“Sharpscrap Handgonne of the Master (+4 Critical Hit Chance)”, “Carnage Saw of The Bear (+28 Physical Damage & 3 Mana Stolen Per Hit)”. Saliva pooling? Buy Torchlight at once!
Yes, Torchlight is the latest in that distinct category of games: the loot spewing, Diablo-style dungeon crawler. And an unabashedly simple one at that. The game is set in Torchlight – a small village populated by miners, merchants and other mysterious bods who dish out rudimentary quests and enchant items. There’s even a shady trader there who sells you mystery items – you don’t know what you’re going to get until you’ve paid your cash. Below Torchlight is a labyrinthine, randomly generated series of dungeons filled to the brim with monsters and ludicrously named equipment. What more could you possibly want? Not much really. Torchlight knows exactly what you want and how to give it to you.
You start by picking one of three character classes: the Destroyer (tank); the Alchemist (mage); or the Vanquisher (ranger); and the simplicity begins here. You can’t decide what gender you play – it’s fixed, with the Vanquisher being the only female of the three (and therefore naturally the one I picked). Your starting attributes and equipment are also set. In fact, the only thing you can change is your name and what pet you take with you (and their name as well). I’ll come to your pet in a mo.
The game follows a familiar path. You enter the dungeon because... well, why wouldn’t you? (OK, someone asks you nicely). In the dungeon you whack baddies until your pockets are bursting with loot. You equip the good stuff, which makes it easier to whack more monsters and gain more goodies, and sell what you don’t want so you can buy better equipment with which to get better equipment. Kill, loot, kill, loot, sell, kill, loot, level-up, KILL HARDER. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
Levelling up occurs frequently in Torchlight – you’ll be level 20+ before you know it - and allows the standard perks you’d expect: Increased stats and a bonus skill. The skills range from increased experience or gold drops, to vicious combat perks like flechette traps. Eventually you can retire your high level character who can then dish out perks to any other characters you create. Nice touch.
As previously mentioned, aiding you in your dungeoneering is your pet - a lovely looking, wolf-like dog or an equally pretty cat. They’re not just eye candy though – these critters can fight, equip rings and amulets, and cast spells. You can also turn them into other creatures by feeding them fish (of course). Brilliantly, they can also be loaded up with loot and sent back to Torchlight to sell everything, thus ensuring you never have to break from the intoxicating kill-loot-level up cycle. Although this does mean you’ll have to fight on without them whilst they strike up the best bargains in town and the further you are in the dungeon, the longer they take getting back.
All this familiar gameplay is set in a gorgeous world. The graphics are vibrant, colourful cartoons and each character has stacks of personality. In fact, one of the things I enjoyed most about finding new armour, apart from chuckling at the name and cooing at the buffs, was seeing what it looked like on my character. I’d stop fighting, zoom the camera right in and prance around modelling my shiny new armour. All the monsters are lovingly animated too, and seeing what the next level is going to throw at you is as joyful as finding a new Blunderbuss of Irate Pain. The music, too, is rather pleasant – all acoustic guitars and dramatic scores - and underpins the action and atmosphere beautifully.
“What about criticisms, phat_chopps”, I hear you cry, “There must be some, right?”. Yes, dear reader, there are, and they tend to stem from the game’s determined simplicity. The camera angle is fixed – you can zoom in and out, but not rotate or pan. Considering how lovely everything looks, this is frustrating and slightly perplexing.
The quests begin to grate after a while – they’re just too samey. Actually, they pretty much ARE the same quest repeated time after time, just changing the name of the monster you’re sent to destroy, or the name of the item you need to recover. This can sometimes make Torchlight feel a bit like a grind, although this is countered by not playing the game for hours at a time.
Oh, and a word of advice – don’t play the game on anything lower than the ‘Hard’ difficulty setting. It’s stupendously easy if you do. There’s a hardcore setting for the masochists among us which means that death is final. No respawning – just dead. I can’t imagine why you’d want to play like this though – surely it takes the fun out of the game?
None of these flaws stop me loving Torchlight to death though. It’s brilliantly made, great fun and a game you can play for 30 minutes or 3 hours. And at around £15 it’s a stonking bargain too.