Beneath the quaint mining town of Torchlight lies endless amounts of a highly desired 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 mineshafts 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 upon spirits of deceased ancestors to fight alongside the warrior. 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 Berserker 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).
One of the games standout features are the pets. These act as companions in battle, secondary party inventories, a method of running unwanted items into town in exchange for gold, and best of all, they can transform into all manner of peculiar looking creatures. The transformation and its duration depend upon the type of fish you drag into the pet’s bowl. Some transformations happen to be permanent, which isn’t entirely accurate, as the animal will reset to its original form if fed another temporary type of fish. Fish are caught through a simplistic click-to-fish mini-game in spots scattered throughout the town.
With all of the side missions I wound up doing in exchange for a decent rare armor, and the level-grinding bits as well, I spent a lot longer with the game than I ever intended to. Torchlight does a great job of coaxing players to continue onward, whether it’s to complete their collection of a specific sort of armor by checking every last bit of the game’s randomized loot, or to level up so their stats meet the requirements of a weapon they’ve been waiting hours to try out.
Free-to-play Torchlight MMO
Due to Torchlight’s intensive development cycle, there is no multiplayer component in the game, although in a separate game entitled Torchlight MMO, players will be granted free massively multiplayer gameplay. Micro-transactions are confirmed to be available upon release through a sort of in-game shop. Runic has confirmed that characters can not be transferred over from Torchlight into Torchlight MMO.
Wandering around the quirky town, your ears will occasionally be victimized by the gawking townsfolk with their offbeat voices. Otherwise the soundtrack and other audio effects tie into the action as well as can be expected. More importantly, Torchlight is meant to be visually digestible. It should be playable on most computers, from the most unreliable of laptops, to the highest end PC gaming juggernaut. There’s no drastic differences playing on any range of computers. This seems to have been Runic’s end goal in the short development cycle (spanning only a little more than a year). They’ve successfully crafted an effective Diablo inspired Action Role Playing title that stands on its own, drawing upon a much broader audience than its competition.
Torchlight has something unique going for it. There’s a certain simplicity to the game that is refreshing. It’s not only a digestible budget priced game, but it also retains all the important qualities of a full-priced release, excluding the upcoming free Massively Multiplayer component. Carrying the influence of several ex-Blizzard executives, some having oversight in the development of the first couple Diablo titles, Torchlight comes into its own as a recommended purchase and a good placeholder for Diablo III.
Eight out of ten