Developer: Runic Games
Publisher: Runic Games, JoWooD Entertainment
Available on: Xbox LIVE Arcade, PC, Mac (Reviewed on Xbox LIVE Arcade)
Are you a fan of the Blizzard series of games? Maybe you’ve often thought about a game that would amalgamate the Warcraft and Diablo universes. Perhaps you love the Warcraft universe but don’t enjoy the RTS style of the original games or the RPG style of World of Warcraft. Conversely, maybe you can’t stand the story behind the Diablo franchise but you really enjoy hitting hordes of enemies over the head with a big stick/sword/magic.
Say hello to Torchlight.
Torchlight is a dungeon crawler style game from Runic Games, an independent developer from Seattle, where you’re given the task of heading into a series of mines, dungeons, fortresses and weird enchanted underground forests to discover what exactly has befallen the sleepy town of Torchlight.
Grab your favourite character class and fire up those Lord of the Rings-esque one liners. We’re going in…
STORY: The main story of Torchlight revolves around your character (of which you have the choice of three classes) arriving in the small village of Torchlight. The village has recently been attacked by monsters coming out of the mines. The villagers are understandably scared, and you, as the hero that you somehow so clearly are, are given the job of heading into the mines to see what the focus of the disturbance is. The story starts out simply having the player go through the dungeon, hacking and slashing at anything that even looks at them in a slightly odd way.
Pretty soon though, the story becomes a lot more profound, wound deep in betrayal and heartbreak, whilst leading the player very linear path. Usually that would be something that would turn most players away, but thanks to the addition of the aforementioned twists and depth that the story displays, that isn’t the case here. At the end of the day, the story in Torchlight is entertaining enough to keep the player interested throughout and, let’s face it, games in this genre have never concentrated on their stories as a strong point. As long as the story which revolves around the player smacking everything that moves stays intact, you’re almost guaranteed to have some fun.
GRAPHICS: Torchlight uses the OGRE 3D graphics engine, an open source engine that’s available to anyone. While this keeps costs down, it doesn’t generally lend itself to great graphics. This isn’t the case with Torchlight. The overall style of the game is of a cartoony look with exaggerated features on all of the characters. This means that even though the graphics aren’t the best in the world, they fit the look of the game and ensure that it never bothers the player. On top of that, Torchlight is an Xbox LIVE Arcade title which is partially published by the developers themselves, and compared to some of the other games on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace the graphics are great.
It’s hard to talk about Torchlight without talking about games such as World of Warcraft and Diablo, as it’s basically the illegitimate love child of both franchises, and in terms of the graphics Torchlight looks very similar to World of Warcraft’s style, with some of the armour pieces looking like recognisable pieces of WoW armour, such as the warrior’s Vanquisher armour. This shouldn’t be seen as the stealing of an art style however, more as a homage to those past games with the pieces of armour and characters having been clearly lovingly created to maintain this art style all the way through Torchlight.
SOUND: The sound quality in Torchlight is impressive considering that it’s an Xbox LIVE Arcade title. It hasn’t got the epic scores that come with a “AAA” title, but the music that is there serves its intended purpose and is quite enjoyable. Couple that with sound effects that add greatly to the weight that is felt behind every weapon swing or spell cast and you’ve got yourself a game that’s quite a treat to the ears. The voice acting was another aspect of the sound that was unexpected. Normally a game of this genre would force the player to read all of the text in the game, and while a lot of the text wasn’t read through voice over, the main text was. This fact alone helped made the game feel a lot more polished and, on the whole, a lot more like a game that you’d find in any game shop selling for £39.99.
GAMEPLAY: The primary gameplay mechanic that you’ll experience throughout your time with Torchlight is the combat. At the start of the game you’ll choose one of three classes, either a Destroyer, an Alchemist or a Vanquisher. The Destroyer character is the close combat specialist, and while using this character you’ll always be up close and personal with your enemy dealing a considerable amount of damage but also taking it too. While using this character you’ll have to take careful consideration of your health which can quickly diminish, especially towards the end of the main storyline. The other two characters, the Alchemist and the Vanquisher (both ranged classes) will require you to take a great amount of care and strategy in order to stay away from the enemies, for the most part dealing as much damage as you can before they make their way to you.
Torchlight isn’t just an isometrically viewed hack and slash game though, not by a long shot. What makes this game much more than just that is the in depth implementation of the talent and skills trees. If you’ve played World of Warcraft (or any RPG for that matter) beforehand then you’ll already be comfortable with the idea that once you gain a level you’ll be rewarded with a certain amount of skill points which can be spent upgrading your Dexterity, Magic, Strength and more! You’ll also be given a certain amount of points which can be spent on your talents. This combination of character classes, talents and skills means that even though there are only 3 character classes, it’s entirely possible to make drastically different types of each class by modifying the talent and skill sets. If all you do with Torchlight is get to the end of the main story and throw points in anywhere then you’ll end up just scratching the surface of what’s possible in terms of character modification. Having said that, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to spend hours on a point allocation screen, and you just want to get back to the action, you won’t feel like your character is underpowered at all. There’s a very nice balance between the two styles of play in Torchlight, and that flexibility of play styles is something that’s refreshing to see.
The most disappointing part of Torchlight is probably the quest system. Every single one of the quests is very linear in the sense that the quest item that you’re required to find is always going to be on your way to the end of that specific dungeon. There’s no thinking required from the player when it comes to working out where a particular item might be in order to complete the quest. Just grab the quest and continue through the same dungeon in a forward manner and eventually you’ll just happen across the very thing you’re required to find. It feels very coincidental in terms of the story and while it’s not particularly bad, the polish lavished upon the rest of the game makes the quest system feel a little unfinished.
LONGEVITY: The addition of a dungeon at the end of the game that never finishes means that the longevity of Torchlight is directly proportionate to how long it takes for the player to get bored of the game on the whole. For players that are happy with a reward scheme that involves giving players small rewards as they progress through a dungeon and then a big reward once they’ve beaten the boss at the end, that can be a really long time. Just like World of Warcraft, most people will say that once they reach the level cap they’re going to stop. Again, just like World of Warcraft, that won’t happen.
VERDICT: Torchlight is one of those games that is difficult to put down, and when you do put it down all you can think about doing is picking it back up again! All the little rewards that the players are given throughout their time in Torchlight do well to keep them interested and wanting more.
Occasionally the level design can get boring and this might turn some people off, but more often than not the game mixes thing up just before the player feels the need to move on and player another game. However, the fact that they could even get close to that feeling is a serious detriment to an otherwise amazing game.