This review could be incredibly concise. It is possible to write a one-word review of Torchlight, and still convey to the reader all that he or she needs to know about the game. That review would simply read “Diablo“. The mighty trinity spearheading the development of Torchlight consists of Travis Baldree, designer of Fate, and Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer, co-designers of Diablo and Diablo II. And it shows. The long and short of this review, it can be foretold in the opening paragraph, is that if you liked Diablo, you will love Torchlight. If not, move right along.
Torchlight was released via digital distribution in October 2009 and received its retail release on January 5th, 2010. The game is a classic dungeon-crawling action RPG. Set in the small mining town of Torchlight, the player must delve into the depths of the earth below the town, and battle through randomized dungeons positively teeming with the baddest baddies imaginable. There are a few NPCs in town who regularly provide quests to be accomplished at different levels below the surface, but the overall gist of the game is to progress deeper and deeper below ground, picking up as much gold and loot as possible along the way, and there certainly is a great deal of loot to be pilfered.
As it has been mentioned in this review and virtually every other, the gameplay is strikingly similar to that in Diablo. When starting the game, the player must choose between the three available characters of Destroyer, Alchemist, and Vanquisher, which bear uncanny resemblances to Warriors, Sorcerers, and Rogues. Familiar mechanics such as scrolls of town portal, waypoints, skill trees and socketed items abound in Torchlight, offering little nudges of nostalgic bliss to Diablo fans.
Torchlight does surpass Diablo in a few aspects. As one might expect from a game twelve years on, the graphics are infinitely superior in Torchlight. By most any standard, Torchlight is a beautiful game, with stunning art direction, becoming more spectacular the deeper beneath town the player explores. The other area in which the new game outshines the classic is the audio. Although both games have the same sound designer, Matt Uelmen, Torchlight’s music is simply more memorable, and has a depth of texture and ambiance that Diablo lacks.
Sadly, there must be areas in which Torchlight is weak, and that is the quests and storyline. There are, for all intents and purposes, four quests in the game which the player continually repeats:
1. Progress deeper underground to progress the story.
2. Go to a certain level, and defeat a certain unique monster.
3. Go to a certain level, and find the ember (it is an ore) there.
4. Enter a portal, find the special item there, and bring it back.
Clearly, this game is not plot-oriented, but rather gameplay-oriented. Mercifully, the gameplay is solid. It is difficult to fail when building upon such a solid, time-tested and honored template as Diablo. However, it would have been nice to see a tad more variety with the quests.
Overall, Torchlight is an enjoyable game. The levels and enemies are sufficiently varied to keep the player entertained. There are many items to collect, including gear sets and unique pieces of equipment. With three distinct characters to play as, the game also offers excellent replay value. Its only real flaws are its shallow storyline and rather weak difficulty level. Some might also cite its similarity to Diablo, but again, considering the development team, a person would be delusional to expect anything else. While not perfect, it is certainly worth the $19.99 most retailers, physical and digital, will charge. Additionally, with the design team promising a Torchlight MMO in a few years, this game is a good launchpad for interested players.