Thanks to Steam’s absurd summer sales this year, I’ve picked up Torchlight for a tiny amount of money. The most frequent way I’ve heard Torchlight described is as “a single-player Diablo to hold you over until Diablo III” and that is pretty accurate. It was created at Runic Games by some of the Diablo games’ key staff, with the express goal of creating a spiritual successor. There haven’t been many action RPG’s in the mold of Diablo lately, and far fewer have been as successful as Torchlight. I guess the market has moved on to the more consistently profitable MMO’s , but there is definitely a charm and a lot of fun to this type of game.
I never spend a severe amount of time with either Diablo game like many of my friends, but I spent a fair amount of time clicking and killing and looting. It is a very base instinct to enjoy this sort of thing in video games, and it had a lot to do with the success of roguelikes in gaming’s early years. It isn’t just the basic structure of the game that is like Diablo, though. Every aspect of the game is what I would consider familiar, even to someone who hasn’t played Diablo in many years. Menus, controls, hotkeys, items types, skills, classes, and even things like sockets, gems, gambling, and music are all there. It basically is Diablo, and that’s a good thing because Diablo did a whole lot of things right.
Probably the biggest Achilles heel of Torchlight is its lack of multiplayer. It’s still a great game, but without the peer pressure from friends I never felt strongly compelled the purchase the game. Everyone was like “if you really want to play a new Diablo, play this,” but as someone who never fell completely into that game, I didn’t know why I would want a new one. Of course, since getting the game and playing it and feeling all of this nostalgia and just generally having fun, I now wonder why I wouldn’t want to play the game. As a misanthrope I spent most of my time playing the Diablo games solo, so it makes a lot of sense that I’d enjoy Torchlight.
I’m not a huge fan of the art style. It has a cartoony World of Warcraftishness to it that just doesn’t do anything for me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that every game has to be super dark and moody, I just wish it had a more unique look. Graphically the game is pretty good and it’s nice to get away from all those old tiny sprites. At the end of the day though, the look of the game falls away when you get into the groove of things and enjoy the mechanics.
There are some nice improvements over the old formula. At the beginning of the game you are given a pet companion that can attack, cast spells, and carry items. The best feature of the pet is the ability to send it back to town to sell off loot, which is a great time saver that keeps you in the dungeon instead of using a town portal all the time. You can retired a character and pass things down to a new character as a sort of New Game+. There is a fame system in which you get points for killing unique enemies, and when your fame levels up you get a skill point. And there is fishing, for some reason.
Torchlight is a fun game, especially if you enjoy clicking, killing, and looting. Steam’s really deep discount may have ended, but it was never an expensive game to begin with and it will still be 50% off for a while longer. Maybe when Torchlight II comes out with its co-op play I’ll finally take this sort of game’s multiplayer seriously, and maybe by then I won’t even care about Diablo III.