by Chris Scott
reviewed on PC
Diablo's younger brother
I have an addictive personality. I suppose a lot of people do but for me personally when I get wrapped up in something it is generally a full all or nothing affair. While you would not know it now, I was, at one point, a very devoted PC gamer and the game that sucked away most of my time was a little game made by Blizzard called Diablo.
The simplicity of Diablo's gameplay was something that made the game so accessible and so much fun. Many have attempted to copy the Diablo formula but even its critically acclaimed sequel failed to fully mimic the magic of the original. Diablo III is on the horizon but while fans of the series wait to see what Blizzard does with its franchise, a low budget game by the name of Torchlight may offer gamers the Diablo gameplay they so crave.
What makes Torchlight different from all the other Diablo imitators is that it is created by some of the key members of the Diablo development team. Runic Games, fronted by the Schaefer brothers Max and Erich, have delivered a game that takes the 14 year old formula made popular by Diablo and adds a few additions that help to enhance the overall experience.
Torchlight takes place in the town of the same name and its Ember mines below. Players are tasked with exploring the nefarious goings on of the mines. An overarching storyline, involving a beastly demon, slowly unfolds as players work their way through 35 levels in the main dungeon. To make their way through the dungeons players will have to choose a character from one of three classes; the Destroyer, the Vanquisher, and the Alchemist.
The Destroyer is an all around brute who is proficient in close-quarters combat. The Vanquisher is an expert marksman who uses traps to confuse her foes from all directions. The Alchemist is your standard mage class with the ability to summon creatures to do his bidding. Each of these classes has a specific customization path that players can explore as they level up.
Regardless of which character you choose, combat is both straightforward and familiar to anyone who has ever played a dungeon crawler. A left-click on your mouse corresponds with an attack with the currently equipped weapon, a right click will unleash the readied magic spell. The latter can be a spell gained while customizing your character or through a scroll found during your adventures. Up to four of these 'found spells' can be memorized at any given time. To learn a fifth spell, you can unlearn one to open up a spell slot but this does mean you will lose the original spell indefinitely.
Each character can choose a pet to accompany him or her. The pet, either a dog or a cat, is a companion that tags along with you on your adventure. It is a welcome addition to the tried and true Diablo gameplay. Not only does the pet engage enemies in combat but you can also equip it with enhancement rings and necklaces and it can even learn spells. There is nothing quite like entering a battle against a battalion of enemies and have your cat summon a squad of undead archers to aid you.
However while having a companion to assist you in battle is nice, the biggest change in gameplay comes from your pet's ability to maintain an inventory. At your request your pet will head back to town to sell off your unwanted loot, ultimately allowing you to gather more of it. Of course you can also head back into town yourself if you prefer to sell the loot and buy better equipment in exchange. If you think this to be a mere luxury, think again. The amount of loot that your adversaries will provide you with upon slaying is simply staggering. More interestingly though, they come in many different flavors and they don't necessarily have to remain as you found them.
Some items have sockets that can be filled with Ember gems that you find in the game's extensive dungeon system. Each Ember has a defensive and an offensive property such as Fire Resistance or Fire Damage. Adding an Ember to a weapon will activate its offensive property while sinking it into the socket of a piece of armor or jewelry will activate its defensive side. Items can be further enhanced by taking it to an enchanter who, for a fee, will add random qualities to the item and may even add more sockets. Socketed Embers are stuck but not lost forever: they can be removed from an item in town, allowing you to use them again in another item.
Graphically, the game takes a lot of pointers from World of Warcraft. The game world is cartoony and colorful and most computers will be able to run it. It is not the best looking game but it has a pleasing aesthetic that never detracts from the overall experience. When coupled with the fabulous soundtrack, done by original Diablo composer Matt Uelman, Torchlight is quite the pleasing game.
Torchlight is a single player only affair which truly feels like a missed opportunity. One of the biggest draws for games like Diablo II is the co-op dungeon crawling and that aspect of the game has helped keep the title in the gamers eyes for nearly a decade. Torchlight has none of that. Its not a game breaker but it does do a lot to hurt the overall longevity of the game. That being said, a Torchlight MMO is expected to be released next year.
Worth every cent
To call this game a Diablo clone would be an understatement. Torchlight takes place in a solitary town with an ever expanding, randomly generated dungeon. It features magic potions, town portals, randomly generated loot drops, and tons of enemies that require an excessive amount of mouse clicking. The game is not original in any way but it is a ton of fun. The game is offered at a budget price of $19.99 which might give punters undue pause as Torchlight is worth every cent, and then some.
Diablo styled gameplay with some welcome additions.
No online multiplayer in this version.