The game is one that is said to have been played by everyone – or at least owned by everyone. I must admit that I haven’t played it in the several years it has been around, up until just recently when I decided I would finally give it a try.
The game is set in Torchlight, basically a quaint little mining town with seemingly all you could ever want or need just a few feet away. But some foul evil seems to be threatening this small town and it is up to the player to get to the bottom of it and eradicate whatever is behind it all.
Right at the beginning, you can choose from three characters. You have the big brutish destroyer who specializes in melee combat, the resourceful alchemist who prefers using magic, and the lithe, deadly vanquisher who relies on bows, crossbows, and guns. You can also choose the pet that your avatar will have— you can choose from a wolf dog, a lynx, or a ferret. And you can give both your character and your pet a name. Veterans of the genre might even like to have an imaginary pet who won’t aid them in combat, but will be able to store items in its inventory.
Developer: Runic Games
Publisher: Perfect World, Encore, Inc., JoWooD Entertainment, Microsoft Studios
Genre: Hack ‘n Slash; RPG
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox Live Arcade
Released: October 27, 2009
Once you arrive in Torchlight, there’s plenty to look around at and people to talk to. But they won’t be so open initially because they can’t work under the stress of having rock trolls, among other things, nearby which could invade their town at any moment.
Once you make some progress the merchants in town will open up to you and make their services available. These traders include a general salesman, a weapons specialist, a person who deals in magic items, an enchanter, who tries to enchant things (obviously), a transmuter who combines items to make a new item (similar to the Horadric staff in Diablo II) and more than that there are three orcs: one who will let you gamble for particular items, one who will take gems out of socketed items (destroying the item in the process), and the last one who will destroy gems for you.
A lot of these merchants services rely on chance. You can take items to an enchanter, and there is usually a massive chance he will fail at the task and your money will be lost for nothing. I can’t say I’m fond of this to be honest. They seem to have done away with the concept of armour breaking, or at the very least having its effectiveness reduced with constant wear and tear.
One thing that I like is that your companions, while they still manage to get stuck on various parts of the terrain, don’t get permanently stuck or completely vanish like they do in Diablo II. If anything the path finding of friendly AI in Torchlight is much better.
In the town you’ll also find that you have two stashes. One is a regular stash and the other is a shared stash. The shared stash lets you share items between each character you play as in Torchlight. So if you find a nice weapon that would suit the next character, you can stash it for them.
In addition to having two stashes, all items only take up one space or cell, so you can effectively store a lot more than you could in Diablo II, for instance. And this goes for the player’s inventory too. And not only that, but your pet has an inventory as well, which you can fill up and you can even command them to go back to town and sell the items you have stored in their inventory so you don’t have to keep using town portal to go back and forth all the time.
All weapons and items can be used by each character, so a destroyer could resort to using staves instead of swords if he wanted to, and an alchemist can just as well use firearms. They aren’t limited to one class. That’s the one major addition to the game over Diablo: you have guns that fall in to the ranged weapons category. Skills and experience levels must still be at the required amount for each individual weapon though.
It seems as though the developers at Runic thought of everything; every little niggle that I had about Diablo II has been rectified here. And it makes sense because Runic is made up of developers who worked on the original Diablo games. Some even label Torchlight as a spiritual successor to the Diablo series. Torchlight is a mix between Diablo and Diablo II. On one hand you have a town which acts as a base of sorts where you can get quests from characters, sell items, buy items and prepare for your next adventure. But on the other hand Torchlight is more like Diablo in the way that all quests tend to take place in descending towers of levels, all with different themes and enemies to dispatch, rather than trekking and battling across massive tracts of land just to reach a cave. It’s all done from one central hub.
You obtain quests in a fashion more similar to Hellgate: London (yet another game made by former Blizzard North employees in Flagship), and can indeed receive multiple quests from the same character. This is a change from having to do the same repeatable quests all the time in order to level up. Speaking of levels, the ones you will come across in-game are randomly generated, and I must say they do get a bit samey after a while, with not a terrible amount of variety. The only real variety exists in the enemies and the weapons and items on each playthrough. But there are plenty of secrets to be found, usually by looking around for levers which open hidden rooms and the like. The levels are also generally more complex and eye-catching than the Diablo games too. They don’t all take place on one plain – there are many staircases that make for levels or stories within a level, before progressing to the next floor.
In Torchlight, the player can stop by at fishing pools, and cast a line in to see what they might get. Sometimes you might just get plain old fish which has the ability to heal you when eaten, but other times you’ll catch fish with amazing properties and often when fed to your pet, it will temporarily change in to a very powerful creature capable of delivering massive damage upon its enemies.
The graphics have a more cutesy, cartoony look to them than the Diablo games, and not to mention the game is wonderfully colourful – something that will more than likely put off fans of the above mentioned franchise, although it probably will not be such a surprise if you have dabbled in Diablo III. I would say the graphics are in some ways more reminiscent of WarCraft III or dare I say it, Borderlands.
I think this was part of Runic’s strategy to make the game more appealing and more accessible to a wider audience. Torchlight can even appeal to younger users, seeing as there is an option in the menu to turn off blood. There are also tips and hints, as well as audible cues as to what is happening in the game, so it’s relatively easy to get into.
And the game isn't demanding when it comes to specifications either. It is highly scalable, with many bells and whistles that you can turn off, even with a netbook mode, which, as the name implies, optimises the game for use on a netbook. As a result, you can play Torchlight on just about any PC.
Your pet levels up along with the player character, and more than that you can put items in its inventory, give it items to wear like rings and medallions, as well as teach it spells.
Of course there are mods for the PC version of the game, and one of them aims to introduce high resolution textures in place of the existing ones. There are also a number of mods that try to make the game look and feel more like Diablo than it already does. And with the included editor, the possibilities are virtually endless. You can create your own campaigns and levels within them, and the level editor is apparently so intuitive that you can even play the levels as you make them in the editor, so there’s no need to finish a map completely, compile it, and then load it up by launching the game.
If you were to pay close attention, you’d also notice a few nods to the Diablo series in the use of sound. Runic bothered to use a lot new sound effects, but a few still remain. Take for instance, the sound of a scroll dropping to the ground, or items you try to pick up not being added to your inventory due to it being full. The music in Torchlight is somewhat similar in theme to Diablo and Diablo II – mainly Act I in the latter. This is because the music was in fact composed by fan favourite Matt Uelmen. It sounds similar but not the same, and in my book it doesn’t really compare.
Torchlight is well worth a play. It has been given away several times over the years, most notably by GOG.com. If you can't manage to get a hold a spare gift code for it, then it probably is worth the full price of admission. Otherwise just get it on sale, and you won't regret it at all.
What do you think of Torchlight?
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