The founders of Runic Games merged the talents of developers that worked on games such as Mythos, Fate, and Blizzard’s epic series Diablo. Clearly looking to recreate the magic and addictiveness of the Diablo action/RPG dungeon crawl, Runic blessed PC gamers with Torchlight back in 2009. Since that point, Torchlight has become the favorite stepson of the Diablo saga by holding true to what made the game so much fun. So when it was announced that Torchlight would find be making its way to Xbox Live Arcade as an Xbox 360 exclusive, the console world buzzed with anticipation. But, with the need to redesign the controls to utilize a controller, would Runic manage to thumbstick their way into XBLA greatness?
I can without a doubt answer with a resounding HELL YEAH! Simply put, Torchlight is one of the most addictive and deep pick up and play games you’ll ever find on XBLA. I was a bit unsure of how using X for attack and most every other button for spells and special attacks would feel but it works out quite well. Point and click PC experts will enjoy the new controls on this console version as they compliment the goal of simplicity the game was designed for. Using the thumbstick to act as the direction of a spell or swing feels quite natural and the auto targeting based on the direction you point is quite accurate. The force feedback or rumble of the controller makes attacks and critical hits so much more satisfying as you feel the thump of your awesomeness through the controller as your character deals it out. In fact, if you’ve ever played Champions of Norrath or Dark Alliance then you know how this game feels and plays. These controls make the combat and action fast and furious.
It’s been a while since a console game came within a candle light of the addictiveness of Diablo. Of course, pulling some of the great minds that helped create both Diablo and Diablo 2 may have had something to do with that. The biggest reason for Diablo’s success is one that Torchlight brilliantly adopts and expands upon…the loot. In Torchlight, every skull-bashing kill has the potential to drop gold and magical or unique gear. To make things interesting, magical gear has the potential to vary in seemingly limitless ways by adding clever prefixes and suffixes to the name of the gear to describe its enchantment or uniqueness.
For example, you could find a “Goblin Cleaver of Ice” or a “One Sting Silver Ring”. Most times this name will give you an idea of the bonuses they grant your character such as additional ice damage for your cleaver or poison damage bonuses for your ring. In the end, it all means that every encounter could mean an upgrade to your hero. This leads to constant pledges of “just a little further to see if I can get a better (enter gear type here)”. Even the color of the unidentified items gives you a hint towards how powerful it could be. Grey items are plain. Green items are magical. Light purple items are rare. Yellow items are unique with clever names that tend to stray away from the prefix/suffix formula such as a quick firing pistol named ‘Brighteye’s Sonic’. Darker purple items are parts of a set that add additional bonuses as the set is collected.
Torchlight has this cache of loot in spades and even has a bit of its own unique flair to separate it from the Diablo series. With the addition of guns, rifles, and dual wielding, Torchlight manages to increase the combinations and possibilities of damage dealing in a most satisfying way. There is nothing like charging into a gaggle of zombies with a flaming axe and a quick firing pistol! Also included is the useful and at times harmful enchantment vendor that can take any piece of existing equipment and randomly add a bonus to the item for a fee. Of course, there is the chance that the attempt will in fact REMOVE a bonus from the item instead making a favorite item into a simple trinket rendering the spending spree absolutely useless. That one addition means there is one more chance to improve your uber-sword into something greater. Oh the possibilities!
Once you get over the immense amount equipment and management, you’ll actually be able to appreciate the other features of Torchlight as well, such as its unique look and familiar sound. While the art style of the game was described as a cross between Dragon’s Lair and The Incredibles, the sound design is virtually the same as the Diablo series. Pulling Diablo’s composer and sound designer himself, Matt Uelmen composed the Torchlight score and sound effects to make the music, zombie grunts, portal swoops, and gold drops sound just as if Torchlight was Tristam’s next door neighbor.
Also as in the PC version, you have a selection of three different customizable heroes based on three main ways of playing the game. Your Destroyer is your melee specialist. The Vanquisher is your ranged attack specialist. Lastly is the Alchemist who is the magician. Each class also has a secondary specialization that compliments their primary as well. The Destroyer channels spirits to assist him in battle. The Vanquisher uses traps. Lastly, the Alchemist has the powers of summoning. These heroes all have a number of skills that can be acquired and upgraded as you level up to compliment your preferred playing style.
Regardless of which hero you choose, you will always have a pet that follows and assists you as well. Acting as that beast of burden that can hold additional inventory as well as help in battle, your pet can also be sent back to town in order to sell items. To add a level of intrigue to your pet, you can feed it fish in order to change in into other monsters to assist in battle as well.
As noted before, Torchlight’s look was intended to be much more light hearted and accessible than Diablo. With the use of every color in the palette, Torchlight and the many spells, effects, comic monsters, and special attacks will light up your screen with beautiful chaos. Cartoon violence has rarely looked so gorgeous and appealing.
Even with all of this great nostalgia though, there are a few points about this game that left it a few pennies short of perfect. When you leap into a horde of monsters, a lot of times the game experiences quite a bit of slow down in the action in order to process all of the colorful death you are dealing to the masses. Animations once smooth while battling that lone skeleton archer will slow down and jump a little as flocks of spiders and pygmies come to ambush you. Also, your isometric view is locked so the environment (walls and such) will occasionally make you want to move the right thumbstick in hopes of changing the view to see a bit better. Unfortunately, you cannot though. Also, your larger enemies and your flocks of enemies will engulf you at times making you wonder where you are or who you are really aiming at despite the auto target indicator in the top of the user interface. At times I found myself thinking I was directing my attacks towards a boss that was many times the size of my character only to realize that my character was hidden by the boss rather than me hiding a portion of him (based on the screens view of the situation).
On the controls side of things, it is a bit cumbersome to only be able to quickly use about 4 different skills or spells at a time. Also, the menu navigation takes a bit of time to get through and cannot be filtered or sorted. The option of having a second equipped weapon set is removed as a feature as well. Instead, if you want to swap between dual wielding swords and a bow, you’ll have to enter the menu and equip or unequip the necessary selections each time.
Probably the biggest gripe about this game is the complete lack of co-op or multiplayer. Runic explained that they would have had to work on the game a bit longer in order to provide this and that they were saving that feature for the future MMO version of the game. Still, having this taste of greatness will certainly make you wish you could at least have local co-op.
Of course, many will be more than willing to put those gripes aside for a single player experience that features randomized dungeons, continued gameplay after finishing the 20 main storyline, and a high fun factor. Set to cost 1200 Microsoft points upon release, Torchlight is an action/RPG must have in any XBLA gamer’s library.
With an easy learning curve, Torchlight is super fun and addictive. It also boasts great replayability and is one of the best titles on the XBLA.