Runic Games’ single player action RPG, Torchlight, is a Diablo-like hack and slash that brought back feelings of nostalgia and warm fuzzies for fans of the genre. Initially released for PC in 2009 and later for the Xbox 360 in 2011, it won over old fans of the genre and brought in new fans as well. Everyone is on the edge of their seat for Torchlight 2’s September 20th release, but what about its predecessor? It’s been nearly four years since Torchlight was first released; it received mostly positive reviews, but how does it hold up today?
In the world of Torchlight you must venture down the dungeons in the small town to uncover the strange events in the mines below. Beneath the town is a magical ore called Ember that has some pretty strange effects on the citizens that come in contact with it.
When you arrive in Torchlight you meet Syl who asks you to help find her mentor, Master Alric, who has recently disappeared. Along the way you meet people affected by the ember and find the items that it infuses its powers into. As you go through the story you discover the secrets behind the Ember, its powers, and what it really does.
The story is clever and interesting, but the pacing is a bit slow as the plot is uncovered in chunks as you progress. The plot is solid enough to give you a reason to play, but it’s easy to get lost in the gameplay without feeling engaged in the story.
There are three character classes to choose from: Destroyer, Alchemist, and Vanquisher. The Destroyer is essentially a warrior, capable of great destruction with melee weapons. The Alchemist has a variety of spells in his arsenal and has the ability to summon minions. The Vanquisher is akin to a ranger and uses long range weapons to defeat foes.
The characters are pretty customizable, and in the end each one ends up being on par with the others. For instance, the Destroyer can eventually gain the same summon spells as the Alchemist. They are naturally best at their given class, but you have the opportunity to make a well-rounded character that is capable of handling themselves in any situation. On the flip side, it can feel a little pointless since they end up with essentially the same spells and abilities towards the end of the game.
Pets in Torchlight are surprisingly effective and helpful. They have their own pack with a variety of armor and spells to choose from. They will make their return in the sequel, so it will be interesting to see how co-op affects their role as a battle companion.
The game runs nicely on the OGRE Engine and has an interesting stylized comic book look. The art style was intended to be less dark and more light fantasy, but honestly I prefer a little grit with my dungeon crawlers. The art style is beautiful, but something about it has always felt a little awkward and childish to me. The soundtrack is nice, but there really isn’t much variation between the tracks, so after long sessions can be kind of dull.
Torchlight is definitely a polished game that is tons of fun to play. Luckily, Runic Games heard the fans loud and clear and will be bringing multiplayer co-op to the sequel. Torchlight 2 will also feature new character classes, a revamped interface, and an open world with randomized dungeons and loot. These are definitely all welcome improvements (and the new concept art and screenshots look amazing) but Torchlight is still an enjoyable hack and slash experience worth your time and money.