Torchlight (PC) Review

Author: Sean Ridgeley
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Sunday, November 1st, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (
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It doesn't take an expert to see the PC gaming landscape has changed significantly since around 2000. While then exclusives and traditional-style games were frequent and did quite well, consoles were really coming into their own as PC game piracy was popularized.

It's been in a rough road since then, and while we do still get exclusives and PC-centric titles, it's not too often. While we don't entirely agree, developer of the new action RPG Torchlight Runic Games said PC devs have been "investing too much money into too elaborate projects that are too speculative and too risky" which has made publishers scared to "really do anything" on the platform.

Torchlight appears to be a direct result of this view, bearing the tried and true action RPG formula (gobs of loot, skill trees, classes, etc.) but with a 'bang for buck' minimalistic design approach and a cartoon-like coat of paint. I'd been curious from the start, particularly with the $20 pricetag, though just as apprehensive due to the art style. Thankfully, after many play sessions it can be said the look really doesn't take away from the game, rather it gives its own appealing flavour, so wary gamers should be able to dig in with everyone else.

Normally the story portion would go here, but to be entirely honest, it has about as much as a fighting game, and what is there is generic, serving only to give you an excuse to loot and smash your way through 30 floors of enemies (not counting the infinite or side-dungeons). Indeed, Torchlight is very much about the action; depending on your preferences, this will be exactly what you want, or something that runs dry after five or ten hours (the core game runs about 20). I found myself more in the latter camp, but for those still playing the Diablo series (which much of the team here developed), you'll probably be in the former.

After picking your character (the warrior class "Destroyer", the gunswoman/archer class "Vanquisher" or the magician class "Alchemist"), you find yourself in the town of Torchlight, which serves as the game's hub. In here you'll find all you need to pack your inventory with from the merchants, and also routes to either the main quest or optional ones; as mentioned, the design is minimalistic, and there is no wandering to other towns as such.

Like the team's previous creation, Fate, a pet tags along with you (cat or dog), which attacks enemies (with magic and/or as a monster of your choice if you feed it caught fish), picks up loot, and will also run back to town if you're in the middle of a dungeon to sell your items (talented pet). As the Alchemist you're later able to summon a robot golem at will which makes quite a pair with your pet if you prefer not to trek solo.

Difficulty comes in four flavours; we picked Very Hard and concur it's lying (definitely challenging, though); there's also the traditional Hardcore mode (death is permanent), which can be applied to any difficulty.

Upon taking to the dungeons, the smashing begins. For the next 20-30 hours about, you'll be taking down goblins, zombies, skeletons, elementals, enormous lurching trees, massive spiders, and all the classic RPG foes you know so well, in between snatching up tons of loot and customizing your character's armor, weapons and skills -- each has their own class-specific set of skills, though some are shared. For those that prefer a mage class like us, when you've got your pet, your golem, two sets of minions out and are throwing gigantic searing fireballs at a crowd of enemies in between bursts of your rapid-fire spell of choice while refilling your mana, you'll know what Torchlight is about.

There's no real exploration or puzzle-solving happening in the dungeons, so for us the experience began to run a bit dry, though typically when this feeling kicked in a new level was reached, and with that came some new spells to toy with (get "Ember Lance" as soon as possible if you go with the Alchemist, it turns you into a bonafide Cyclops); some work particularly well together, giving the gameplay more depth.

All in all, it's probably not the kind of game you'll find yourself thinking about when not playing it, but likely one you'll have a blast with when playing, whether for one floor or ten. While Torchlight doesn't really bring anything new to the genre, its offer is simple: a solid, accessible -- in system requirements and playability -- action RPG package for a cheap price and with a sure to be thriving modding community.


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