Torchlight (PC) review
"To its credit, Torchlight is much more than just a cash-in on our nostalgia. As much as it is an homage to its diabolic predecessor, Torchlight easily stands on its own as a game. Rather than using those familiar Diablo elements as a crutch, it takes those elements and gives them just enough of a twist to make them fresh again."
Nestled high in the mountains, Torchlight isn't a popular tourist destination. It's a dusty, run-down mining town without so much as a proper inn. There's nowhere to go except back where you came from, there's nothing to do unless you really like cave fishing, and oh yeah, it's infested with monsters.
Thankfully for the denizens of Torchlight, they have you to answer their cries for help.
Torchlight presents you with the traditional choice of three fantasy archetypes to play as: the
Fighter Destroyer, the Rogue Vanquisher and the Mage Alchemist. Each offers a unique experience and play style as you delve into the depths of the Orden Mines, but chances are you know what to expect already.
Torchlight is likely a game that you've seen before. It's closely related to that Blizzard gem from the 90's, Diablo, and it shares a strong family resemblance. If you're at all familiar with Torchlight's grand-pappy, the ambient music will provoke a pleasant shiver of recognition; it's unmistakably crafted with that same style. Play on and you'll see that more than just the soundtrack bears the family resemblance; the randomly-generated dungeon layout, the four key attributes and three-tier skill tree, set items, unique weapons, and "magic" gear summoned from the maw of the Random Number Generator, even the familiar blue Town Portals that whisk you back to safety all make an appearance.
If this sounds disheartening, then you misunderstand. I've just listed some of the things I loved about Diablo.
To its credit, Torchlight is much more than just a cash-in on our nostalgia. As much as it is an homage to its diabolic predecessor, Torchlight easily stands on its own as a game. Rather than using those familiar Diablo elements as a crutch, it takes those elements and gives them just enough of a twist to make them fresh again. Artistic style, music and enemy design are all distinctly Torchlight while still subtly hinting at their true origins.
Perhaps opting not to fix what isn't broke, Torchlight also borrows Diablo's streamlined interface. Movement is achieved by right-clicking on empty floorspace, while clicking on enemies with either mouse button pounds them into pulp. Your character gains skills upon leveling up and can learn spells from scrolls found amongst other loot. Any of these abilities can be bound to hotkeys for quick and easy access during a fight, as can healing and mana potions if you need a quick refill.
What you might not expect is a trusty pet of the feline or canine variety. Your animal companion lends its teeth to your battles, helps you collect items dropped by slain beasties, and can ferry your unwanted gear back to town and sell it for you whilst you delve deeper into the Mines. A fishing mini-game, meanwhile, provides an amusing diversion between bouts of demon-slaying, and can often reward you with useful bits of treasure such as boots, gems, or delicious sushi-grade fish that restores health and mana. If you'd like, you can also feed your catch to your trusty pet to transform it into a giant spider, fire elemental or a goblinhound for a set duration.
When at last you've polished off Torchlight's dungeons, cleared the ancient catacombs, volcanic fortresses, subterranean gardens and demonic palaces of every last monster, you can rest easy and retire that character. In doing so, a single item of yours can be passed on to a new character as an heirloom, gaining some new powers along the way. Even if you don't go that route, slaying the ancient evil beneath Torchlight unlocks a second, more challenging dungeon known as the Shadow Vault, against which you can further test your mettle and hunt for better loot. Whichever you decide, randomly-generated dungeons assure that the journey is never the same twice.
Torchlight is familiar territory, but far from stale or repetitive. Besides that, a vibrant modding community ensures a steady trickle of new content. The only thing the package lacks, sadly, is multi-player support. Even as a single-player experience, however, Torchlight is easily, easily worth the purchase.
Freelance review by Will Roy (January 27, 2010)
Will is grumpy, sarcastic and Canadian. He occasionally crawls out of his igloo to cover sci-fi and strategy games. Has a love-hate relationship with cats. And the colour purple.
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