Torchlight’s premise may sound awfully familiar, but when the underlying premise is this good, it’s really hard to complain.
Over the years there have been hundreds of role-playing games that tried to imitate Blizzard’s critically acclaimed Diablo series, but only a handful of those impersonators have succeeded in such a daunting endeavor. Torchlight is one such game, but calling Runic Games’ debut title “Diablo-esque” would be an understatement. Nevertheless, not only does Torchlight do a remarkable job of incorporating some of Diablo’s best elements, but also manages to effectively implement those in a modernly designed experience. Torchlight features loads of new additions at the same time it updates others, making the game much more than just a simple Diablo clone.
What comparisons can be drawn between the two games? Let me sum it up for you: the way in which the different locales are explored works pretty much the same in both titles, the left click of the mouse is used to attack and the right button is used for potions, spells or special abilities, red or blue potions can be used to replenish health or mana, respectively and there are town portals and identify scrolls.
Additionally, talking to characters with question marks floating above their heads indicate that a new quest is available, gaining a level means getting skill points and stat points and killing enemies allow you to get access to loot which by the way is divided into different colors according to the rarity of the items (white: common, green: enchanted, blue: rare, gold: unique and purple: part of a set.)
I could write paragraphs and paragraphs about the similarities between Diablo and Torchlight, but that’s not necessary. Although the two games have a lot in common, the latter isn’t a blatant clone that doesn’t offer anything new. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth, since Torchlight features a wide array of refreshingly unique additions.
The game takes place in the city of Torchlight, the main setting of this adventure. Below the surface though, dark creatures roam and it’s your duty to explore all the underground sites to retrieve Ember, a mysterious ore that has the ability to imbue anyone who possesses it with magical properties. The player controls a hero who explores random dungeons and fights hordes of foes, collecting items, gold and loot.
There are three character classes to choose from: Destroyer is a fighter skilled in melee combat, Vanisher (the only female character) is an elite city guard who specializes in setting up traps and Alchemist is a spellcaster capable of summoning minions to fight for him. Overall, the different classes are pretty well balanced and even when some of their abilities vary significantly, all of them are fun to use.
Arguably, the most notable addition is that the player has a permanent pet that fights alongside. There are three types of pets, which include a wolf dog, lynx and ferret and their only difference is purely cosmetic. The ability to fight hordes of enemies with a loyal companion makes the game a much more pleasurable experience. Fortunately, pets do much more than fight foes. How many times did you have to throw away items because your inventory was full and you didn’t want to go back to the nearest city to sell them? In Torchlight, you can place all the loot you don’t want in your pet’s inventory and the creature can sell it for you.
Additionally, various fishing holes are scattered around the expertly crafted environments and as their name indicate, these allow you to catch fish. If you feed your pet with fish, the creature will gain various properties for a limited amount of time, something that comes in quite handy during the various boss fights. In addition, your pet can equip rings and amulets as well as learn some spells. Ultimately, having this critter adds a lot of versatility to the game and provides a sense of companionship that Diablo simply lacked.
The way in which death is handled is also outstanding. When your character dies, you have one of three choices. First, you can choose to revive in town without losing money or experience. Second, you can choose to revive on the same floor, but a significant portion of your money will be lost. Third, you can choose to revive on the exact spot you died, but you lose both money and experience. These options add a lot of strategy to the game and encourage the player to be extra careful about dying.
Torchlight is also entirely moddable. While the game has obvious limitations, developers encourage the mod community to tinker with the game and do whatever they want with it. From what I have seen, the most popular mods add features such as a bigger stash to store more loot, a more flexible camera, extra character classes and a completely redesigned user interface, among many others. The amount of flexibility mods provide is incredible and it’s great that the developers encourage the community to work on some crazy modifications.
Another welcome addition is the fact that Torchlight isn’t very demanding from a hardware standpoint. The game incorporates a very innovative “netbook mode” that allows the game to run on a wide variety of systems, reducing textures, disabling some special effects and optimizing the game for lower-resolution screens. Taking into account that for the past few years some players have been clamoring for netbook-friendly titles, the fact that Torchlight includes this feature right off the bat is simply excellent.
Something that’s worth mentioning is the game’s cartoony visual style. There’s certain goofiness to Torchlight’s visuals that suit the game quite well and makes it even more characteristic. This lavish art-style makes use of a wide variety of exotic locales that include volcanoes, caves, underground castles and mines.
Regrettably, Torchlight isn’t without some issues. Quests don’t deviate too much from the standard, so you’ll spend a lot of time defeating specific enemies, retrieving special items and so on and so forth. Once you’ve completed one of these tasks, the game forces you to go back to the city and talk to the quest-giver in order to receive the promised reward, a process that always proves to be more cumbersome than it should.
Then, there are a few minor glitches and inconsistencies. Often times, your pets and minions get stuck in the geometry which is pretty frustrating. Veterans may find the normal difficulty too easy. Underground locales become overly repetitive after a while, creating a suffocating atmosphere. Finally, the absence of a multiplayer mode is a conspicuous one, especially considering that the game would be really fun to play with others.
In all honesty, all these issues can easily be overlooked when the overall experience is so well put together. Torchlight embraces everything that makes Diablo so enjoyable and features some fantastic additions to a tried-and-true formula, making this game easy to recommend to everyone who’s looking for an absorbing, replayable and accessible action RPG. In conclusion, Torchlight’s premise may sound awfully familiar, but when the underlying premise is this good, it’s really hard to complain.