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Playing catch-up: Torchlight

Torchlight was ported to XBLA in March of 2011, following the original PC release in 2010. It hit a gap in the marketplace for an action role-playing game that played like Diablo with impact, and was a must have for anyone interested in the genre. Set in the fantasy town of Torchlight, you took on the role of a hero sent deep into the mines to stop an evil menace brewing below. This was an adventure spanning two years.

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Many hours were poured into exploring the nooks and crannies of each level of Torchlight’s underground lair, examining new loot. Would the newest treasure be ready to equip or handover to my pet, who’d conveniently vend my extra loot. This took up plenty of time as varying colours of apparel were compared, with gems to augment current equipment. Favourite items were continually enchanted back in town due to the powers they contained that felt just right. Repeating the same cycles of attacks against similar waves of enemies was surprisingly enjoyable, and that is no easy task to pull off. Runic Games’ spiritual sequel to Diablo continued to turn the cogs of the loot machine in an addictive manner.

“Knee deep in the grind”Serious progression was made and then, with a reason lost to time, perhaps a new release caught my attention, or that carrot became mouldy, it was put back onto the digital shelf. Fast forward eighteen months and it’d succumbed to collecting dust with a bunch of other unfinished games. That’s if digital games can collect dust, I’m not sure.

Now was the time to go back to that town. Early concerns of recommencing resounded regarding the complexities of item management and controller setup. One of Torchlight’s strengths shone through here, as it took little time to become reacquainted. The skills were previously split between the two quick-switch set ups, one containing offensive spells and the other familiars. The hotkeys displayed on the skills themselves replacing the need to consult the option screen and back into the fray me and my pet went.

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This genre is a peculiar one. In what cannot be far from the psychology of gambling, the looting system is a consistent method of channelling the allure of constant small rewards. As well as the one giant carrot on a string, it adds slices along the way to ensure you never stop to think ‘is this four hundred and fifty-seventh Mace of Head Smashery really necessary’, or, equally as legitimate, ‘why did I just spend three hours bashing through the same cycle for a new purple grade hat’.

Both are valid points. And both are easily forgotten once you’re knee deep in the grind. It’s a hook that digs in deep and causes a bout of hunger. Fun and simple to play, though appearing cluttered on static screenshots, this is a refined isometric dungeon crawler. The fine balancing act between loot and mind numbing grind achieved with bravado.

“Letting this slowly seep in”Technicalities aside, what warmed the cockles the most was the town harmony. With every key note of soft music plucked a flicker of memory came to light, memories of playing the earlier Diablo titles many, many years ago. Times of roleplaying as a Necromancer, heading further into dimly lit underground caverns to fight numerous hordes from the deep and reap the rewards. This is in no doubt due to the sound design work of Matt Uelmen, who’d worked on the original Diablo. Back in the town of Torchlight, it was easy to casually stroll from one vendor to the next, letting this slowly seep in.

Relaxation wasn’t on the cards for long, as dark forces attempting to use dark ember for even darker means were afoot below. This merry band of sorcerer, pet wolf, wandering zombies, and two mechanical golems, one with a beam attack and the other with giant smashing hands, Derek the Disastrous and Terry the Tin Man, respectively, teleported back into the Dark Palace to give those meddling wizards and dimensional beasts a telling off. And they were most certainly told.

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With the forces of evil sent back home, tail between their legs, and in a right strop, we headed to the surface expecting praise from the township. There would be no such thing. The grind doth beckon always. As Rowdy Roddy Piper once wisely said, “a soldier’s work is never done”.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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