a Steam sale) it's a must purchase. Everyone else may want to consider it for its simple - if lacking - storyline and rewarding gameplay.

The bottom line
8.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Great for waiting Diablo fans
  • Lots of replay value
  • Addictive

Not so good stuff

  • Not much story
  • Repetitive


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