Does Torchlight live up to the great games it’s inspired by?
Torchlight is the cartoonish, lighthearted brother to the behemoth that is Diablo, but is Torchlight in the same league as those legendary games? The answer is a solid yes. While it doesn’t have an extraordinary story, it certainly has strong dungeon crawling and everyone’s favorite addiction… loot! It offers a brutal hack n’ slash experience that’s challenging and satisfying, with strong role-playing elements to help shape your character. Prepare yourselves for one fantastically addictive dungeon crawler, because once you descend into the depths of Torchlight, you may never come out.
To be fair, what little story Torchlight has is interesting enough. A former ‘good’ guy, Alric, has turned to the dark side due to the tainting effects of an element called Ember, which is in abundance under the town of Torchlight. At the start, you come across Syl and her companion Brink being attacked near Torchlight. Syl is a former student of Alric’s. She recruits you to help her track him down, discover what is happening in the Mines of Torchlight, and end the evil that is lurking there. The story is simple, sweet, and with an interesting narrative; the high points in the game offer insight into Alric’s insanity. There is enough meat in the story to keep you invested, but there is nothing about it that stands out. Basically, there is enough reason to send you into the depths beneath Torchlight to do some dungeon crawling, which is where the game’s heart is.
Gameplay wise, it’s a solid RPG. There are three playable classes with set genders: the Vanquisher, the female range character, the Destroyer, the male melee character, and the Alchemist, the male mage. Each has their own, brief, back story that explains why they’ve come to the town of Torchlight.
The classes each have three different talent trees to put talent points into, which you gain by leveling up and gaining fame. There is the typical leveling up by killing monsters and gaining experience, but the unique aspect is the Fame Experience. To gain Fame Experience you must complete quests and kill boss monsters. Once you’ve gained enough fame you go up a rank, and are given a single talent point to distribute. The talent trees themselves offer different abilities and perks as you put points into them, much like in World of Warcraft.
All classes have different perks (with a few common ones) but they play in a similar fashion. Even though the Destroyer class is a melee class, it’s still possible to do range or magic with him. There is nothing stopping you from trying out all the different weapons simply because of your class. In fact, some of the perks you gain by leveling up almost seem to encourage you to try other weapon types. However, it’s because of this that the characters all, virtually, play the same. Which also means you can’t really go wrong by picking a class; all will morph to your style of play.
While picking your class, you get to pick a companion: a dog or cat. There is nothing different about either one, as they do the same thing. The catch with the companions is the fish. Throughout the game there are fishing holes scattered throughout the levels, when you go fishing you gain fish that can transform your pet into different monsters, each with their own pros and cons. If you fish enough you’ll eventually find fish that will permanently transform your pet into a monster. Have no fear though! If you don’t want to permanently have some monster following you around, there’s a vendor that sells dog and catfish that will transform them back to normal. Aside from using your pet to help you in a fight, your pet can carry and sell items for you. If your item pack is full, just transfer to the pet! If you’re deep in the dungeons and don’t want to leave, your pet will run back to town to sell your items for you at your command. However, by sending your pet to town he won’t be able to aid you in battle for a certain amount of time.
The best aspect of Torchlight is the Shadow Vault and character retirement. The Shadow Vault is unlocked for all characters, new and old, after defeating the last boss and offers many hours of extra gameplay. It has an unlimited number of floors, which are completely randomized, meaning no two floors will ever be the same. Themes of the floors will be different and a mix of monsters will be thrown in. Character retirement is an interesting aspect; when you retire a character, it allows you to give benefits to a newly created character and an item named after your character that will be passed on. The benefits vary depending on class and what weapon you give, but it can be worth it. The only drawback is that none of the money gained with the character retiring transfers to the new character.
Graphics-wise, this a beautiful game. Though it has a cartoony, World of Warcraft feel, there is enough detail to make you want to take in the scenery. However, there isn’t a whole lot of variation in the environments.
The sound is good, but the one thing that stands out the most is the score. The instrumental score is simply superb and fits perfectly with the game. The voice acting, for all the characters, is rather cheesy and nothing special. Other sounds, such as spells and swords clashing, are good.
Overall, the game is addicting and fun. You can lose a great of amount of hours doing the main quest line alone, but, if it gets its hooks in you, the Shadow Vault will siphon many much more of your time.The main drawbacks are the similarities between classes and the lack of variety in environments. Still, looking past all that, it’s a very solid game to whet your appetite for Diablo 3. Torchlight is on Steam for $14.99, and Xbox Live for 1200 Microsoft points.