Beneath the quaint mining town of Torchlight lies plentiful amounts of a highly sought after resource known as Ember. While the warmth and illumination of the town’s torch centerpiece may act as a beacon of hope and prosperity, the threat posed beneath the rural outpost is one of pure evil, as any adventurer who has made it out alive will surely inform you. Reminders of the danger that awaits can be quickly surmised by the stacks of human bones spread across each floor of Torchlight’s mines.
Three highly concerned individuals have taken it upon themselves to restore the esteem of Torchlight by ridding its mine shafts of the sinful greed and corruption brought on by the siren song of the Ember. The Destroyer is a learned combatant reliant upon brute force along with his capacity to call on spirits of deceased ancestors to fight by his side. Voted “most likely to be corrupted by the power of natural energy resources” in high school, the Alchemist fills out the role of a magic character who will stop at nothing to harness the Ember’s power for himself, even if it means saving the world in the process. Armed to the skirt with firearms, the Vanquisher’s circumstances for arriving in Torchlight revolve around her secret assignment to restore order to the town.
Character classes play out in identical fashion. Apart from the development of a character’s class specific skills through a leveling system, most players will find their experiences in Torchlight to be fairly similar to one another. While there’s a slew of great weaponry tailored specifically to the strengths of each character’s abilities, there’s still nothing stopping a Destroyer archetype from becoming a well-rounded proponent of each class, dual-wielding a pistol and an energy sword, each enhanced with a gem to improve his magic capabilities. Many of the items include status upgrades with direct attribute boosts, while some serve other purposes (elemental strengths and resistances).
While leveling up is straightforward, pets are a unique feature. They act as companions in battle, secondary party inventories, a method to run unwanted items into town in exchange for gold, and best of all, they can transform into all manner of peculiar looking creatures. These are easily the most helpful companion animals in any game, continuing to flesh out the ideas introduced in Fate nearly half-a-decade ago. In addition to the lynx and wolf available in the PC version, Runic have added an Xbox Live Arcade exclusive pet to the mix in the form of a lizard-like creature.
There’s a lot of replay value in Torchlight. Between the varied side-missions, randomized dungeons, and the constant looting, you’ll still be hooked long after you’ve finished the storyline. There haven’t been any real changes to the central content in the game, it’s all exactly the way you experienced it on the PC, an advantage of the game’s refined simplicity. This quality even extends to the console controls which are – get this – occasionally more useful than the keyboard and mouse combo. Unfortunately, some of the accessibility is smeared by the user-interface, which takes longer to organize with a controller, if not only because it’s so faithful to the PC interface.
Torchlight has something unique going for it. There’s a certain simplicity to the game that is still refreshing, even after over a year has passed and we’ve already seen some makeshift imitations. Runic have created a highly-accessible dungeon crawling game that’s highly competitive with the best of the genre. While we’ll have to hold out for Torchlight 2 for multiplayer, in the meantime, it’s good to see the game expanding onto other platforms and making the transition so gracefully.