Date: March 4, 2011
Can’t wait until Diablo III is out later this year? Bored of Diablo II and looking for something new and cheap that can fill that spot? ‘Torchlight’ may just be worth a look.
Torchlight is a dungeon-crawling RPG created by Runic Games and released around October 2008. There is more than a passing similarity to arguably the most popular dungeon crawler series, Diablo. Though, this is explained by the fact that the game was co-designed and developed by Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer, who worked on both Diablo and Diablo II.
The story is not the most in-depth or convoluted you are likely to come across. Actually, I would go as far as to say it’s not even necessary. Even after a few minutes I found myself mindlessly clicking through the story without paying any attention to it whatsoever, keen to get back to the manic mouse-button clicking session.
In essence, the monster activity of the dungeons near the village has increased due to a magical substance called Ember which is the source of magic and enchantment. You are tasked (over a series of connecting quests) to venture into the depths of the dungeons, discover the source of the ember, and to kill as many monsters as you can on the way.
The control system in Torchlight is simple and effective. Clicking on the screen will move your character to that place. Left clicking on a monster uses your primary attack, moving into range if not already, while the right mouse button uses a special skill (assuming you have the Mana to use it), also moving into range if not already.
As you explore and kill the nasties you gain experience points. After gaining a certain amount of these points you will level up, and your character will be able to allocate points into stat increases and new skills to improve your character’s combat abilities.
Your character also has a pet, selectable at character creation, which is either a wild cat or a wolf-like dog. This pet generally follows the character, assisting them in the dungeon. Not only will they attack enemies, but they will also pick up and carry loot. Once your pet is carrying as much loot as he can, you can send your pet back to the town to sell those items.
‘Torchlight’ has only two different areas of gameplay…
- The village – this area is used for the purchasing and selling of goods, as well as enchanting items and picking up quests.
- The dungeon(s) – The dungeon(s) are multi-layered, randomly generated caverns, brimming with monsters, loot, and traps.
Fishing is another interesting sideline. At specific places dotted around the dungeons you can lower a line into the pool and start fishing.
In most cases you will fish up… well, fish. These fish can be fed to your pet to temporarily change its look and give it a temporary buff. Aside from fish you also have the chance to fish up gold, gems, or rare magical items.
Compared to some games, the level of character personalisation available during character creation is very poor. There are three character types that you can choose from:
- Destroyer – Destroyers are the masters of melee combat, choosing to close in on the enemy and face them at close range with cold steel.
- Vanquisher – Vanquishers are the long-range attackers using pistols, bows or crossbows to inflict greatest damage at range, killing most enemies before they can get close.
- Alchemist – Alchemists are the mage/wizard characters. Using the power of the Ember they are able to cast lightning and magic bolt spells, as well as summoning robotic and demonic companions to help.
When you create your character you choose the class you want to play; the look is unchangeable, even the gender cannot be changed. Destroyers and Alchemists are male, Vanquishers are female.
After selecting whether you want your pet to be a cat (leopard) or dog (wolf), and naming both yourself and your pet, you click to enter the game.
The graphics of Torchlight are big and bold, and they fit in well with this kind of a dungeon-crawler game. They’re not gonna stretch anyone’s graphics card by a long way, but they don’t need to.
There’s enough clarity and detail to highlight every monster and item littering even the busiest of areas. And don’t underestimate how chaotic it can get: monsters will even crawl out of holes and tunnels or drop from the ceiling, almost overwhelming your character on occasions.
Let’s be honest, this is a carbon copy of Diablo II. The graphics have been upgraded and drawn in a new style, but everything from the ‘town portal’ and ‘identify’ scrolls to the map overlay, from the inventory screen to the character development options screams Diablo. This is, to all purposes bar the graphics and the name, Diablo II.
But, let’s look at it in a different way. Diablo II was and still is a darn good game. There are many Diablo clones out there, but very few of them are as highly polished and well-developed as this one. Adding a Victorian style steam-punk sub-theme adds to the new approach. What you lose in originality and character development options you more than make up for in simple, but highly engaging and addictive gameplay.
Runic Games’ Torchlight is available for around £10 from various sources. I purchased mine from Steam for £7.99 and there’s even a free demo available if you want to try the first dungeon for free before taking the plunge.
Diablo III could take months before it’s released. And, if you ask me, that £10 is going to give you a lot more entertainment than it might otherwise suggest.