Torchlight Review (PC)

At first glance, Torchlight seems like such an obvious concoction of ideas that you’ll wonder why it took so long to locate the correct formula. Developer Runic has taken the point-and-click action-rpg mechanics of Diablo, fused them with neon-tinged World of Warcraft-style visuals, and tucked the whole thing neatly into an engine that’ll happily scale to modest laptops and even Netbooks. Add in a £15 price point, and it’s difficult not to recommend.

From the initial choice of only three character archetypes – roughly corresponding to brawler, mage and ranged fighter - it’s clear that the emphasis is on streamlining as much as possible whilst providing a deep and traditional – yet playful and fantastical - RPG experience. Character upgrades and class decisions are easily re-specced mid-game, and much of the mystique surrounding them is stripped away; revealing three fairly straight-forward customisation trees that can be traversed by any character, no matter what their initial build. Pour enough stat points into the right areas, and anything can be obtained.

Torchlight itself – acting as the single hub world – looks to have been ripped straight from the Blizzard school of design, sitting pretty on top of a single randomised dungeon that slowly reels the player downwards, through a set of levels that display charming visual touches despite the well-worn subject matter. Quest-giving NPCs are marked with yellow exclamation marks; vendors, armour merchants and crafting facilities vie for your attention and hard-earned loot; and appalling voice-acting punctuates the otherwise fantastic audio. We could have done without that bit.

Combat - as you would expect from a team largely consisting of ex-Diablo designers - is both rhythmic and satisfying, with a fantastic understanding of visual and aural feedback. Land a particularly heavy critical strike and the screen will shake momentarily; take one yourself – or feel the wrong end of a poisoned blow – and subtle colour filters, icons and audio cues tell you everything you need to know in peripheral vision. The overlayed interface – whilst hardly earth-shattering in design – does its best to stay out of your way until called upon, with everything logically laid out and quick to access. Basics, I know, but key to tunnel-visioned late-night sessions.

Perhaps the most inspired element of design – and the epitome of streamlining functionality - comes in the form of your closest ally, which will either be a dog or a cat depending on preference - and yes, you can name them as stupidly as you like.

This MMO-style pet initially conforms to type; attacking assailants under its own steam, wearing discarded chunks of armour, transforming into various beasts when fed; and generally acting as a walking damage filter with attitude. Dig a little deeper however, and you’ll discover that they can also carry items, bugger off mid-level to sell them for you, learn spells, and use them under their own volition. You will likely reach a point mid-way through the game – and it seems as if this is consistent with most players thus far – ending up with a self-willed creature that entertains itself by fireballing people to death or conjuring an army of the undead. Pure, stupid, brilliance.

And yet, whilst it’s a fantastic addition, it is also plugging a rather large gap in the form of entirely absent multiplayer. Much of Torchlight’s appeal would have been amplified through co-operative play; and even though the budget pricepoint claws back value, we can only hope that Runic makes good on its intended expansion into this territory later on. It seems a logical, rather glaring omission; especially from a team that created previous – very similar - games around that core concept.

Even without it though, Torchlight should hold a vast amount of appeal for many people. If you’ve been weaned on the likes of WoW and want something to take on the road: this is for you; and if you fell in love with Diablo or Titan Quest and want to sample the likely direction in which Diablo III will head: don’t hesitate, just buy. In fact, that holds true for all of you. Stop reading this, and go support one of the best PC games you’ll play this year.

Top Game moment: The first time your pet dog decides to conjure his own undead army. Good boy!



By noobst3R (SI Core) on Nov 18, 2009
Sweet, i might look at this game.
By V4ndall (SI Veteran Member) on Nov 18, 2009
There are opinions floating on the web that it gets boring real quick, but then again it's just a H&S.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Nov 20, 2009
I've watched several movies on this game, and I must admit I will fall for it when the next Steam Weekend Deal includes it.
By lichlord (SI Core) on Nov 29, 2009
ill pass this one

ill get diablo 3 instead :P