PAX ’09 – Torchlight
With Torchlight, the developers at Runic are setting out to produce an admittedly Diablo-esque game, while hoping to narrow in on a select audience. Taking place entirely within the town of Torchlight and the randomized dungeons surrounding it, players will embark on the single-player action RPG adventure with the aid of their pet dog. Taking on a decidedly cartoon-like look, the game is meant to be highly approachable.
It would make sense then that the visuals are fairly restrained in order to make the game playable on the widest possible variety of PCs. Torchlight’s appeal, however, is based on a number of other factors. For starters, there’s the sensible $20 price point and Runic’s promise of an additional free-to-play MMO slated for a stand-alone release about a year out from that of Torchlight. Then there’s the fact that the game’s shipping with a full mod kit right off the bat – handing fans the very tools the developers used to create the game.
Much of the gameplay feels derivative of other games. Whether it’s the pet dog which follows your custom character around and helps in the completion of missions or the point-and-click nature of the game, it all seems to have been done elsewhere – and better at that. Nonetheless, there’s no denying the game’s charm which really does shine through in its sheer simplicity.
And it’s not like the developers at Runic are an inexperienced bunch either. In an interview with the company’s CEO Max Schaefer, he spoke of the disbanded Blizzard North team. Since they left Blizzard – a company that’s infamously obsessed with quality control in their games – they’ve found new ground in utilizing simple concepts with realistic release schedules. Part of the Runic team is credited with much of the production of the hit game Mythos, which was later transferred over to another development studio, along with ties in games like Hellgate London and the Fate series. To put it plainly, they’ve got the kind of experience it takes to push out decent games with some consistency.
For the cheap price, randomized dungeons, and fully functional modding software, Torchlight is a little game with huge potential. Even though Torchlight may seem limited in its scope, Schaefer pointed out that, unlike some of the work they did at Blizzard North, it’s at least going to see an eventual release.