Torchlight (PC)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Saturday, December 12, 2009

Graphics: 7.00
Sound: 8.00
Gameplay: 9.00
Replays: 9.00
Gamelength: 7.50

Torchlight is perhaps the best dungeon crawler since the year 2001. Blizzard struck gold with the release of Diablo II back in the year 2000, but it only went uphill from there. When the expansion, “Lord of Destruction” went live, it became one of the best-selling expansions ever released up until that point in time. Now, over 8 years later, there are plenty of developers who have tried to clone the feeling of Blizzard’s hit series, yet none have succeeded in taking the giant down.

Today, I bring great news. For the first time since the year 2001, there’s a dungeon crawler that’s easily as addictive as the “Diablo” series, if not more so in some ways. It’s not without flaws and as of this writing, it’s purely a single player experience, but all things considered, this is as good as it gets. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring to you our review of Torchlight for the PC.

Taking into consideration every end of the hardware spectrum, Torchlight was designed to be played by nearly everyone who owns a computer. Because of this, the visual quality ranges anywhere from okay to pretty good.

For low-end systems, there’s a “Netbook Mode” option, which automatically sets everything down to specifications built around the budget-minded consumer. As the option implies, this game can literally run flawlessly on Netbooks, which is a pretty big deal these days, especially for such a great game.

Of course, those with systems that pack more of a punch will likely run the game at maximum settings with no trouble at all. Support for just about every resolution, anti-aliasing, enhanced lighting, shiny particle effects and high quality shadows are included for anyone who chooses to enable those features. Typically, I wouldn’t list all of that stuff, but given the game’s performance range, I thought it necessary. In short, this game runs fine and looks good no matter what kind of system you have.

The visuals themselves have taken the same direction as World of Warcraft and League of Legends. Everything has a very cartoon-like design, with what appear to be cell-shaded character models, very colorful textures and very flashy special effects.

Level design is leaps and bounds better than other dungeon crawlers. Everything is randomized, aside from the town of Torchlight. In most other games, the randomized dungeon system occasionally causes problems and just comes across as sloppy. In this game, everything connects perfectly. Tiles never look out of place, multiple tiers add depth to the various dungeon floors without feeling too artificial and there’s never any sort of unpassable barriers or walls. And the best part? Truly randomized dungeons means endless replay value, which means even more addictive gameplay, which ultimately translates to more bang for your hard-earned buck!

Although it feels a bit too similar to Diablo II at times, the audio is fantastic in every way. The main theme of the town of Torchlight is very similar to the old theme of Tristram from Diablo II, yet it’s different enough to stand on it’s own as a brand new track. Other tracks are a bit more varied, but most of the dungeon audio focuses more on atmosphere rather than a complex musical score.

Almost every character is voiced, with very few exceptions being filler characters to make the town feel more lively. The voice acting isn’t bad, either. While it’s not going to blow your mind or top such games as Final Fantasy XII or God of War, the voice actors certainly take a noticeable amount of pride in their jobs.

At first glance, this game comes across as a generic dungeon crawler, much like the dozens of others that have tried and failed over the past decade. After an hour or so, things start unraveling and the game really starts to show off what it has to offer. By the time the first real boss is dead, it’s very obvious that Runic Games has put a lot of heart into this game. This is definitely a game made by very passionate fans of the genre.

So, what sets this game apart from everything else out there? Is it really that good, even without any sort of multiplayer? Worry not, for I have all of the information you need. But first, let’s cover the basics.

The user interface is very simple to use and is perhaps the most newbie friendly thing I’ve ever dealt with when it comes to hotkeys and character management. Simply clicking on an empty space on the hotkey bar brings up a menu with every available option in the form of very large icons. All the player has to do in order to assign a hotkey is click on the desired icon. It’s really that simple! From there, the chosen key can be pressed to use the selected potion, spell or skill at any given time.

Inventory space is handled almost exactly like every other game in the genre, but Runic Games has taken a few extra steps to insure ease of use for everyone out there. Each player has a flat total of 63 inventory spaces, which is split into 3 categories, containing 21 slots per tab. The equipment tab is where any weapons, armor, potions, identify and town portal scrolls will go. The spells tab is an exclusive portion of the inventory system used for permanent spell scrolls. The third and final tab is the fish tab, which is used to store any collected fish.

Not only is there plenty of inventory space, but each item always counts as a single slot. And even better yet is the addition of a permanent pet, which every character has access to immediately following the opening of the game.

Pets are a rather simple, yet complex and necessary part of the Torchlight world. They add an entire extra set of 63 inventory slots for extra storage, but there’s a lot more to the pet system than that.

Pets can be either cats or dogs, although that’s purely a cosmetic feature and has no impact on character growth. Pets can play defensive, aggressive and passive roles, with defensive being the default setting, but that only decides when the pet attacks enemies, if ever.

The pets can equip two rings and a single necklace, as well as two spells. Not only do pets gain all of the bonuses from the jewelry, but they automatically use their equipped spells quite frequently in generally intelligent ways. Need some heals? Toss a heal all spell on the pet; they’ll use it! Want some support for a ranged attack character? Give your pet the web spell to immobilize enemies. Damage? Check! Just add a fireball or poison spell to the mix! It’s a highly customizable system that adds a whole new level of depth to the dungeon crawler experience.

On the player side of things, there are three full classes to choose from, each with their own specialties.

The Destroyer is a melee powerhouse, generally opting for a huge weapon and armor with high defense to take enemies out face to face.

The Vanquisher is primarily a ranged attack class, but also has access to traps and other utility skills to enhance the overall survivability of a highly skilled player.

The Alchemist is a user of strong elemental magic, but is also capable of summoning very powerful creatures to his aid.

Between the three characters, there’s quite a bit of variation, especially when you consider that every class can do a wide amount of things with their skill trees. If you feel like playing a wizard-like role, pick an Alchemist and focus on ranged magic attacks. If you want to chop enemies up berserker-style, build a beefy Destroyer. If you crave more utility with traps or even a simple ranged attack class, pick up a Vanquisher and start ricocheting arrows and bullets all over the place.

As varied as the classes are, there’s absolutely no cosmetic customization. Each character has a very specific model that can not be altered, aside from the appearance of any equipped weapons and armor. There’s not even an option to change the gender, limiting the classes to two males (Destroyer, Alchemist) and one female (Vanquisher). That’s not a big deal, though, given that the characters fit their class designs perfectly as is.

Skills are split up into three trees of 10 things per class. Each tree is generally an entirely different setup for the chosen class, such as the “Rogue” and “Arbiter” trees for the Vanquisher, or the “Berserker” and “Spectral” trees of the Destroyer. Not only are the trees very different from one another, but they effectively create the possibility of having 9 pure character classes or nearly endless combined skill tree classes. Sure, about half of the passive bonuses are shared amongst all character classes, but the remaining existing possibilities are still more than enough to keep any player busy for many months to come.

Earning skill points is as simple as gaining either a character level or even-numbered fame level. Each skill has a maximum rank of 10 and there are no pre-requisites other than a base level requirement. When every skill is available with no requirements to level up any specific skill, the character build possibilities are endless!

Gaining character levels also unlocks the possibility to use higher level equipment, as well as adding attribute points. Attribute points are given in sets of five every time the player levels up and can be distributed between four stats. Strength is used as a requirement to equip some types of equipment and also increases melee damage. Dexterity is used for physical ranged weapon requirements and increases ranged weapon damage. Defense is used as a requirement to wear many types of armor and increases the amount of damage the player can absorb per attack. Finally, Magic is the primary requirement for magical weapons and determines the damage bonus of all magical weapons and magical attacks.

Aside from the usual “kill enemies, get experience, level up” design, there’s also a very basic fame system in place. Similar to the design in “World of Warcraft”, killing specific mobs add fame, as well as completing quests in the town of Torchlight. Upon achieving enough fame, a fame level is gained. Fame levels are mostly cosmetic, but the free skill points every 2 levels are a huge boost and add to the character advancement aspect of the game quite a bit.

Of course, character and pet advancement are enhanced by several other elements that become a very important part of the game over time and even more so on higher difficulty settings.

Fishing, enchanting and transmutation are the three other ways to improve any character, all of which are very important for their own reasons.

Fishing is very dumbed down and is possible quite frequently throughout the various dungeons beneath the town of Torchlight. In order to fish, a player needs only to click on a fishing spot, wait for the outer ring to perfectly meet the inner ring and then click on the hook icon in the center of the screen. After catching a fish, it can be used to enhance either player or pet attributes for a specific amount of time.

For example, the player might eat a fish that grants a huge bonus to magic finding and gold finding for five or ten minutes. But then on the other hand, you may choose to feed your pet a fish that causes a transformation into something different, such as a spider or even something more demonic. It’s a rather cool mechanic and adds a whole new element of item-based buffs to the game.

Enchanting is very easy, but comes at a potentially high cost depending on the type of item. In order to enchant an item, a player must talk to the enchanting NPC or find an enchanting shrine somewhere in one of the various dungeons. By placing the item to be enchanted into the enchant box, the price of the enchantment is displayed and the player can choose to accept or decline the enchanting process. The higher the grade of equipment, the higher the price, which must be paid even if the enchantment fails. Failed enchantments do not damage or alter equipment in any way, though, so it’s a welcome loss by comparison to other games.

Enchantments add all sorts of things, including basic attribute bonuses, casting speed bonuses, magic find bonuses and all sorts of other random things. These bonuses can not be selected and are completely randomized, but a highly enchanted item is almost always fantastic, given the sheer volume of different bonuses each item can have. As such, enchanting items is a vital part of the game and could even be considered a necessity on any difficulty above normal.

Transmutation is similar to the Horadric Cube in “Diablo II”, although watered down by comparison. Rather than having a much higher number of slots and all sorts of complex recipes, there’s a very easy four slot interface that can be used at any time. Simply putting any combination of items into the transmutation boxes and clicking accept is all it takes to see if you’ve discovered a new recipe, although many recipes result in useless items in what seems like an attempt to throw players off and add an artificial sense of failure.

Utilizing all of those elements to make the ultimate adventurer, the general idea of the game is as basic as it gets. Run through the dungeons, kill things and complete quests along the way, which are given by NPCs in the town of Torchlight. It’s a pleasant design that nearly anyone can appreciate.

The controls are very easy to pick up, with a simple point and click design, much like many of the other dungeon crawlers out there. Hotkeys are also available, as discussed earlier, but there are also pre-determined quick keys for things, such as “S” for skills, “C” for character and other things that are very easy to remember. The entire thing really is as simple to play as it sounds, despite being such a complex masterpiece of game mechanics.

And if all of that truly isn’t enough content for you, not only are you crazy, but there’s still more to delve into. When the 12 or so hour story is done and over with, a literally infinite dungeon is unlocked. This new dungeon is literally endless, with floors that increase in difficulty very rapidly and plenty of new loot to discover. In essence, it’s possible to complete max out a character, creating a weapon of mass destruction that almost literally cannot be killed with the appropriate equipment.

With all of these elements, as well as a balanced set of skills, spells and equipment, “Torchlight” is one of the most customizable games of the year. Simplistic, yet intricate controls, tons of variation and literally endless gameplay is more than enough to keep any interested gamer busy for many months to come. And that’s not even taking into consideration the newly released set of modification tools, the official “TorchED” game editor, which promises to add plenty of new content straight from the devoted fanbase! Plus, it’s only $19.99!

So, what are you waiting for? Go buy Torchlight right now and start your own adventure!

You can check out Torchlight and the official community by visiting the official website, located at http://www.torchlightgame.com.

Overall Rating: 8.50

Leave a Reply