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It's ironic that while my experience with Diablo itself (Diablo II to be truthful, I never tried the first game) was hardly inviting at the outset, I fell enthusiastically into Diablo clones like Nox, Dungeon Siege and now Torchlight. Diablo had an admittedly fun core clickety-click mechanic but the random map generator combined with the dreary visual style (capped at what, 640 x 480 resolution?), respawning monsters when you resumed a map, and a tendency to be stingy (at least in the initial phases) with player goodies made it chore enough for me to quickly go on to something with more immediate satisfaction. The D-clones took the core gameplay and added graphical and gameplay tweaks that made the experience far more palatable to me.The latest of these and my current obsession is Torchlight. Helmed by former Blizzard employees, Torchlight is one supremely refined Diablo clone and a mucho fun experience (not for the feeble-fingered, though).
Getting into the world of Torchlight couldn't be simpler. You select a character from Destroyer / Vanquisher / Alchemist (translating loosely as melee, ranged combat and magic-focussed classes) and a pet. Yes, you can have a cat or dog as a pet, and it's not just empty cuteness value. Your pet travels with you, helping out with the fighting. Best of all, you can send it off to sell your piles of gathered loot while you continue your pillaging (Only, as Game Revolution pointed out in their review, you may have to worry about this).
Starting from the town of Torchlight, which is the main hub in the game, you sally forth into a series of mines and dungeons and halls and even (supposedly) underground gardens, doing the Diablo thing. While layouts are random, the dungeons I've worked through are small enough to complete without getting lost. Combat's the expected click-fest. The game helps out with hotkeys for your spells (you can map spells with the function keys F1-F12). The cool thing about Torchlight is that it has customizable difficulty levels and at Normal rewards you fairly fast; you don't have to play for untold hours before you haul some decent loot and climb up the skill tree. Even though I'm playing a melee warrior I'm also using ranged weapons and a fair number of spells (Doomquake FTW!), so I'm hoping that selecting other character types will have different skill trees, or I don't know how different the experience will be.
Like in Diablo there's a random loot generator which throws up lots of combinations, and RPGrognards will spend a fair amount of time mulling over the relative benefits of various weapon / armor upgrades. There's steampunk-lite in the form of pistols and shotguns (and some enemies are automatons). You can enchant your weapons/armor with suitable gems (which in turn can be combined and upgraded). In case you want to switch stuff, you can choose to recover either the weapon/armor or the enchantments. Tough choices...
The pet? Ah, the pet is a thing of beauty. It offloads some of the burden of combat and the ability to teach it spells (only 2 at a time) makes it a worthwhile ally. You can shift it between agressive/defensive stances, and feed it fish that temporarily transform it into an elemental. My cat Ulthar has at various times raised skeleton archers, flashed frost beams or launched slow-moving fireballs. And he makes cute purring sounds too.
Borrowing the bright cartoony look of World of Warcraft, Torchlight looks terrific (I realize my screens don't reflect that well. I discovered the screenshot function very late and just snapped off a couple random ones) . Dungeon-hunting you may be, but the game lacks nothing for color, and the spell effects are hallucinogenically pretty - in some pitched battles it's difficult to perceive where you are and what you're aiming at. Best of all, it plays butter-smooth on a system that was decent some 6 years ago; it even has a netbook setting (good luck doing your thing on that tiny screen, though).
While I still have lot more of the game to get through plus return trips with the other character classes (grinning in anticipation), I believe my experience is sufficient to recommend it to most people that like the idea of a casual action-RPG with polished appealing graphics and fun, accessible play...and an adorable death-dealing kitty cat.
(Torchlight retails at $20 and is worth it IMO, but if you watch for online sales you could get it for much less.)
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Apr 09 2010 11:34:50
Reviewing a game without completing it? *disapproving harumph* Looked like a fun game alright, and yeah, it even ran on olo's onboard-VGA-card-only system, albeit at a bit of a chug. Wasn't in the mood for a lootfest at the time (Dragon Age has fairly pathetic random drops, by the way - all the decent items are mostly quest rewards), so I'll probably come back to it later. What's the scene with multiplayer?
Apr 09 2010 13:16:54
Fool you, it's NOT a review, that's why there's no ratings attached. Let's call it more of a "detailed impressions" thing. No multi-player in this. They plan to use the profits derived herein to develop a free MMO set in the Torchlight world. Sounds like a crap idea to me, but there you have it.