Anti-Valentine reviews PC games and writes about the video game industry.
Torchlight is the kind of game that is said to have been played by everyone—or at least it's been owned by everyone. I must admit that I hadn't played it at all for a while, but finally, I decided that I would finally give it a try.
The game is set in Torchlight, which is basically a quaint little mining town with seemingly all you could ever want or need. Some foul evil seems to be threatening this small town and it is up to the player to get to the bottom of it and eradicate the source of evil.
At the beginning of the game, you can choose to play as one of three characters. You have a choice between being a big, brutish destroyer who specializes in melee combat, a resourceful alchemist who prefers using magic, and a lithe, deadly vanquisher who relies on bows, crossbows, and guns. You can also choose the pet that your avatar will have. You can choose from a wolf-dog, a lynx, or a ferret. And you can give both your character and your pet a name. Veterans of the genre might even like to have an imaginary pet who won’t aid them in combat, but will be able to store items in its inventory.
Once you arrive in the town of Torchlight, there’s plenty of things to look at and people to talk to, but the people initially won’t be very open because they're stressed out by the presence of rock trolls and other threats nearby. The rock trolls and other threats could invade their town at any moment.
Once you make some progress in the game, the merchants in town will open up to you and make their services available. These traders include a general salesman, a weapons specialist, a person who deals in magic items, an enchanter, and a transmuter who combines items to create a new item. There are also three orcs: one who will let you gamble for particular items, one who will take gems out of socketed items (destroying the item in the process), and the last one who will destroy gems for you.
A lot of these merchants' services rely on chance. You can take items to a merchant, and there is usually a massive chance that he will fail at his task and your money will be lost for nothing. To be honest, I can’t say I’m fond of this aspect of the game.
In the town, you’ll also find that you have two stashes. One is a regular stash and the other is a shared stash. The shared stash lets you share items between each character you play as in the game, so if you find a nice weapon that would suit the next character, you can stash it for them.
In addition to having two stashes, all items only take up one space or cell, so you can effectively store a lot more than you could in a game like Diablo II, for example. And this goes for the player’s inventory too. Your pet will also have an inventory that you can fill up and you can even command them to go back to town and sell the items you have stored in their inventory so you don’t have to keep using the town portal to go back and forth all the time.
All weapons and items can be used by each character, so a destroyer could resort to using staves instead of swords if he wanted to, and an alchemist can use firearms. Weapons aren’t limited to one class. There are guns that fall into the ranged weapons category. However, skills and experience levels must still be at the required amount for each individual weapon.
Torchlight Compared to Other Games
It seems as though the developers at Runic thought of everything when they were creating this game. Every little niggle that I had about Diablo II has been rectified in Torchlight. All the positive changes make sense because Runic is made up of developers who worked on the original Diablo games. Some even label Torchlight as a spiritual successor to the Diablo series. Torchlight is a mix between Diablo and Diablo II. Torchlight differs from the Diablo games in that it features a town that acts as a base where you can get quests from characters, sell items, buy items, and prepare for your next adventure. But Torchlight is similar to Diablo because all the quests tend to take place on descending levels in towers with different themes and enemies to dispatch. Rather than trekking and battling across massive tracts of land just to reach a cave, everything is all done from one central hub.
In Torchlight, you obtain quests in a fashion that is similar to Hellgate: London (which is yet another game made by former Blizzard North employees in Flagship), and you can receive multiple quests from the same character. This is a welcome change from having to do the same repeatable quests all the time in order to level up. Speaking of levels, the ones you will come across in-game are randomly generated, and I must say that they lack variety. The only real variety exists in the enemies, the weapons, and the items in each play-through. There are plenty of secrets to be found by looking around for levers that open hidden rooms and the like. The levels are also generally more complex and eye-catching than they are in the Diablo games. They don’t all take place on one plain; there are many staircases that amount to levels or stories within a level that you must complete before progressing to the next floor.
The graphics have a more cutesy, cartoony look to them than they do in the Diablo games and the graphics are wonderfully colourful, which will most likely turn off fans of the Diablo franchise. The graphics probably won't be such surprise for players who have dabbled in Diablo III. I would say that the graphics in Torchlight are reminiscent of the graphics in titles like Warcraft III or Borderlands.
I think this was part of Runic’s strategy to make the game more appealing and more accessible to a wider audience. Torchlight can even appeal to younger users, since there is an option in the menu to turn off the appearance of blood. There are also in-game tips and hints, as well as audible cues that reveal what is happening in the game, so it’s relatively easy to get into.
The game isn't demanding when it comes to specifications either. It is highly scalable, with many bells and whistles that you can turn off, even within netbook mode, which, as the name implies, optimizes the game for use on a netbook. As a result, you can play Torchlight on just about any PC.
Of course, there are mods for the PC version of the game, and one of them aims to introduce high-resolution textures in place of the existing ones. There are also a number of mods that try to make the game look and feel more like Diablo than it already does. And with the included editor, the possibilities are virtually endless. You can create your own campaigns and levels within each campaign, and the level editor is apparently so intuitive that you can even play the levels as you're making them, so there’s no need to finish a map completely, compile it, and then load it up by launching the game.
Sound Effects and Music
If you were to pay close attention, you’d also notice a few nods to the Diablo series with regard to the use of sound. Runic used a lot of new sound effects, but a few of the ones from Diablo still remain. For example, the sound of a scroll dropping to the ground or the sound of items failing to be added to your inventory due to it being full are similar to corresponding sounds in Diablo.
The music in Torchlight is somewhat similar in theme to Diablo and Diablo II. This is because the music was composed by fan-favourite, Matt Uelmen. The music sounds similar, but it is not the same, and in my opinion, it doesn’t really compare.
Torchlight is well worth a play. It has been given away several times over the years, most notably by GOG.com. If you can't manage to get a hold of a spare gift code for it, then it is probably worth paying the full price of admission. Otherwise, just get it on sale, and you won't regret purchasing it at all.
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