Torchlight Review (XBLA)
Platform Xbox 360
Developer Runic Games
Price 1200 Microsoft Points
Release Date March 9th 2011
Those three little words, “role-playing game”, can be used to describe a multitude of vastly differing virtual experiences and to truly describe yourself as a connoisseur of the genre commands open-mindedness and versatile tastes. As I booted up the Xbox port of Runic’s PC and Mac smash-hit RPG Torchlight, I knew my unashamed, unrelenting Final Fantasy fandom wasn’t going to get me very far.
Instead I was going to have to draw upon fond memories of a fleeting romance I shared with Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance about ten years ago, one of my very few dalliances with the hacking, slashing and looting role-playing games of old. This particular style of RPG is, more often than not, surprisingly accessible and Torchlight continues to buck that trend.
Torchlight’s opening scenes aren’t bogged down by any sort of overblown narrative; instead, after picking from a selection of three characters, choosing them a pet and giving them both names, you’re presented with a static picture of your protagonist, with a short passage of text setting the scene before the game begins in the titular mythical mining town of Torchlight.
It’s almost-shockingly understated compared to other styles of role-playing game, but it makes Torchlight all the easier to pick up and play, rather than getting so turned around by what’s going on in the flashy, over-the-top opening cinematic that you get upset and switch it off.
Torchlight’s plot gravitates around Ember, a mysterious ore possessing magical properties. It can be used to bestow powerful abilities upon people, or add devastating attributes to weapons and other items. The town of Torchlight just happens to be situated on top of an especially rich fount of Ember, attracting adventurers from the four corners of the world. However, a discovery soon exposes the dark effects Ember can have and the great dangers posed by its modern-day use.
Instantly, the game is very similar to Diablo – no surprise considering co-producers Erich and Max Schaefer are two of Torchlight’s leading developers. It’s viewed from an isometric perspective and features dungeons as well as town areas with non-playable characters to interact with.
Anyone with anything remotely interesting to say will be denoted by an exclamation mark, those offering quests and missions are marked with a larger yellow exclamation mark, or a money bag for merchants. However, it won’t be long until you’re plunged into your first random dungeon and begin plundering treasures while kicking some serious insect/goblin/demon ass.
Combat is easy to get to grips with and varies pretty wildly depending on which character you select. The Destroyer is a walking battle tank specialising in combat, while the Alchemist can’t soak up as many hits but is an effective sorcerer more than happy to pulverise beasts into a fine paste with his array of enchantments. The Vanquisher on the other hand, favours traps and ranged weaponry to dispatch foes without having to get up close and personal.
Console ports of PC and Mac titles often suffer from poor translation and control issues. Torchlight, on the other hand, has made an incredibly smooth transition to the Xbox 360. Spells and abilities can be mapped to the Y and B buttons and the triggers for speedy use during battle, while health and mana potions can be consumed with a simple tap of the left or right bumper.
Disposing of enemies in the field will earn you experience points, displayed on a handy meter at the bottom of the screen. Each time you gain a level you’ll be awarded points you can use to build up your stats and learn new, more powerful skills. Enemies haemmorhage gold and loot, some of it useful, some not-so. Aside from watching your character get stronger and richer by the minute, it’s this collection aspect that makes a game like Torchlight so addictive.
Torchlight is a lovely looking game in a typically cute and charming isometric RPG sense. It’s nothing spectacular but the environments and characters are perfectly pleasant to look at, while the magic and explosion effects are very nicely executed. The soundtrack is effective and fits in well with the swords-and-sorcery theme of the game. Technically, Torchlight is fairly solid, though it suffers from slight frame-rate dips and stutters when the action gets especially frantic, but with so many enemies on screen at these times, it’s hardly surprising.
Torchlight, much like the games that inspired it, will appeal to a certain niche of gamers. Those that view Fallout 3 as a masterpiece of modern gaming, but in the same breath will turn their nose up at Final Fantasy will almost-definitely find Torchlight an unpleasantly mind-boggling experience, comparatively accessible though it may be. Likewise, fans of BioWare’s Mass Effect that couldn’t get to grips with its bedfellow Dragon Age will probably come to a similar conclusion.
However, if you poured – or are indeed still pouring – hundreds upon hundreds of hours into Diablo, be prepared to lose a few hundred more on Torchlight. Some may find it repetitive, others will find it hopelessly addictive. The price may seem excessive, but underneath the RPG-lite exterior, random dungeons and three different character classes make Torchlight a lot of bang for your buck.
+ Bold, bright visuals.
+ Slaughtering beasts and looting their corpses is seriously addictive.
+ Randomised dungeons keep exploration fresh and exciting.
- No character creation.
- The 1200 MSP price-point can be a real turn-off.
Torchlight is available now for Xbox 360 via the Xbox Live Arcade, for PC or Mac via Steam or direct from Runic Games official Torchlight website.