Now that we’ve entered what I like to call “super-happy-go-funtime,” or commonly known as the holiday rush, many are planning on how to spend what meager cash they have on the impressive quality and quantity of titles that have been released or will be in the weeks forthcoming. I’m sure many are saving for Infinity Ward’s behemoth Modern Warfare 2, BioWare’s return to a dark fantasy in Dragon Age: Origins, or Naughty Dog’s masterpiece Uncharted 2. It certainly is a “tough” time to be a gamer.
However, because of these gaming giants, many titles will undoubtedly fall under the radar and not garner the attention they deserve. Enter Torchlight, an IP from the creative minds behind FATE and Mythos, and one such game thats burrowed itself away from the public eye. Yet, one that is determined to discard its shroud in a blaze of glory and ignite its torch with the respect and praise it rightly deserves.
If you’re familiar in the ways of Diablo, then you’ll feel right at home with Runic Games’ Torchlight. For all intensive purposes, TL is almost a straight Diablo clone with some welcomed enhancements and tweaks, without online capability. While this may be a dealbreaker for many, as it almost was for me, the world of Torchlight is geared for singleplayer and creates a fantastic, engrossing experience that makes multiplayer feel unnecessary. Within the first hour, you’ll have forgotten online play, especially since all the rare loot will be coming your way and not your faster clicking rival’s.
For those unfamiliar with Diablo, Torchlight is an action roleplaying dungeon crawler where the player controls their character with the mouse, fending off zounds of enemies while exploring a widely expansive and randomized underground dungeon. Your quest, to stave off your “corruption” and of former renowned sage, Master Alric, and rid Torchlight of evil. The adventure will begin and end in the hub-town of Torchlight, as you play your role in discovering where the corruption originates within the 35+ level dungeon that rests beneath the once quiet mining town.
While multiplayer may not be an option, you won’t be exploring the dungeon all by your lonesome. Like its predecessor, Torchlight utilizes a pet companion, either a dog or lynx. It works similarly to FATE, but with some neat enhancement that make dungeon exploration much more enjoyable. Your dog or cat can attack enemies and carry loot, but also can cast two different, interchangeable spells, equip rings and amulets, and go off and sell any unneeded gear with the quick click of a button. The pet can also change species, specifically into certain monsters from the corrupted dungeon.
By feeding your dog or lynx certain fish, acquired from fishing holes scattered throughout the adventure, they’ll change form for a brief period of time. Each baddie your pet turns into holds their own strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll have to fool around with different fish to see which monster best suits you. For the most part, however, you’ll be completely satisfied with your original pet. They are there to ease the hordes of monsters that want to murder-punch your face, and even with spliced genetics, your dog or lynx never comes close to the amount of damage your character can dish out. But it’s always nice to have a pack mule by your side; even if thats all its good for.
Though your pet may not be the best choice for destroying the plethora of enemies that would enjoy nothing more than to feast on your flesh, your character’s combative power will more than make up for your pet’s inadequacies. You’ll have three choices of characters, which are hodgepodges of atypical RPG classes: the Vanquisher, a mix of ranger and rogue, the Destroyer, a combination of barbarian and death knight, and the Alchemist, a mash up of mage and conjurer/necromancer. Each have their own separate and unique skills that are divided into three different trees.
While in most computer-styled RPGs you have to spend points in early skills to access the later, more powerful ones, this is not the case in Torchlight. Skills are unlocked as you reach certain experience levels, which grants a bit more freedom in customizing your character. The skill trees are much more user friendly, for you no longer need to waste points on skills you will never use. You can pick and choose skills by allocating skills points, earned through experience and fame levels, that are suitable to your style of play.
Because of the accessibility of the skill trees, combat feels fresh and is greatly enhanced. While it doesn’t exactly do anything new or groundbreaking, everything that it does do, it does very well. Like most action RPG dungeon crawlers, the fighting doesn’t stop, and Torchlight never fails to deliver the goods. But whats notable is that you’ll never get bored or fed up with the constant clicking of the mouse; it flows very well, as most enemies will go down with one or two clicks, while bosses and the like will take a few more, though the sheer amount of attacking monsters make it far from easy.
Baddies also come in a great variety; you’ll fight zombies, arachnids, dragons and many other demonic creatures in your quest to end the “corruption” underneath the town of Torchlight. Not to mention that while you play, you’ll be graced with some beautiful, bloodied artwork and a gloomy, medieval-esque soundtrack from composer Matt Uelmen, the mastermind behind the music of the Diablo series.
The main quest will span between roughly 10 and 15 hours, longer if you choose to accept sidequests along the way. While they offer some nice experience and fame bonuses, the subquests don’t vary much between killing a special, named demon or collecting a specific item. While they’re are some random dungeons to explore by traveling through a portal scroll, they’re generally the same random dungeons you’ve been exploring through your main quest.
Though its sounds repetitive, the amount of loot and the frequency of it keeps the entire experience fresh and rewarding. You’ll also find four difficulties to choose from, however very easy is pretty much a joke. There’s a hardcore mode as well, which adds to the challenge by making player death a permanent affair.
Aside from the story falling flat on its face, very limited character selection, and the absence of multiplayer, Torchlight is an exhilarating action RPG that does everything else exceptionally well. The artwork and music are stellar, the flow is just right, and so is the price; you can’t beat $19.95 for a brand new game. And one of its best functions: it will play on almost any PC and even has a notebook mode. What are you waiting for? Go get your copy off Steam or Torchlightgame.com right now!
The artwork is original and fantastic, and there are a great multitude of monsters to hack and slash your way through.
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Combat is a blast and progressing through dungeons is equally enjoyable. Skill trees are user friendly and offer a great amount of variety.
With music by Matt Uelmen, you just can't go wrong. Oh, and the sound effects? They're spot on too.
While the main quest is about 15 hours, and there are extras after the game is done, sadly, there is no multiplayer.
With great combat, superb artwork, and an astounding soundtrack, Torchlight is a very solid experience. But the lack of multiplayer prevents it from being truly excellent.