Torchlight takes place in a fantasy world where magic is fuelled by an enigmatic ore called Ember. A mining town has sprung up over a particularly rich vein of this valuable material, but something is amiss – the mines have broken through into a multi-level complex of ancient origin, complete with hordes of monstrous inhabitants. As an adventurer, high in bravery but low in common sense, it is up to you to descend into said complex and stop the flow of nasties.
The development team includes the co-creators of Diablo, and it shows. While this game is a shameless clone, it does it with such aplomb and skill that it doesn’t matter. Players can choose from 3 characters – the Destroyer (melee specialist), Vanquisher (ranged attacks and traps) or the Alchemist (spells and summoning). While not that many to select, each of these has a large assortment of skills to allocate as you progress, allowing you to customize your gameplay style further.
You’ll have a pet to accompany you in your delves. Your fuzzy pal has its own health and mana, and will assist you in battle by attacking foes or casting spells. It can also carry a large amount of equipment, and you can send the overburdened critter back to town to sell stuff on your behalf. From time to time you’ll find a fishing hole; most fish can be fed to your pet to temporarily transform it into a monster with special attacks and abilities, but you might find other rare fish that benefit your character instead.
One of the best things about Torchlight is the fantastic loot. There is a huge variety of equipment to be found – mundane, magical, rare, unique, and set items all make an appearance (some are faintly ridiculous, like the Dismantling Epic Molten Scourge of the Colossus). Weapons and armour have wonderful aesthetics, and each has a distinct style for each character type.
In addition to the miners and their families, the town of Torchlight features the usual assortment of vendors and quest-givers. The various traders are always happy to buy up the endless piles of blood-stained loot you accumulate, and other services are offered such as transmutation and enchantment. You’ll also find your stash here, as well as a shared stash which allows you to pass items between your various characters. This is great for when your muscle-bound fighter with the dexterity of a fallen tree finds an awesome unique bow – just drop it in the chest and your archer will be able to use it.
Whilst they aren’t going to detonate anybody’s eyeballs, the graphics are polished and attractive – the varied environments are gorgeous with a lot of attention to detail, and there are plenty of little touches (like slithering snakes and skull lanterns). Overall style is colourful and somewhat cartoony, but it still manages to create an epic feel. The game’s music was composed by Matt Uelmen of Diablo I & II fame. There is some influence from those titles, but in a good way – the score is truly atmospheric.
The primary drawback to Torchlight is the lack of multiplayer support – if you could splatter monsters with friends this game would be nigh perfect in the fun stakes. There is an MMO version in the works; hopefully that need will be fulfilled soon enough.
Yes, Torchlight is made to a formula. But it doesn’t just nail that formula – it rivets, welds, and superglues the darn thing so well you just can’t help but enjoy yourself. The story is a little thin but gameplay is rock-solid and addictive. For a measly $20 you get the download version (around 500MB), or you can wait ’til early next year for the boxed version.