Torchlight XBLA - hands-on with the best Diablo game that isn't

If you’re an Xbox 360 player and haven’t heard of Torchlightprepare to get some quick educationabout the game that may soon be breaking XBLA sales records. After selling over 800,000 downloadable copies (and raking in a cool bit of cash with it), the developers at Runic Games made the seemingly logical choice to port their Diablo-style action RPG over to the Xbox 360 and introduce another horde of gamers to its dungeon delving delights.

Obviously, a 360 has no keyboard and mouse, so the control scheme for Torchlight was completely overhauled. The cursor? It’s gone. Combat is now much more in line with games like Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath. Anytime you swing a melee weapon near a group of enemies you automatically do damage to anything in your weapon’s range of attack (“hit box”, if you wanna get technical). This makes tearing through enemies feel much more visceral than the PC version’s point-and-click combat; you feel more like a frenzied berserker, laying waste to the hordes of enemies that come clambering at you from the darkness.

On the ranged combat side of the gold coin, you’ll see a red coloring around your primary target that will indicate which of the monsters you’ll be destroying first. While that sort of set-up may seem like a detriment to the musket shooters among you – and I’ll readily admit I was a skeptic – the ability to kite monsters and keep them at a distance was actually easier than in the PC version (thanks to the joystick) and the autotargeting system works without getting in the way of your actual gameplay experience. It’s a winning combination that looks and feels right for the Torchlight player.

There are a whole score of other features that have been altered or added to the Xbox 360 version of Torchlight, ranging from an improved animation system to the ability to hold the triggers to throw items farther. Nothing has been omitted (except secondary weapon sets which weren’t working well with the gamepad), but these too have been tweaked to accommodate the lack of a keyboard. For example, skills like Nether Imp, which requires you to target a corpse with the mouse cursor, can now be cast when there’s a corpse close for you to fire off the skill. It automatically detects nearby corpses and summons your imp for you.

Statistics and other upgradable player choices have been altered in a similar fashion. All of the normal stats still exist in the game, but there are some new options that can do things like influence the amount of splash damage that a melee weapon creates. There’s also a completely revamped user interface that doesn’t have “item slots” (ignores stack counts), new art and navigation, and four active mapped skills at a time and an alternate set that you can select by using the d-pad. There will be force feedback implemented for quakes, strikes, low health heartbeats, and tugs on the fishing line. And if you asked us for some of our most-anticipated additions, we’d list off the auto-mapping, the new armor sets, and the new pet – the Chakawary.

Given all of the updates, enhancements, and modifications going into the port of Torchlight, it seems clear Runic Games is really doing what is appropriate to make Torchlight usable and – best of all – fun for the Xbox 360 gamer. The only bad thing is that there’s no word yet of a PS3 version – this looks good enough that everyone should get a piece.

Jan 18, 2010