Review: Torchlight (Xbox Live Arcade)

Game: Torchlight
Format: Xbox Live Arcade
Developer: Runic Games
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studios

After already earning the praise of Newb Review’s Ed Johnston with their original release on PC and Mac, Runic Games’ Torchlight has finally been ported to the Xbox 360 as the latest game in Microsoft’s House Party promotion.

Those that haven’t already read our review of the PC version may find themselves wondering what exactly Torchlight is. Simply put, Torchlight is a dungeon crawling role playing game that revolves around that most compulsive of mechanics: the gathering of loot.

Your basic task in Torchlight is to search through each level of the nearby mine, collecting as much loot and treasure as you can, and frequently returning to the surface to share your findings with the people you encounter in town. Most of the missions are simple fetch quests: character A needs item B which can be found somewhere on level C of the mine; you find the item, then take it back to character A, earn experience, equipment, and money, and then unlock the next mission. Rinse and repeat. Thankfully, though the mission structure may be fairly samey and simplistic, the gameplay itself is a real joy.

Get used to running up and down flights of stairs!

The game’s graphical style is a lighthearted and cartoony affair, featuring bold, rich colours. While hacking enemies to bits there are over the top splashes of blood that form large pools on the dungeon floor, which is perfectly in keeping with the games’ style. The best way to describe the graphics is to say it is a half way house between the overly cartoony style of World of Warcraft and the more dark and gritty look of Diablo.

On the default difficulty, enemies are fairly easy to defeat, and there is an abundance of health pickups to keep you from death’s door. There are literally hundreds of enemies to battle on each level, and with most defeated enemies dropping potions, treasure, or items there’s certainly plenty to keep you entertained. Within about ten minutes of playing I found myself completely immersed in the hunt for loot, and could easily see why the PC version of the game received such positive reviews.

Rather than being a simple port the PC original, the Xbox 360 version of the game has had a few substantial changes made to it. The PC original was a point and click dungeon crawler, while the Xbox 360 version has had the control system overhauled. Not only do you now control your character in real time, but you can set spells and special abilities to specific buttons on your controller, allowing you to perform special moves instantly.

The mines are filled with all sorts of horrible creatures

One welcome feature of the PC game that remains the same is randomised dungeons, meaning that each layer of the mine is randomly generated. At times these different levels can be a bit samey, with the same props, buildings and graphical assets turning up time and time again. Such familiarity can occasionally create confusion, and a number of times I feared that I had gone the wrong way. Having said that, due to its random nature this may not be an issue for everyone.

At the start of the game you are asked to choose from one of three character classes; The Destroyer is a brutal warrior, skilled in melee combat but with limited magical abilities. The Alchemist is a pure spell-caster, able to fire blasts of magic and electricity as well as summon imps and steam punk-styled robots. The Vanquisher is a female guard that specializes in ranged weapons, and can also use traps against her foes.

You will also get to choose one of four pets to accompany your character on their adventures, ranging from a dog to a dragon. Your pet acts as a backup character, complete with their own inventory that can hold loot. Not only does this let you save important items, or items that need a higher skill level than you currently possess, but the pet can be sent back to Torchlight town to sell your unwanted items. Special abilities can be given to the pet by feeding them fish – the abilities range from simple things like increased speed and damage, to transforming your pet into an electrified monstrosity for a limited period of time, gaining combat bonuses.

One initial criticism I had of the game was that, though the inventory system is fairly straightforward, it can be a little confusing at first due to the sheer amount of items and pieces of equipment that need managing. After a short while playing this confusion was allayed however, and soon becomes second nature.

The inventory seemed a bit complicated at first, but I quickly mastered it

Indeed, you have only a limited number of slots in your inventory and as you are constantly gathering new items, you will spend just as much time managing your inventory as you will playing the actual game.

Completing missions and defeating enemies will, shockingly enough, earn experience points, and experience points earn level ups. Upon levelling up you can increase your basic statistics as well as learn new abilities. Each spell can be hot-keyed to a button on the controller, allowing you to perform a wide variety of different moves at the touch of a button.

Review Round-Up

Graphics: 4/5 – The clean cartoony style of the game is refreshing in a genre that, more often than not, tries as hard as it can to be as gritty and realistic as possible.

Sound 3/5 – Each of the main characters features full voice acting, while secondary objective characters’ dialogue is limited to text only. The writing is perfectly competent, but nothing to write home about, while the music is nothing surprising, but exactly the sort of thing you would expect from a fantasy game.

Gameplay: 5/5 – There’s a nice level of depth to the combat, and you are given plenty of chances to experiment, with a constant stream of enemies coming after your blood. Those that enjoy hunting for loot and managing their inventories will love what Torchlight has to offer.

Longevity: 4/5 – With dozens of levels, and optional side missions, Torchlight will keep you busy for a long time, especially when you consider that there are three character types to try.

Overall 4 Identify Scrolls out of 5

The Xbox 360 version of Torchlight manages to offer everything that was good about the PC original, as well as introduce a few vital tweaks that make this a must-have title for dungeon crawler fans.

Torchlight will be available to download on Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 Microsoft points (about £10.20) on Wednesday 9th March.

-Luke Mears

Fri, March 4 2011 » Reviews, Xbox 360

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