Torchlight is one of those games which came out of nowhere and turned out to be very enjoyable. I didn’t really expect all that much from it, but since I got it in a sale I was willing to take a risk. Since then I’ve recommended the game to quite a few friends, despite some of it’s obvious flaws. So what makes this fast-paced hack and slash dungeon crawler so enjoyable?
Your first order of business is to select one of the three classes available. The Destroyer is pretty much a melee warrior with some pretty nifty abilities. When playing this your play style involves steamrolling through large crowds of monsters. The second class is the Vanquisher, which can be roughly seen as a hunter/rogue hybrid. Your play style involves ranged weapons and setting traps. Third is the Alchemist class, which is your standard RPG mage.
This class selection appears very simply at first glance, but there are many skills to choose from and you can thus experiment with different builds. Each build can provide you with a completely different experience in terms of combat style, and on top of this you get a sidekick pet right from the start. Purists will be pleased that you can name your pet as well – and is not just for show. You will find that your pet is incredibly useful throughout the game.
Once you’ve selected your character, you will arrive in the mining town of Torchlight. First thing you will notice is the art style, which is very cartoonish but does the job extremely well. The huge advantage of this graphics style is that Torchlight runs on about any computer out today, and even comes with a netbook mode. In town, you have various npc’s and vendors at your disposal, whom provide the usual quests and ability to sell your loot.
Within a matter of minutes you will find yourself entering the dungeons for the first time, which is where Torchlight really shines. Dungeons are randomly generated from tile-sets, and the designers have provided a fairly nice amount of sets to play with. During the course of your quests you will delve deeper and deeper, and the scenery around you will change accordingly. Controls and combat will feel second nature after just a few moments of playing, being simple yet enjoyable.
Throughout your exploits you will find absolutely tons and tons of loot, following the usual well-known colour scheme to determine rarity. You will soon find yourself smile every time you find a unique or set-item. In particularly the latter are extremely rare and useful. In town you have the ability to share loot between your characters by means of a shared stash, so keeping the set-items is highly recommended. Your character has a nice amount of slots to equip equipment and weapons and your pet can equip a necklace and two rings as well.
This is where your pet comes in handy. It’s not just following you around, but actively engages in combat. You can buff your pet through various skills when you level, and you can feed it fish to trans-morph it into a great number of different monsters. You can even teach your pet 2 spells by dragging scrolls onto it – which the pet will then cast whenever it has mana. Personally, I like giving my pet crowd control and heal all spells – creating my own personal healer. Another favorite is to give the pet scrolls of summoning, thereby giving it a personal army. It’s a really nice touch that further increases the enjoyment you will get from the game.
You can further enhance your characters equipment through socket-able gems and enchants. An item can be enchanted up to 10 times, which significantly improves it’s capabilities, but there’s a catch. Each time you enchant an item there is a chance that all effects are wiped, so you take a bit of a gamble. Gems can be found or purchased, and transmuted using an NPC in town into higher level gems. These give various additional bonuses to your items, and it’s well worth working towards those high level gems.
One of the more frustrating elements of dungeon crawlers is that your backpack tends to overflow and you’re left with continues inventory management work. Torchlight has you covered there through the means of town portal scrolls, which open a 2-way portal to town. This allows you to open a portal to town, jump through it to sell your loot/hand quests in and then jump back through. Another, even more lovely touch is the ability to give your pet various bits and bobs of unwanted items and then send it to town by itself. The pet will travel to town, sell your items, and return back to you a few minutes later. Very creative from the designers, more games should think of little touches like that.
There’s also a great degree of re-playability, by the inclusion of a ‘hardcore’ mode which can be activated for any difficulty level. In this mode your death is permanent, making the game a challenge to play through. Once you finish the main quest, you get access to another dungeon which goes very, very deep indeed (infinite, though eventually the monsters will be too strong for your equipment as the equipment no longer gets better after a certain point). Combine this with a maximum character level of 100 and the ability to retire (after finishing the main quest) and heirloom items to the next generation, and you’ve got quite a few possibilities. Next generations get an additional skill point right from the start, so you can work towards getting deeper into the infinite dungeon each generation if you would desire so.
The designers have provided a fully featured editor with the game, and made it highly moddable, so there’s quite a modding community already at work. This was a smart move for a game like Torchlight, as it greatly enhances the experience many players will get. There are various mods which remove some of the more frustrating elements (like fishing… ) or add new aspects to the game. It’s well worth looking at once you’ve finished the game at least once and experienced it in it’s true form.
So does Torchlight actually do anything new that other games haven’t done already? Not really – besides from some clever little design elements like the pets, Torchlight is just another hack and slash dungeon crawler. It’s an incredibly simple game, with a relatively short main story as well. Surprisingly though, it’s also an incredible lot of FUN. This is the main ingredient often missing in games like this, and since Torchlight runs on practically any machine and is relatively inexpensive (can be purchased for under £10 on Amazon), I would highly recommend you give it a go.