You know that magical moment when you strap on your wings and fly out of the Knossos prisons, knowing that there is no power on earth that can catch you and drag you back? Well that’s what it felt like when I finally finished Diablo… I mean Torchlight.
I was meant to have this review ready a week ago, but I did not expect the 20 hours of game play this game provided as I hacked, slashed, magicked and looted my way down through 35 literal levels of the Dia… Torchlight mines, single-handedly causing more death than those 300 Spartans combined… multiplied by a billion. Nor did I expect the additional five hours of grinding it took me increase my level, improve my skills and bring my equipment up to the necessary standard required the defeat the ridiculously-difficult final game boss.
So after 25 hours of my life gone towards a single play-through of this game, I certainly have a lot to write about. And while the first two paragraphs don’t paint this game in a great light, it was, overall, a good game. It is very much so a Diablo clone with a couple of additions and omissions that make it just different enough to enjoy. I mentioned in my Brief Write about Garshasp that I preferred Indie games to be innovative as opposed to copy-cat, especially since AAA games have the potential to be much better. But Torchlight seems to be an exception to this, especially with the recent dud release of Diablo 3 as a comparison.
I’ll go through this game aspect by aspect, starting with the story line which is set in the slightly steam punk themed mining town of Torchlight, a town situated upon a large Ember mine… and then there’s earthquakes and monster attacks coming from the mine…. and an old dwarf city… ok, the storyline kind of gets lost in the large amount of game play and is offered in small journal entries that occur every now and then. While the story isn’t presented very well, it isn’t that bad. Basically Torchlight is a small town that attracts adventurers because of its output of ‘Ember’, a mine-able source of magic which creates magical artefacts and items. But the Ember is corrupted by an initially unknown source, causing earthquakes and creatures of the mine to attack the town. There’s also two side story-lines about a woman named Syl searching for her mentor, an Alchemist named Alric and yourself being corrupted by the the Ember, both seemingly tacked on.
But I loved the main storyline for its subtle, satirical quality. A hub-based, hack/slash and loot game set in the town where all those items you’re ever looking for are created. Until you solve the problem and finish the quest, no more magical items can be created, putting a temporary halt to all hack/slash and loot genre. And on that note, the unfortunate reality is that I’m not a fan of this genre of the games in general (though I loved Diablo 2). They’re essentially your standard MMORPG with less content, less quests and less other humans. On the plus side, they’re generally more story-driven, less grinding, more interesting skills sets and less other humans.
Character creation is a simple affair. You have three separate classes, the Destroyer (melee warrior), the Vanquisher (a ranged specialist) or the Alchemist (magic person). You also choose your name and whether you pet is a cat or a dog. Each class has a lot of variety to them so you can adjust your play-style. I chose the Alchemist, a dog and off I went to the town of Torchlight. It’s pretty quick to throw you into the mines where you descend down five levels/floors, face a boss fight, a plot point and a change in scenery, monsters and difficulty. And then this repeats every 5 levels about 6 times until you reach the end of the game. This colourful version of Diablo became quite monotonous with the only drive to play the game being levelling up, getting some awesome loot and in my case, beating the game so I can write this review. I feel they could have had only seven slightly larger levels and still had the same game.
The game has a decent difficulty scale until you reach about level 25 where suddenly the difficulty spikes and all those skill points you invested in summoning “Nether Imps” are now useless as they now act merely as kindling for the dragon-spawn you’re facing. The issue with these kind of games is that there’s generally only one good build for each class, and in the case of this game, without that good build, you’re going to struggle. And the real clincher is that there’s no way to reset your skill-points without having to install mods or play around with the console.
Eventually I reached the final boss of the game, leaving a trail of monster bodies in my wake and realised very quickly via the “glancing blows” and that micro-metre of health loss that I was nowhere near powerful enough to beat the boss. After doing some “research” on the interweb, I discovered that most people beat the game at ten levels above what I currently was with better items and a completely different skill set. And hours of grinding later, I finally beat the boss (who dropped shit-all loot) and returned to Torchlight, where the only real change was that now I had access to the endless, randomly generated dungeon called the Shadow Lair, and two new NPCs that gave quests pertaining to said Shadow Lair, none of which did not appeal to me after the the grinding I had to go through to finish the main story.
There are also heaps of side-quests to complete, though they come in 3 varieties, all given by the same quest-givers.
- Kill unique, epic-level creature for reward.
- Recover quest item (a type of Ember located in one of the dungeons) for reward.
- Teleport to isolated dungeon to recover quest item… for reward.
I gave up on going out of my way for these about halfway through which was probably a mistake in retrospect since I wasn’t a high enough level by the time I got to the boss.
This game does have several great features which almost redeems it for most of its short-comings. The first one being you get a pet! A pet which has it’s own stats; a couple of specific item slots; the ability to cast two different spell scrolls which you can find in the world; the ability to change into different creatures upon consumption of fish (there’s a fishing mini-game); and most important of all, your pet has its own inventory where you can store items and then send it into town to trade for gold, hence creating a way to avoid returning to town every time your backpack is full and the keeping the game flowing.
Another great aspect of the game is the community mod support, most of which can be found here. While I prefer not to use mods when playing a game for the first time, this great texture mod made the game much more visually appealing, adding to its WoW-esque, yet still unique appearance.
Though here’s some warnings:
- Be prepared to click and hold down ALT a lot (for those items). If crashing into the Icarian Sea has caused certain fingers on your left hand to develop joint problems, this game might literally hurt.
- Some skills are practically redundant, especially later in the game, so do a bit of research before you play on the classes and look up some builds that other people have used.
- Hope you like numbers, because sometimes it’s all about gaining that extra three points of defence.
Overall, I still enjoyed this game and I was glad it was hard in the end, despite having to grind my way towards it, an easy boss defeat would have been disappointing. The art style is fun, the powers are all fairly unique and if you really enjoyed it, you can keep playing after finishing the game without feeling like you’re repeating too much. I admit, the only reason I reviewed it so I can get stuck into Torchlight 2, a game which will hopefully improve on the first and have a decent, much-advertised multi-player system.