Editor’s Note: Today we bust out a two-handed weapon for reviewing Runic Games’ highly anticipated release “Torchlight,” one of the critical darlings from the last E3 Games Expo. One opinion, in this case, just couldn’t be enough, so check out the back-to-back first impressions below:
Torchlight – developed by Runic Games
Impressions –by Adam [email protected]
Torchlight is a single-player hack, slash and blast adventure that has already turned a few heads. At E3 2009 people raved about its pick-up-and-go gameplay, and its slick and stylish graphics. So how does the finished game play?
All The Fabulous Looking Creepy Stuff!
The art design is easily one of the more appealing features of this game. The town is colorful, yet heavily shaded and moody. The dungeons (randomly generated, I might add) start off twisted, ragged and weird, only to get more bizarre as the secrets of the great mine start to unravel. Even the title screen and character creation interfaces are highly sleek, with crisp, steampunk-esque artwork that seems to come from a place between World of Warcraft and Open Realms.
Torchlight Screenshots and Concept Art:
To Slam, To Scram, or To Alakazam?
Players can select from three character classes at the start of the game. Destroyers are large, brutish warriors who speak with their fists and weapons. Vanquishers are quick and lithe, using ranged attacks and setting traps for their foes. Alchemists use powerful magical blasts to strike from afar, and can summon creatures to fight alongside them.
I started my campaign into the world of Torchlight, selecting an Alchemist as my hero (being a big fan of the Elric Brothers). I selected a dog as my faithful companion (because cats have their own agendas) and ventured into the hapless burg.
Welcome! Say, Did You Happen to Bring an Army?
Torchlight is a mining town built over the largest deposit of Ember (a magical and deadly substance) ever to be found. The town is aptly named, seemingly shrouded with a ghastly pall that never quite lets in the daylight. It sets the mood of the game nicely. You’re not 10 steps in before you’ve met with your first quest-giving NPC.
He won’t be the last either. Torchlight is inhabited by numerous troubled denizens, each promising rewards for completing the tasks they can’t take on themselves. The main quest will take you about 20 hours to complete, but there are side-quests galore, including “Infinite Dungeon” to tackle, for those who just can’t stop leveling.
Once you enter the mines, the fight is on. You’ll encounter enemies in almost no time. You can root yourself in place by holding down the Shift key, and by moving the cursor over enemies, you can dispatch them with your weapons or skills (by clicking the left or right mouse mutton, respectively). It’s deceptively easy; the first few mobs are little threat, but before long you’ll be surrounded by swarms of ghouls and spiders.
Throw in some gigantic baddies and some notorious monsters (with notorious loot to boot!) and you’d better make sure all of your many buckles are fastened, because this is going be a bumpy ride. Familiarize yourself with the quick cast slots at the bottom of the interface. Learn to heal yourself on the fly or you’ll find yourself flat on your back before long.
Stuffing Your Stuff
The character menus are simple to use. Switching equipment is a snap, and the ability to send your pet to town with excess items to sell at market is a nice touch that will save you from using too many Town Portal spells. Just be cautious when you decide to send your pet off! You could find yourself surrounded by goblins, and short two able sets of claws. Take advantage of companion NPC’s, but try to avoid opening menus until you’re sure there are no nearby threats. Companions like to run ahead to the next visible mob without provocation, and there’s nothing worse than getting clubbed in the middle of allocating your latest skill point.
Even in my brief time with the game, I discovered a wealth of enchanted weapons, and even encountered a couple of rare items. My one complaint is that the armor items all looked identical, although I imagine they will change up later in the adventure when more powerful items are discovered. Socketed weapons and armor will allow you to add crystals, bestowing magical effects on the selected item. If you find a fishing hole on your journey, take some time out from hacking and slashing to stock up on tasty fish. Your catches will have buff effects for you and many for your pet as well.
What’s Your Game?
Torchlight will strike Diablo players as instantly familiar, and with good reason: Many of the developers and leads from Diablo and Diablo 2 have lent their talents to the single-player game. Easy to jump into, with customization methods and challenges to satisfy the über-grinder for hours on end, Torchlight will prove to be a fun time-waster for some, and a richly rewarding challenge for more dedicated players.
Here is the PAX Trailer for Torchlight:
A Second Opinion of Torchlight
Here to Please
From the outset it is is easy to see that the developers of Torchlight set out to create the ultimate fantasy action game, drawing on the three quarter top-down view of Baldur’s Gate, Diablo or Heroes of Might and Magic to the familiar HUD from World of Warcraft, with spells assignable to a row of ten slots that can be triggered by their corresponding numbers on the keyboard. They have added the idea of Fame to the mix – another word for renown – that accumulates as you complete certain quests and heroic deeds.
Also there is the ever-addictive option to visit Duran the Transmuter who will combine items and fashion them into a resultant new treat, something that from my memory recalls Oblivion’s item combination scheme. Although the increasingly ubiquitous Steampunk aesthetic can be felt in the character design, it isn’t clear why; there are no references to mechanical men, or steam machines or even and Conan Doyle-ish society. Here it probably makes an appearance because it just looks cool.
Take A Good Look Around, Or Not
The graphics are terrific, so much so that the constraints of the camera angle feel a bit claustrophobic at first as you crane your neck around in vain in order to see it all. Eventually, as I suspected, you just get used to it and go with the flow, but not being able to circle the camera around to check into obscured corners is a bit of a letdown. Instead the designers elected to created an X-Ray view of your character when back into an invisible section of the map.
Starting out the game at the normal difficulty level proves a little too easy. A single hit from your character send pretty much anything it encounters within the first five levels of the dungeon into an explosion of red. But when the monsters do start piling on the game starts to get fun, even if only for a moment.
Load times between zones feels a little slow, even on a Quad Core with 4 gigs of RAM. Interestingly enough, there is a switch in the settings window for Netbook compatibility – a rather forward-thinking feature for which Runic gets brownie points. The author wonders, however, what a such a graphics-loving game might look like on a three-hundred dollar Asus.
What Is All This Stuff?
Dealing with inventory in Torchlight, is also a bit frustrating; items with rather a broad range of stats too often use identical graphics and so it is hard to determine which is which. The pathfinding for player NPCs can get a little squirrelly, and you companion NPCs, over which you have no control, like to barge into battle, when they aren’t getting stuck behind objects in an attempt to get back to you. Similarly, line of sight issues can become a nuisance as you try to blast baddies only to find that your attacks are merely repainting the corner of a wall.
This could be solved by making enemies targetable, perhaps in the same way that you could TAB between targets in WoW, but here, the TAB key (which is not customizable) toggles between a selectable attack function. Battles themselves are essentially point and click affairs, with the exception of selecting what spell to cast or what weapon to use. But to be fair, this is an action game and not an RTS. It will be very interesting to see how this feels as a multiplayer experience. A nice touch, however, is that the distance to your target makes a notable difference in the amount of damage dealt. You can also graze a target as opposed to always making a direct hit, and the closer you get, the bigger the bloodsplosion can be.
Fishing is another thing to do in the World of Torchlight, and feels very similar to doing the same in WoW – you cast your line, wait for a nibble and yank the line only to be rewarded with one of a wide variety of fish, each of which can be fed to your pet and grant it brief but powerful new abilities for example catching an electric eel gives your pet an Electric Elemental bump.
I wrote to the devs about a few small things that didn’t seem to work or be present. For example, it is rumored that when your pet’s inventory (essentially your pet is a saddle bag with teeth) is full, you can click a green arrow to send it back to town and dump your stuff. I could never locate said green arrow, although apparently, my compatriot, who wrote the review above, found it without difficulty. I even went back to double check it but could not find said feature.
Certain items, like magic and healing potions are stackable, but I couldn’t find a way to split stacks.
Where Have I Heard That Before?
Finally, I must talk about the music: Matt Uelmen’s score is actually a standout in the game although at times I could swear I heard the theme song to the Batman series that starred Adam West and other times the main theme from Twin peaks by Angelo Badalamenti. Not that either of these, especially when paired together, is a bad thing. Ambient, eerie and seductive it is a strong point of the package.
Torchlight is a great looking game, with smooth gameplay that tries to take the best of the genre, but where it succeeds in design, it lacks in mythology. Beyond the quest for Ember – the source of magic – there is no real telling why you are there nor why should you care.
The multiplayer experience could prove to be quite fun, but nothing really sets this world apart in any new way. I would recommend it as a new-and-improved version of a very old trick that adds some of the cooler elements of other very successful games, but in so doing only reminds us, by virtue of going only part of the way, that it is a jack of all trades and master of none.
A few final words about the upcoming massively multiplayer online version of Torchlight, based on notes from the developer:
Key Additions In the MMO Version of Torchlight:
- Expansive World – Large overland areas and deep, randomly generated dungeons offer a
- variety of exploration and adventuring opportunities.
- Customization – The level of character customization is upped significantly in the MMO, with more class choices, looks, and options which allow a truly personalized character.
- Territory Wars – Torchlight will take advantage of precedent set by other Perfect World MMOs and offer weekly battles for territory, with winners receiving significant rewards.
- Mounts – Large variety of mounts to assist in navigating the world.
- PvP – Torchlight will give PvP fans a variety of constructs to determine just who the mightiest warrior in the land is.
An editor, known as “TorchED” (direct download link) affords the end-user the ability to edit levels while playing them. Everything from player to enemy, item stats, and even particle systems can be modded. Note that the first time you launch the game, the editor will compress the assets. Meaning it’ll take a little time for the editor to launch
Base character classes in Torchlight:
The Destroyer specializes in close range melee combat, with the added ability to summon ancestral spirits to produce magical effects.
The Alchemist is essentially a magic user who draws on magical energy of Ember. The Alchemist fire bursts of magic and electricity by way of a specialized glove and can additionally can summon imps and mechnical men.
The Vanquisher is a member of the city’s elite guard, on a special mission to explore Torchlight. The Vanquisher uses ranged weapons and traps, making this character akin to a hunter or ranger class.
Runic has not yet set a release date for the MMO version.
Developer: Runic Games
Available now at Direct2Drive ($19.99 USD).
Get Torchlight on Steam
[Update 01/06/2011: Runic Games has announced that Torchlight will be available for XBOX Live Arcade! Proceduraly generated Steampunk RPG dungeon-crawling on consoles for the win!]