In 2009 a little PC game called Torchlight was released via various digital distribution outlets. The game had very low system requirements which allowed it to run on almost any PC. It became quite a popular game in the months since its release so developer Runic Games has decided to bring the game to a new audience.
What's It About?
Torchlight is an action-RPG set in the town of the same name. The key fixture of the town is the large ever-burning torch in the center of the town square, which has given the town its name. The town is sitting on top of a rather rich vein of Ember, a magical ore which can be used in the crafting of various artifacts. It also has the ability to imbue people with magical abilities. Unfortunately for the townsfolk, the Ember that has made their town the hub for commerce and a haven for fortune seekers has a rather nasty taint on it. Anyone exposed to it for a long time will be corrupted and fall to an unknown evil. Your job as a fearless adventurer is to explore the mines and caverns around the town and try to uncover the secrets of Ember.
If you have played an action-RPG in the past few years then you should be familiar with the main mechanics of Torchlight. You choose a character class and a pet, then you begin by exploring the town and talking to its residents. You will get quests from the townsfolk and head into the mines and caverns to battle a seemingly endless horde of monsters. When you have earned enough Experience, your character will go up a level, you will have the opportunity to raise their stats, and add to their skill points. It's a formula that's been done for years, but it's no less fun now than it was in 2000 with Diablo II.
Why Should I Care?
Torchlight on Xbox Live Arcade takes the popular PC game and adapts it to work better with console controls. You get the same quests, items, and addictive hack and slash gameplay that made the PC version so much fun, but now you can play it from the comfort of your couch.
When going from a keyboard and mouse control scheme to an Xbox 360 gamepad, a lot of things had to change. Some of these changes worked better than others. For starters you now have direct control over your character, so instead of moving them around by clicking on an area of the screen ahead of them, you simply use the left analog stick to move them about. The same goes for attacking and using skills and spells. Dedicated attack and interaction buttons are mapped to two of the face buttons, and you also have dedicated health and mana potion buttons. This leaves you with four buttons that can be assigned to activate your Character's abilities.
As you gain levels and learn new skills, you will find that four buttons just isn't enough. To compensate for this you can have two sets of skills mapped to those same four buttons and you can simply switch between them using the D-Pad. It takes a bit of getting used to the way this works, but once you do it works fine.
The bigger issue comes from the game's inventory system. Keeping track of equipped weapons, armor, and accessories is harder than it needs to be. The inventory system uses a single column to show all the stuff you have on hand. Equipped items show up at the top. That seems fine in theory, but the problem is it's often hard to figure out what sort of pieces you have on hand without having to scroll up and down. It would have been much easier to manage if you had equipment slots on your character instead of just a huge list of items. If that were the case, it would be easy to select a body armor slot, as an example, and then get a list of applicable items. This quirky bit of UI design is by no means a deal-breaker, but it does make things more difficult than they really need to be.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Despite the strange inventory, Torchlight is incredibly fun and addicting. It doesn't hurt that the game looks really nice and sounds great as well. Sure it doesn't have the million dollar cinematic cut-scenes that games like Diablo II had, but Torchlight does just fine without them. It gets by with its charming cartoon style art that is very reminiscent of the early days of World of Warcraft.
It is refreshing to see a good action RPG on a console. There was a time when you could find a lot of games in this genre on the PS2, but now a game like Torchlight is a welcome breath of fresh air. When you get right down to it, Torchlight is a charming title with very stylish graphics and music. Most importantly though, Torchlight is a lot of fun and it will eat away the hours while you work on “Just one last quest before bed”. If you are a fan of this genre of game, or if you're looking to get into once, give Torchlight a look.