Release Date: March 9, 2011
Platform: PC, XBLA, Xbox 360
Price: 1200 Microsoft points ($15)
I’ll admit I was a bit jealous of PC gamers when Torchlight originally released in late 2009. Hack-and-slash dungeon crawlers have always been something of an interest for me since the original Diablo but it’s a difficult genre to keep up with without a decent gaming rig. Thankfully Runic Games brought Torchlight to Xbox Live Arcade, and us console gamers no longer have to miss out on this gem of a game.
Admittedly, Torchlight doesn’t do much to push the genre forward. It is, however, an experience which has been polished to a sterling shine. The usual formula applies: a lone adventurer shows up in town and gets sucked into whatever catostrophic issue its inhabitants are experiencing. Solving their problem requires descent into a deep, sprawling labyrinth filled with aggressive and deadly monsters. It is also stuffed with ancient weapons and powerful pieces of armor.
That’s right — like any good dungeon crawler, Torchlight places a lot of weight on loot collection. There are so many options when it comes to suiting your character in terms of both build and quantity that it’s almost dizzying. In fact, it’s hard to go twenty steps without finding something to pick up. Crowds of enemies drop piles of items and there are chests and armor racks everywhere.
There are three types of gear to equip yourself with: weapons, armor and jewelry. The weapon types are surprisingly diverse, with swords, axes, maces and guns to choose from. It’s up to you to decide whether you’ll be a long-range type that always uses a bow or a dual-wielding sword swinger. It likely depends on which of the three character classes you pick — the Destroyer is the traditional barbarian type and benefits greatly from melee attacks, while the Vanquisher is better suited keeping a distance form the fray.
The most exciting thing to find, surprisingly, is armor. Different pieces can drastically alter your character’s appearance. There were plenty of times I found a more potent item but didn’t equip it until I really needed to because it was ugly. There are also themed sets that add extra bonuses when equipped with other pieces of the same type. You can also equip two rings and one necklace at a time. The jewelry is, unsurprisingly, the least involved aspect of equipment management. They’re really just there to boost stats, and while they’re helpful, they mostly go unnoticed.
Items sometimes come with slots which can be filled with ember, yet another item enemies and chests will drop. Doing so can change the attributes of your equipment, adding things like frost or poison damage, or increased attack power. It only adds to the already staggering amount of customization you’re given access to, helping you create a character that is all your own.
Creating a character you like is important because you’ll be spending a lot of time with him or her in the game’s randomly generated levels. The main missions last for quite some time, and then there’s all sorts of sidequests and extra objectives that add to the playclock as well. While it would have been nice if there were more area specific traps and hazards as well as different area skins, it didn’t stop time from going by quickly while playing. Looking at the clock after what felt like 20 minutes was actually almost always an hour or longer. The game is also a little on the easy side on the normal difficulty setting as well, so experienced adventurers may want to up the challenge level for a more fulfilling journey.
The gameplay itself is simple, but that’s a halmark of the genre. It’s never been about the depth of the combat — it’s more about the breadth of your belongings. And it’s in this regard Torchlight is an unmitigated success.