|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Runic Games|
|Pub: Perfect World Entertainment|
|Release: March 09, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Steve Haske
Loot—in the late 90s, a single word would come to define an entire modern genre, not to mention the generation of gamers who experienced it. Nearly all of those who did were instantly sucked in, eschewing the typical tenets of an action RPG for a game that valued new gear—increasingly powerful weapons, armor and supplemental materials (not to mention ever-rarer and more valuable items)—essentially re-purposing the balance and weight of the genre's design. This was (and remains) an addictive rush, because you never know what the next marauding cave troll or skeleton is going to drop. It's a design that's worked so well its ripples have permeated into games as disparate as Fallout and Castlevania. But if you're reading this, you probably already know that.
Interestingly, the Diablo bug never really bit me. That isn't to say that the game isn't good or that I've never played it. I was just too busy with Half-Life, Team Fortress, and JRPGs at the time. I've been wondering what all the hubbub was about since its release. Looking back on it, I guess it's just the console limitation that's kept me from getting into loot-RPGs. I have enjoyed the occasional Roguelike, the no-nonsense cousin of the Diablo clone that prefers old-school Active Time Battle to straight-up action RPG. Even with Torchlight gracing XBLA, the genre is still terribly underrepresented. However, Torchlight is a well-made game, and if you like Diablo there's little here to dislike.
Runic, which is actually made up of ex-Blizzard staffers, clearly know what they're doing, and they make no pretense about immediately showing you exactly what Torchlight is all about. (Hint: it starts with an L and ends in a T.) The titular town of Torchlight has been overrun with monsters because of the ember its workers are harvesting from the mines, or something like that. The narrative is as bare-bones as you can get, but again, that's not why we're all here now, is it? You won't spend all that much time in Torchlight anyway, as it's basically just a hub with all the requisites (merchants, a storage container, extra quests) for you to take a breather in-between dungeons. Despite being the game's namesake, you probably won't even remember the place exists until you reach a portal that takes you back. The auto-saving is unbelievably merciful, and since your pet (yes, you get a pet—in your face, Molyneux) can actually go back to town when you're in the middle of a dungeon to sell everything in your inventory—a fantastic innovation that only feeds the loot-monkey that will inevitably develop on your back within the first twenty minutes of playing the game—you won't need to return to Torchlight that much at all unless you want to re-supply. One could almost never leave, if all their concerns were entirely loot-focused, which for most players they probably will be.
The game has made the leap to consoles pretty well. The controls have been streamlined to allow mapped abilities for most of the shoulder and face buttons, meaning you'll be spamming x instead of your mouse, and the game's "Saturday Morning Diablo" aesthetic looks great running on the 360, replete with brightly colored spells and big enemy hordes made up of various beasties. Menus are kept to a minimum, although much like Borderlands (which in turn borrowed the idea from Diablo itself), you'll be going into your inventory a lot and swapping out weapons and equipment for more powerful stuff that enemies drop. Between the three classes' (warrior, mage and rogue, or thief types) distributable experience and varying skill trees, you can tailor your own Torchlight experience however you want, but the real draw is of course experiencing the increasing progression of your own power through loot drops. The deeper customizable stuff is there if you want it, but at the end of the day as long as your stats are going up when you choose to re-up on equipment, you'll be enjoying yourself. There's nothing like ripping a giant foe to shreds in a matter of seconds, no matter what kind of gamer you are.
Everyone's experience with Torchlight will be a little bit different, but the difficulty probably won't be that much of an issue, at least at first. Part of it comes down to the luck of the draw, and you'll often end up with equipment too powerful to use right away. The difficulty balance of the game is clearly intentional, though, because Runic doesn't want anything to get in the way of your neverending quest for loot. In the first six or eight hours of the game, in fact, I didn't die once—chances are that this will be the same outcome for any skilled gamer, despite the sheer egregiousness of on-screen enemies that can swarm you for skirmishes that can last around ten minutes (usually only during boss battles, but still). Rest assured, though, the game has no shortage of enemies, which means it has no shortage of loot. This is the goal that will drive you ever deeper in Torchlight's dank dungeon chambers.
Reviewing a game like Torchlight is almost unnecessary. Diablo clones are hardly a new concept, and with the rave reviews this particular one received last year, it's kind of a given that its second iteration would be good—you could almost just get away with saying that the transfer from PC to console is smooth and works well. However, if you're a console-owning fan of the genre, this is still great news. Just be wary of loot addiction and you'll be fine.
CCC Freelance Writer