I’ve never really understood the title “hack and slash”. To me, hacking and slashing are very much the same movement. But Torchlight is very much of this genre, where you will hack, slash, shoot, laser, explode, shout and drop meteors on a whole range of fantasy creatures all in the name of fame and fortune.
The company behind Torchlight comes from a strong action RPG pedigree; Runic Games features staff who worked on the original two Diablo games, with the game’s development being led by the designer of the cult hit Fate (which Torchlight owes much to).
The plot of the game is minimal but still worth noting. You play one of three adventurers; The Destroyer, a melee warrior class, The Vanquisher, a ranged attacker, or The Alchemist, a wizard-cum-engineer. All three of the characters come to Torchlight for the same reason; fame and fortune. The city is built on top of a vast supply of a magical material known as Ember and it is this material that drives the story. There’s your typical evil character who has become corrupted, and his former student who must take him down. The story is nothing to write home about but it isn’t supposed to be; the real star of the show is the gameplay.
You can map two spells or attacks to your right mouse button, whilst the left is used as your vanilla attack. You can also put your potions and other spells, like summoning a group of skeletons to help you fight, along the number keys. Ultimately the combat boils down to clicking and switching between moves. It is likely that you will favour one move over most others. Playing as the Alchemist I found myself almost relying on the Ember Lance move to cut through swathes of enemies. This isn’t exactly a problem, since I never stopped enjoying blasting away weird lizard monsters, but the range of other moves at my disposal felt neglected.
Another one of the games selling points is its use of procedurally generated dungeons. Every adventure you have in Torchlight will be different which, when combined with the three different character classes, adds quite the incentive to give the game at least one more playthrough. The dungeons always feel new, and whilst you will start to recognise the same set pieces popping up in each dungeon section, it’s not jarring enough to make you stop playing. The game also features entirely random weapon drops, and the wide range of weapons available is staggering. One moment, you’ll find a glove made of bone, the next a quadruple barrelled pistol. Conveniently, you can share armour between the different character classes in your game through the use of a shared treasure stash.
Torchlight has a very distinctive look, coming somewhere in between World of Warcraft and Diablo. The characters are all sat in the “cartoony” region, but are well-defined and well-realised. Each set of floors of the dungeon has its own theme, from the early abandoned mines, to the fallen cities of lava and the waterlogged, overgrown ruins, which all also carry a specific theme of enemy. Whilst it’s fun to battle huge rooms of tiny enemy cannon fodder, sometimes this can get a little overwhelming, and you lose track of where you are. Of course, this is nothing a little hand laser can’t solve…
On release, this game garnered an awful lot of criticism for having no multiplayer functionality, and even as a long time anti-multiplayer proponent, I can see the point people were making; Torchlight would be fun to play with a friend. However this doesn’t stop the game itself being an awful lot of fun on its own. I can’t help feeling, in some situations, having another person running around with you would just make the whole thing far too confusing to be enjoyable. Anyway, the game allows you to summon robots. That’s far better than a human meatbag running around with you.
Review Round Up
Graphics: 4/5 A nice graphical style gets everything across, with a neat UI that borders on the right side of cluttered
Sound: 3/5 Some nice tunes, but nothing particularly noteworthy. Voice acting minimal, but still nicely done.
Gameplay: 4/5 Hack, slash and repeat but it’s a formula you can’t hate. Executed perfectly, and great fun to master tactics
Longevity: 5/5 With procedurally generated dungeons, epic amounts of loot and three different character classes to get to grips with, you could be playing forever.
Overall: 4.5 enchanted swords out of 5
Torchlight has an awful lot going for it; a sturdy combat system, a clever dungeon mechanic and an ultimately enjoyable storyline. A lot of action RPG fans dismissed it as a Diablo Lite, only good to fill the gap until Diablo 3 comes out, but it’s not the case; Torchlight could be the next big thing.
Stay tuned to The Newb Review as we will be featuring our review of the revamped Xbox Live Arcade version of Torchlight on Friday 4th March.