Torchlight (PC)

The Best Dungeon Crawl in Recent Memory

by Coop

Game Torchlight

Platform PC

Genre(s) Role-Playing

Diablo III isn't going to be released in 2010, and odds are it'll be deep into 2011 before Blizzard pushes their RPG onto store shelves. This poses a bit of a problem for many gamers, who expected the developer to have the product finished much earlier, and built a PC the moment the game was announced. Luckily, there's another option: Runic Games' recently released RPG, Torchlight. Taking elements from just about every game in the genre, Torchlight doesn't look to push any boundaries or innovate the action RPG genre, but it absolutely does look to fill the gap left by Diablo III's absence. It actually manages to go a good way beyond that, and ends up being one of the best, most addictive dungeon crawlers in recent memory.

The basic design elements popularized with the original Diablo, continued through the sequel, and brought into other RPGs such as Titan's Quest and Fate, are intact in Torchlight. The camera sits at in an isometric position and almost everything is mapped to the left and right mouse buttons, meaning the gameplay is click, click, loot. It should all be fairly standard for anyone who has ever touched the genre. In fact, the similarities go further than that, with the inventory, skill, and item drop system looking and feeling reminiscent of Diablo's. The first time a player holds down the ALT button and sees all of the items on the floor light up, names floating above, it's going to be hard not to crack a nostalgic smile. It's almost instinctive, something that I'm sure Runic games takes pride in.

It might be tempting to call it "ripping off," but "paying homage" makes more sense with most of the minds behind Torchlight team being made up of ex-Blizzard employees. In actuality, it's possible to trace Torchlight's lineage as you would a typical family tree. After working on Diablo II, many of the people who made Blizzard's hit went on to make Fate at Wildtangent, which also followed many of the same guidelines. Certain elements, such as the fishing and pet system of Fate, come over in full form. After creating a character, a dog or cat can be selected, and aid the player in combat. Ponds scattered in the world can be fished in, and the various catches can be fed to the pet to temporarily transform it into different animals. The animal’s usefulness, however, extends well past that. Being able to equip a cohort and, more importantly, teach it spells, makes the furry friend much more important, and an added bonus of sending it back to town to sell goods means the animal is more than a wandering turret. The loose plot and lack of interactions between the owner and animal means there’s little chance of becoming too attached, but the function is still served, and it’s served well.

It's actually a much smaller game than many are used to, with only one town and one long, winding dungeon. At a glance, it would appear that Torchlight is somewhat lacking in terms of content. Storywise, there's not much going on, and the different NPCs in the titular town will constantly have new quests that send the player deeper into the earth to find items and kill monsters. There are only three classes, filling the basic archetypes of warrior, mage, and archer, and each has three different skill trees to choose from. Thinking that this means the game doesn't have replay value, however, is a huge mistake. On the contrary, Torchlight is an extremely focused game, even if it isn't the absolute deepest.

For instance, it's possible to purchase maps at different vendors that will create random dungeons to explore and pilliage. This might seem like a strange, small addition, but when the game is essentially a lootfest it means a massive amount of fun. It is, in fact, just that: a lootfest. Just as was the case with Diablo and, for that matter, Borderlands, much of the fun in Torchlight is in killing big enemies and looting their bodies, constantly equipping upgraded items. It goes even further by allowing items to be enhanced not just by putting gemstones into sockets, but actual giving them to vendors that will "enhance" them. It might add a socket, it might add more damage or a new ability, or it might disenchant the item altoghether. It costs money, which can be earned by killing enemies, and makes for even more reason to plunge back into the dungeons to farm and loot.

It's addicting, which ties into the game's main goal. Torchlight isn't meant to replace Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft, or any other RPG that might be released. It's playable in short grinds or long runs, more akin to playing a puzzle game than another game in the genre. It's why the graphics are stylized enough to make the game possible to run on a netbook, it's why the story isn't too involved, and, in a way, it's why multiplayer was left out. It's supposed to replace the time spent playing Peggle or Bookworm, and it's why the game excells.

And yes, you read that correctly, Torchlight doesn't have any multiplayer. Instead of pushing cooperative play into this title, singleplayer was a focus, and upon completion the developer is hard at work at an MMO based on the franchise. When it comes out, it will fix the problem, but it feels like an omission, either way. Instead, the hopes and dreams for replayability past the regular game lies in the hands of the community, since modding tools were released soon after the game was made available. Already, some issues were resolved, new classes were added, and many are working on entire new storylines and campaigns. It's no multiplayer, that's to be sure, though it's surely going to amount in a great future for the title.

At times, Torchlight feels like a “best of” mix tape of the genre, taking the elements that worked best in other isometric camera PC games and blending them together. This works both against and for the title, dropping some points for originality and gaining some for the design. In the end, it’s as hard to shake the feeling of familiarity as it is to stop playing. It’s easy to write off Torchlight as a Diablo clone, but that phrase doesn’t fit it as well as it might seem. The developers are the same as those who crafted both games in the series, meaning it’s more of a brother than a clone. Or maybe a son. In fact, if it’s said that God created man and made him in his own image, than we could even use that analogy, since the word “clone” carries a connotation that shouldn’t be anywhere near Torchlight. No matter what people call it, the game is a simple, masterfully crafted title that shouldn’t be ignored, and with the incredibly well optimized system specifications, a $20 price tag, and an imminent OSX port, it’s a game that should be purchased by anyone with a working mouse. God knows you’ll need it.

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  • Still Remain
    Still Remain

    Is this repulsive , uninformed faggot implying that a good game has to have a mutiplayer mode ? There are tons of games out there with mutiplayer mode , and in RPG, such feature is not obligatory. RPG has always been about story-ridden, statistic- building genre.Probably the fact that it is not contested in World Cyber Games unlike fighting games, FPS, RTS, or even Guitar Hero should have tipped this guy off. Can someone fire this guy and make Sarah the lead reviewer ?

  • Zantagor

    You need better reading comprehension, no where he said that the game was bad because it was missing Multiplayer, just that for this type of game which is usually more fun in co-op, it feels like it's missing.

    During ALL of the review he said the game was a blast and is awesome. And please, you should really learn to not insult people online, it's stupid, and childish.

  • Still Remain
    Still Remain

    Sorry, but this guy is a loser. He is ONLY a game reviewer, not developer or programmer, that's not really a highly-vaunted job. As a reviewer, he should only mention features that exist, and not imaginary ones that he thinks should exist. If he want to implement his ideas of WHAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED in a game,probably he should learn how to programm and join a video game company, but until then , he shouldn't be whinning as to why there is no multiplayer-Chocobo-racing in FF XIII where you can raise one and let them race in an online-generated racetrack.

  • 00.19

    yeah, um. good review, despite the unintelligible responses below. don't let the bastards grind you down.

  • Vigo the Carpathian
    Vigo the Carpathian

    Dude, he gave the game an 8.5 - higher than the average. He was disappointed that it didn't have multiplayer. You're acting like he ripped the game. Multiplayer is a very real feature, and one that's in most action RPG's; its absence is definitely a glaring omission.

    Furthermore: Learn to read, learn to spell, and learn to voice your opinions without resorting to childish slurs about sexual preference.

  • Still Remain
    Still Remain

    Why can't i even utter a criticism without being accused of being a fanboy of a certain game ? First of all, this idiot is infamous for giving Demon's Souls a 6 because it's too hard. What a pussy.That alone should already warrant him from never reviewing an RPG again. When that makes me a Demon's Souls' fanboy, so be it.Second, him whinning about this game lacking multiplayer option which 'allegedly' should be the core feature came off to me as childish , moppy mannerism only to be found witihin teen gamers whose first game is Halo :Combat Evolved. Multiplayer isn't something that should be taken for granted. Did you plug the second controller on your SNES and invite your friends over when you were playing Chrono Trigger ? The answer is simply no.Electronic RPG has never been destined to be a 'social' genre.

  • Zantagor

    "Did you plug the second controller on your SNES and invite your friends over when you were playing Chrono Trigger "

    No, but I did for Secret of Mana.
    Seriously, don't make yourself look like you're an old gamer, because a lot here are a lot older than you think, and started playing games a lot earlier too.

    the Diablo genre mostly always had cooperative online gameplay. So it's almost expected to be included in the many clones.

    Diablo had it, Nox had it, Darkstone had it, Titan Quest had it, Silverfall had it..

    This game doesn't, and the developers are aware of it, or else they wouldn't be working on an Online Only version of the game now wouldn't they.

    It's your right to do criticism, but not by insulting others.

  • Vigo the Carpathian
    Vigo the Carpathian

    "Why can't i even utter a criticism without being accused of being a fanboy of a certain game ?"

    When did that happen exactly?

  • Fite

    Nice Coop
    seems somone on the internet still hates you though :P
    Thanks for bringing this title to my attention though looks like its a blast.

  • Still Remain
    Still Remain

    The reviewer made a criticism that is completely irrelevant with the content of the game. He even stressed it by saying 'You read that correctly'.

    He would have made more valid criticism if he had written 'The battle system is not as good as any action RPG in recent memory such as 'MegaTen : Devil Summoner 2' , or 'If you're looking for a story-intense RPG, look elsewehre , because here, it is nonexistent ' or 'Level design is too linear. With games such Deus Ex or Star Wars: KoTOR which introduced abundant varities in interacting with the environement and solving a problem in multiple ways, the design choice felt obsolete ' , he would have gained more credibility.

    But instead , just like his 'It's way too hard, i hope it has that Nintendo feature where the CPU automatically triggers itself to play the game parts which are too challenging , because i'm an insolent brat' Demon's Soul review, he once again showed a complete incompetence in his job by stressing 'There is no multiplayer' lament. What a joke.

  • Zantagor

    Sigh, except that for this type of games, 95% of the other games HAVE multiplayer, so the fact that Torchlight is missing such a feature that is present in almost ALL the other games of this type, IS something missing.

    But since you're too stupid and childish to realize that a game reviews is there to review a game, which is at 95% opinion to begin with, then I don't see where the damn problem is.

    Lots of game reviewers blasted Onechanbara, showing the game shallow and such, while in reality it's a lot deeper than it first appear, you don't see me start whining about how those reviewers should all be fired and such.

    Grow up a bit.

    Besides, Torchlight is a HACK & SLASH game, a DIABLO LIKE...

    Kotor and Deus Ex are NOT Hack & slash games, they're NOTHING like diablo or torchlight. They're the kind of RPGs that NEVER had multiplayer to begin with!!!

    You're comparing orange with potatoes, two completely different kind of games.

    With Diablo like games, people are expecting multiplayer these days. I can't count how many people I know who like Torchlight but felt it was missing multiplayer, and for that they decided not to buy the game, because for them multiplayer is important for this kind of game.

    The fact that Coop mentioned this, shows exactly this. People EXPECT this type of game to have multiplayer.

    Borderlands is also a Diablo like game, and would be incredibly boring without multiplayer.
    Torchlight (and he did mention it), is missing multiplayer, but doesn't make it any less fun alone, and he does mention that.

    And the developers are aware of this, or else they wouldn't even be working on a damn multiplayer version if they thought Torchlight didn't need one. They simply wanted to concentrate on the singleplayer part first, and release it that way and then work on multiplayer after. That way they get money for the game already, and it helps fund the multiplayer version.

    You don't need to be a damn developer (and I'm one) to understand this!

    Seriously, drop it and grow up a bit.

    The review was fine, you're just a child pissed that for some reason his view doesn't match yours, even though he gave the game an excellent note, and gave it a BUY IT mark.

    If he didn't like it, he would've made it a "TRY IT" instead.

    So you're the damn joke here.

  • 00.19

    @zantagor: ahem... [slow clap]

  • Still Remain
    Still Remain

    You wrote 'Grow up a bit.' twice in your rebuttal, buddy boy. Is this a sign of getting intimidated ? Because i can take a hint from a single 'Grow up a bit.'.

    My previous post wasn't intended to compare those games with Torchlight , it was merely an example of points that should have been taken into consideration ; Story, battle system, interaction (talking to NPCs, ramifications, etc, not online interactions),etc.

    He could have praised the game by saying 'Regardless of how linear the level design is in comparison to other RPGs like Deus Ex, or Star Wars: KoTOR, the game is still fun , showing that beating enemies in combat is way more engaging and satisfying than hacking security system , cameras , or sneaking past your opponents' or 'Combat is fast-paced but not too strategic in comparison to other action RPGs'.

    Instead he was just continuously babbling about how the game is an homage to Diablo . 2 paragraphs were dedicated to enlighten this.

    The game is a standalone single player, review the game as a standalone single player experience.The co-op feature is not missing; it does not exist.

  • Zantagor

    It's like talking to a wall, so I'm not going to bother arguing anymore after this since it obviously have no meaning anymore at this point.
    Especially when you're whining about a single sentence in the whole review. Especially when he raves about the game from beginning to end, that he tell people they need to buy this game.

    The game IS an homage to diablo, there's no other way around it. It's made by the same people who worked on it, heck it even have the same music composer as Diablo . The town music is literally the same as Diablo's town music.

    Have you even played the damn game? Some of the boss monsters are literally taken from Diablo, same monster type and NAMES.

    You can't review this game without talking about Diablo, since it literally have ALL the same features. I'm surprised he didn't talk about Mythos and Fate as well since the game is also literally a follow up on those 2 games (since they're also by the same people).

    Now, let's list all the Diablo type games I've played since Diablo 1.

    on computer: Diablo 1, Diablo 2, Nox, Darkstone, Throne of Darkness, Loki, Hellgate, Silverfall, Sacred 1, Sacred 2, Titan Quest, Mythos, Fate, Torchlight.

    on consoles: Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2, Champion of Norrath, Return to Arms, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, X-Men Legends, X-Men Legends II, Marvel : Ultimate Alliance, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2, Borderlands.

    Now, can you tell me which of those have no multiplayer? (Here's a hint, I see 2) and remember, those are all games that plays like Diablo, except Borderlands, which is FPS with Diablo elements.

    That said, you obviously have a misconception as to what a game reviewer's job is.

    This is my last reply to this, since it's pretty obvious that you have your head stuck up so deep into somekind of unspeakable hole that you're blinded by your own idiotic opinion on this game.

    And next time you call someone "Boy", better make sure you're talking to one.

    PS: As a side note, I was like that at first too, when Sarah reviewed Baroque badly, I was pissed at her because I thought she missed the point of the game. After finishing the game multiple times, I realized that even though I liked the game a lot, all flaws she listed were quite valid and there. Any normal player would've been pissed at those flaws too, I don't minded them myself. This is what an opinion is, and a review is the writer's opinion.

    Look at all the other Torchlight reviews, most (if not all) of them noted the omission of multiplayer as a missing feature.


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