Three playable characters: a brute, an archer, and a mage. A town atop an endless dungeon that’s randomly stitched together as you play. Hundreds of enemies that die in a torrent of clicks. Scrolls. Health and magic potions. Quests. Leveling. Loot. More loot.
Diablo is the obvious comparison you could draw with this combat-heavy RPG, but Torchlight is more than a clone. This is like a super-clone with psychic powers. Choose a character. Choose a companion cat or a dog. Enjoy a quaint cutscene, and then wonder where your evening went. The enemies come thick and fast: rat-men, zombies, tree monsters, lizards, spiders, phantoms. Watch as the loot flies. You’ll ditch your starter wand and start dual-wielding handguns. No wait, a flaming wand and an icy maul. Or a crossbow that electrocutes people and leeches health. The game cobbles together item stats and effects on the fly, so you can pick up far worse than that.
If you get too much loot, you can send your pet to the surface to sell some. He’s a handy little companion to bring dungeon crawling: he can wear trinkets, learn spells, and be switched between aggressive, defensive and passive modes. You can also catch mutated fish and feed them to your pet to turn it into a spider or a goblin for a minute.
Torchlight starts out easy. Within minutes you’re swimming in restorative potions and helpful scrolls. The difficulty ramps up comfortably after about four hours, and you’ll finish the main quest in about twenty. The quests are casual, the fun never stops, and the loot keeps coming.
Also, it’s gorgeous. Bold colors, charismatic design, good voice actors, and a Lord-of-the-Strings-with-acoustic-guitar soundtrack. It’s not silly, but it’s fun. It’s not adult, but it’s mature. It’s simple. It’s bloody compulsive.
It’s also a little under confident. Diablo used an isometric camera because it only had the resources to show the world from one angle. Torchlight renders the entire world in every direction, but the camera clings stubbornly to the same viewpoint. Why? Romanticizing over the good old isometric days doesn’t seem to gel with the fresh approach that Torchlight offers.
There’s no doubt this plays better, looks better, and is entirely better crafted than some thoughtless Diablo carbon-copy. Take the item lottery, where you pay for loot without knowing what enchantments it might have. You can find magical gems to insert into your items, and then people to smash the weapons so you can get them out again. You can retire your old characters to enable perks for new ones. You can share loot between characters. Many quests and secret items open up isolated one-shot dungeons for quick sessions. There’s a lot to love.
Torchlight is like a quilt. It’s functional. It’s pretty. It’s got personality and sentiment. It’s made with extreme care from bits and pieces of old things: you can see the joints. Torchlight does more than just hang flesh on the bones of Diablo, but it is doing that. It’s easily worth the price, but it could have been a revolution. It’s not, but it is an accomplished resurrection.
Nov 4, 2009