I've played a lot of Diablo clones in my time as a gamer, although I have admittedly never played the game itself. Torchlight could easily fall under that banner of Diablo clone, due to it's top-down action RPG gameplay. However, I feel this game has a very different charm to it. The graphical style is very different, the game is in fact almost Warcraft-esque in it's aesthetics. The game was released back in October 2009, and the art style it uses means it does not age at all. I discovered this game through the Steam Summer sale, one of many purchases I was enticed into. It is developed and published in-house by Runic Games, whom to my knowledge have not produced any other title. It also comes as no surprise that the team is comprised of designers and leads from the Diablo, Diablo II, Mythos and Fate teams.
The game's gorgeous particle effects add to it's overall aesthetics.
As you would expect from an RPG such as this, you are given a choice of class at the begining of the game. There are three gender-locked classes: The Alchemist, The Vanquisher and The Destroyer. Each class then has three seperate skill trees. These classes do have a lot of customization. The Vanquisher is a more exciting name for the classic Hunter or Rogue class, specialising mainly in ranged weapons, but may also use more exotic weapons or even dual wield. The Alchemist is the mage of the trio, and the Destroyer is the classic Warrior or Tank class.
The game is set in the village of Torchlight. It is essentially a dungeon crawler, with the player going deeper and deeper into the mines beneath the village. You soon discover that and power of Ember is present in the mountain - a mineral that appears to taint anyone who comes into contact with it. The storyline sees you hunting down the game's arch villains, Alric and Ordrak whilst being pointed in the right direction by your companion Syl. There isn't much to say really - as you go deeper and deeper into the mines, you come across different types of area and stronger enemies.
A familiar statistic and inventory scene. A friendly sight for the common RPG player.
The game's equipment system is very interesting and involves an element of luck. Weapons, armour and trinkets that you find can be taken to an Enchanter in Torchlight, who for a price will add a random enchantment to your equipment. However, the more enchantments you add the higher the chance that all enchantments will be removed. This can lead to some devastating moments when that Epic Rapier of Epicness you spent days upgrading becomes useless. However, it does add a sense of dynamics to the game's equipment system. In a lot of RPGs you often find yourself finding one weapon which seems to be more powerful than anything else in the game, and so you stick with the same weapon forever. But, what if you could make it even better? Then if it loses it's enchantments, its going to be time to hunt down a new weapon. Other interesting features include the Ember that you can find in the mines. These can be put into slots on weapons and armour to add extra effects. There is a transmuter in the village that can fuse items together - such as multiple potions to make stronger ones. He can also fuse together Ember that is of the same type, to amplify it's effect.
As with all RPGs of this nature, it becomes very compelling to continue playing once you start gathering better equipment and reaching higher levels. So far I've put in around 17 hours of playtime with a Vanquisher character, and I have no intent of stopping anytime soon. This is something else I want to address about this game, and in fact about this genre. When playing an Action RPG it is easy to become so compelled to get better equipment and level up - you often ignore the overall experience the game is offering. Torchlight's gameplay is actually very fun, the combat has a certain 'feel' to it that makes you want to play it more. Think of an FPS for example, the gameplay experience relies heavily on the 'feel' of the weapons you are firing, do they feel powerful? Does it feel like you're having an impact? This is what Torchlight appears to do extremely well, the weapons seem powerful and the combat seems slick and fluid. This helps to prevent the player from simply playing to get better loot - it helps to enjoy the experience. As an avid player of MMORPGs in my time, I know that a lot of RPG developers forget about the game experience and focus far too much on the metagame of levels and equipment.
Overall, I would highly recommend this title. Even if you've never played an action RPG before, this game is very easy to just pick up and play. The mechanics are simply and very compelling, and there's none of this 'grind' that RPGs seem to impose on players. My only criticism of the game - and something I hope is included in Torchlight II which is currently being developed - is that there is no multiplayer. I can see that this would not fit the gameplay mechanics being used, but a modern game like this would benefit HUGELY from a multiplayer scene. Games like Dungeon Siege III have attempted to do so, although admittedly the multiplayer was not as good as it could have been. Perhaps this is just the MMO addict in me showing through, but then this is the only criticism I can find for this title.
Gameplay: Slick, fluid and compelling - 10/10
Music: The OST is rather limited, but it sets the scene well - 6/10
Graphics: An age-less aesthetic that fits the general feel of the game perfectly - 9/10