Giant Bomb Review

39 Comments

Torchlight Review

4
  • PC

Runic's Diablo-like debut drills straight down to the core of what makes a great dungeon-crawling loot grind.


 Diablo players will feel right at home.
Torchlight is made for a very specific niche audience that you could simply describe as "people who still love Diablo." It's a classic overhead point-and-click-click-click action RPG with a focus on color-coded loot, endless dungeons, and a menagerie of foul subterannean creatures. If you can parse the relative merits of items with names written in green, blue, purple, and orange--and you still have a burning desire to collect as many such items as you can--Torchlight is designed especially for you.

The game subscribes so closely to the format of the original Diablo, in fact, that there's only one town in the game--also called Torchlight--and it sits atop a single, very long dungeon. You know, just like in Diablo. But there's a lot of variety in that dungeon's dozens of floors, which change visually every few levels from simple catacombs to more elaborate motifs like ancient tombs, a sunken jungle temple, a disused goblin prison surrounded by lava, and more. You get completely different-looking and different-acting enemies that are appropriate to each locale, too, along with some pretty large, gnarly bosses. You can forgive new developer Runic for sticking so closely to the classics, since the company is led by some of the original creators of Diablo. That game's composer also returns for this one, lending a fantastic, moody soundtrack that's more than a little reminiscent of his intensely memorable earlier work. (Town music, anybody?)

Torchlight is a $20 game, and in some ways, it shows. There's only a paper-thin semblance of a storyline, about a corrupting magical ore and an ancient malevolence hidden beneath the town, and that story is only advanced through occasional brief narrated journal entries, which aren't acted particularly well. There are only a handful of side quests you can undertake from the people of Torchlight, and they simply repeat over and over after you complete them the first time. The writing is a little rough; comma splices and improper apostrophes in the possessive "its" constitute glaring errors when you're conveying your fiction entirely through text. The graphics aren't technically complex (though the game more than makes up for that with an exaggerated, cartoony art style and even has a "netbook" mode to let it run on really old hardware). I could find a few other, minor things to nitpick.

LOOT! LOOOOOOOOOOT! 
But why should I? These flaws only affect the presentation of the game and aren't ones that detract at all from the quality of the central gameplay experience, which is all about slashing, shooting, an spellcasting your way to deeper dungeons and greater loot. If you're interested in the game in the first place, that's what you came for, and in that one respect, Torchlight is incredibly successful. Runic has streamlined the Diablo-style format to its core essence. There are only three classes--a tough melee fighter, a lither female ranged attacker, and a magic-using alchemist--and since this is a single-player-only game, all of them are versatile enough to make it through the game and conform to your play style. All the sorts of housekeeping activities you'd need to do in a game like this--enchanting weapons, managing inventory, assigning skill points, combining magical gems--are all only a couple of hotkeys away. The interface is really pleasant to deal with.

The best thing about the gameplay is the inclusion of a mandatory pet--a cat or dog that you can name--for every class. Generally, I'm not a big fan of pets, minions, or familiars in games like this--I like all my damage to flow from a single source, namely me--but the pet in Torchlight serves so many useful functions you can't help but love it. You can equip minor gear like rings and necklaces onto your pet to give it stat bonuses. Better, you can teach the pet the same sorts of spells your own character can learn, so if you want it to heal you in battle or silence enemy magic users, you can have it do those things automatically. Personally, I enjoyed teaching my dog to summon skeletal archers and knights into battle, ensuring that every time I hit a big group of enemies, I had a small army of undead backup. The pet has an inventory the same size as yours, and you can even send it back to town to automatically sell whatever items it's carrying, so you don't even have to use a town portal to clear out your vendor trash (though that is of course still an option as well).

 One dungeon but lots of variety.
I do wish Torchlight had some sort of cooperative feature, even for just two players, if only because that's become a nearly requisite feature in this style of game over the years. It would also make it more fun to tackle the game's hardest difficulty, especially if you were using the optional "hardcore" mode that makes a character's death permanent. Be warned that the game's "normal" difficulty mode is pretty darn easy if you've ever played this style of game before--I got several hours into a character on normal before I got tired of merely left-clicking enemies endlessly to kill them without even needing to utilize my secondary skills. Hard or very hard modes are much more taxing and, consequently, more satisfying. You can even share loot between characters, so the awesome gear you find for other classes at higher levels won't go to waste on subsequent playthroughs. And the developer promises a full suite of mod tools soon, to allow amateur content creators the chance to keep pumping the game full of custom dungeons and quests long after you've completed the included campaign and also tired of the infinite dungeon that unlocks once you finish it.

Again, Torchlight is $20. For the price, there's a huge value here. It's a great start for Runic, who intends to build a free-to-play, massively multiplayer version of the game in the future. If the company maintains the core quality of this single-player game and fleshes out the lands, storyline, and multiplayer features in its next project, it will have something really special on its hands.
39 Comments
Posted by pause422

Nice review, Brad. I agree, this is a really good game for the price. Yeah, people can whine about no multiplayer in it, but its a very cheap price, and well made game for the value..and really fun and addicting. They did a good job on it.

Posted by day2daze

pft, virtual intangibles. 
possessions don't make a happy man.
VIRTUAL possessions REEEEEEALLY don't make a happy man.

Posted by Wes899

Sweet loot.

Posted by Undeadpool

I bought this due to the generally favorable reviews and low, low pricepoint. Gotta say, it's a lotta fun. I'm playing as the archer character and she gets guns. Which is pretty f'ing satisfying.

Posted by HypoXenophobia

I wonder if its fair to criticize the lack of multiplayer though. Shouldn't the criticism be towards whats in the game, instead of wants for the game? I'm not harking on Brad, it's a great thorough review. But, it reminded me of people who knocked on Bioshock for lack of multiplayer. But that being said, I've never played Diablo online, just single player, so my point is rather subjective.
Posted by queenulhu

i suppose this could tide me over until diablo 3......

Posted by Shwan

great review Brad! i agree and this game got me very exited for Diablo 3

Posted by Binman88

I really wanted to buy this, but Dragon Age is taking up way too much of my time to dive into another loot em up at the moment (fresh off the heels of Borderlands). I'll probably buy it next year sometime.

Posted by RHCPfan24

I really should buy this for 20 bones. Coltonio has been raving about it.

Posted by mosdl

There's a demo of the game on Steam - and if you buy the game, all the saves remain so you don't have to start over.
 
I got almost 3.5 hours out of the demo before I went ahead and bought it.

Online
Posted by Shpadoinkle

Good review, Brad. This is the sort of game you can fire up whenever you got little time to play or can't decide on what to play next. Granted, the storyline totally sucks, but I think that only works towards the game's advantage. I don't want an epic story and "every decision counts" and virtual dwarf sex in my hack'n'slash game. This is a shameless Diablo ripoff and it does what it's meant to do exactly right and it is what I longed for since Diablo 1. Simple and fun smashing axes into stupid enemies' faces. And one of the spells is called Doomquake, I mean, come on!

Posted by Symphony

Excellent review, and having spent about 30 hours with the game I couldn't agree with you more.
 
I was one of those Diablo players that never cared for multiplayer in D2, so Torchlight not having it doesn't bother me so much, but I definitely agree the inclusion of even just a two-player co-op would have been nice.
 
My biggest gripe with the game is the inability to zoom out very far. As a ranger with gear that extends your bow's (or gun's) range, your shots can go further than you can see which is a bit frustrating as you don't know if they're hitting anything.  That's a bit nit-picky but seems like a silly oversight and apparently you can actually zoom out further if you mess with the console, though I haven't confirmed this myself, so if the mechanics are there to let you zoom out further I don't see why they limited it so much.
 
This frustration compounds when you get near the end of the game and there are caster mobs that can see and hit you from off the screen and on the harder difficulties will one-shot you more often than not. I died more times than I care to remember from these trash mobs that hit me with fast moving green bolts from somewhere off the screen before I had a chance to react.

Posted by KinjiroSSD

There is a demo out on stream. I tried it and it feels like home.

Posted by Crono

Brad I swear your two specialties are interviews and reviews.  Maybe other things that end in -views as well...  But this review is spot on with how I feel.  Very fair and just.  Excellent prose. ;D

Edited by ahoodedfigure

Well, really old hardware that's compatible with DirectX 10 (at least for the sound cards)... unless that netbook mode skirts those requirements.

Posted by Kohe321

Great review, I'm getting this soon.

Posted by MetalR

Great review, Brad!

Posted by Breadfan
@RHCPfan24 said:
" I really should buy this for 20 bones. Coltonio has been raving about it. "
You should get it.  I know that you've said your PC isn't too great for games, but it seems to be able to run on almost anything. 
Posted by Roughmar
@Br3adfan said:
" @RHCPfan24 said:
" I really should buy this for 20 bones. Coltonio has been raving about it. "
You should get it.  I know that you've said your PC isn't too great for games, but it seems to be able to run on almost anything.  "
Just like the review said, the game does have a netbook mode =)
Posted by SUPERGHOST

Need more time withthis game, but my 360 has been relentless lately!
Posted by Death_Burnout

The music has my ears blown outta their ass!

Posted by Woodtopian

This is a really good review.

Posted by Nettacki

I'd buy this if Demon's Souls wasn't already taking up most of my time.

Posted by TenFootMonster

Anyone tried running this on  netbook?

Posted by guilherme

Very nice game, have been playing for a while now. This game has some LOOT! You kill one enemy and loads of things appear.

Edited by megalowho

I know I'm loving it so far. Looks and sounds great, lots of loot, runs on anything, super streamlined gameplay that does the dungeon crawler genre proud. Worth a $20 bill without a doubt.

Posted by Korosive

Great review. Unfortunately, the "Netbook Mode" doesn't seem to run well on even the higher end netbooks. Maybe it's for future models?

Posted by Teirdome

Gotta echo the other sentiments, really well written review.  Effectively details the title while remaining pithy.  Fine work Bradx0r- san!

Posted by Turek

Diablo is perhaps my favorite game of all time.  Torchlight is so similar, it is hard not to like it.  I have played it for about 5 hours and I am having a great time.  Considering the $20 price point - 5 stars
Edited by PlatypusPlatoon

Torchliiiiiiiiiiiiight!
 
4 stars seems about right.  It lacks the polish and infectious personality of triple-A titles from the house of Warcraft, but gets all the little gameplay elements right.  They've taken the best elements from Diablo and WoW, fixed all the niggling annoyances, and deftly streamlined the experience, so that all you need to care about is clicking monsters and picking up hordes of loot.
 
However, I will say that "Torchlight" is perhaps the worst, most-generic, dull-sounding name for what is actually a great game.  It screams "indie title", as opposed to quality offering from the former Flagship cast.  If it wasn't for the hilarious Penny Arcade comic, I wouldn't have given this game a second glance.

Posted by Media_Master

$20 
Sweet deal!

Posted by darkjester74

If I didnt have so many other games already I would definitely pick this up.  Maybe later...

Posted by yacht
Posted by Jertje

The problem I have with Torchlight is the same problem I had with Diablo; it's just so technically unsatisfying. You just sit there clicking enemy after enemy in a chaotic brawl of 30+ enemies, all the while spamming health pots and looking out for any particularly dangerous foes to engage in some fight or flight action. What I'd like to see - and consequently what I believe more modern game design has since proven to be way more fun and effective - is groups of enemies that are less numerous, but more challenging in that they have more health, more abilities of their own to look out for, and a wider variety of useable attacks for the player character to counter those abilities. Preferably, I would have all of this with a control-scheme that does not rely on any clicking at all, but direct control over the hero which allows you more freedom to run while autoattacking and focusing on counter enemy abilities and maximizing your own use of strategic abilities. I mean, you can literally get through the entire game with the main slash and an aoe ability as the destroyer (the only class I have seriously tried so far) and you will never ever feel gimped in any way, this just feels dull. Sure, there is delicious loot, but it never feels as if that loot is contributing in any meaningful way like in say World of Warcraft. It's just numbers, that turn into bigger numbers, which makes the damage output of your two abilities slightly bigger, or allows you to live slightly longer.
 
I know Diablo fans will crucify me for saying this, but Torchlight is based on outdated gameplay mechanics that could use a bit more polish than a pet that sells your stuff and an action bar ;s
 
/hide

Posted by Danutz

great review Brad!

Posted by jkinsman21_delete

An underrated element of this game is that all items take up only 1 slot in your inventory, which means no more juggling of huge 8-slot staffs and axes, a welcome change from the Diablo games!

Posted by BounceDK

"Diablo-like" .. As if Diablo was the first game in the genre. Fail review.

Posted by CoehenryJummings

Really informative review. I was looking into Diablo III but since it has had launch fails I wanted something to keep me satisfied until it gets fixed and this seems it will do just the trick! Yet again thanks for the review.

Posted by demontrace

Torchlight on the Xbox 360 runs like crap. Serious frame rate drops, long load times, and a lesser amount of control. It's only worth it if you have no other option.

Otherwise, go with PC, it's really the only option if it's a choice for you, which it probably is if you're using this site.