October 23rd, 2012
Author: Ambrielle Army
With the recent launch of its sequel, it’s only fitting to reflect on how Torchlight became a gaming staple. The Runic Games title was published by Perfect World for the PC in October 2009. In the next few years, the game’s popularity inspired more releases for Mac, Linux, Steam and even consoles. Its inclusion in the sixth Humble Indie Bundle sealed its status as a gaming classic. With developers and designers who have worked on games such as Diablo, Diablo II and Fate, it’s easy to see why the game is so well-loved.
The storyline centers around the small mining town of Torchlight where nearly all inhabitants depend on the steady supply of Ember that comes from the large mine on the outskirts of town. Although little is known about the mineral, its magical properties are clear. The player can use shards of collected ember to upgrade items and equipment. As the player ventures deep into the mine in search of a missing man, it is discovered that the Ember’s power does not come without a cost.
There are three separate character classes to choose from, but the high replay value encourages a player to try all three. Each has special abilities learned by using points gained through the leveling-up process. The Destroyer is a melee, fighting tank that can summon spirits to aid him in battle. The Alchemist is a classic mage with a twist of steampunk. He has innate spells as well as the ability to summon imps and golems to fight alongside him. The Vanquisher is a ranged fighter that can take advantage of varied traps during combat. Each class has different starting specializations in Strength, Magic, Defense and Dexterity, but all of these can be trained equally depending on combat style or weapons used .
While Torchlight is technically a dungeon crawler, the game play does not feel as contained as this would suggest. With abundant scrolls to teleport you between the town and the dungeon, taking a break from your adventure is free and easy. This is used to explore side quests or to sell items to the merchants in town. With the amount of loot found throughout the dungeons, the game fortunately offers many solutions to unload a full inventory. Occasionally, the player will inexplicably encounter merchants in the dungeons, though their presence is never explained. Because most items do not stack in item slots, you will probably be more grateful than skeptical when you come across them. Alternatively, the player chooses a pet at the start of the game (either a cat or dog), who holds an inventory as well. The player can send their companion to town for a minute or two to sell the items they carry. This ability is incredibly useful for farming gold, which comes in abundance after the first few character levels, like in many games of this kind.
Even though buying nearly anything you could want is tempting, it is less desirable to do, since the entire playthrough is not incredibly long. A player could easily finish the game using only looted weapons and gear or the player could sell their looted items to buy whatever they need. This gives the playerthe freedom to use an assortment of weapons and to train multiple skills for your character.. With the huge array of equipment and weapons the game has to offer, this is a very attractive and fun option to explore. There is also a shared chest in town for a player to use to access their other characters gear, allowing for hand-me-downs in future playthroughs. Because many items have level or skill requirements, the highest level items will not work with a beginner character, but you can pass down an item as an “heirloom” to a new character if you retire one of your existing characters.
Aside from using Town Portals to travel in and out of dungeons, Torchlight works very hard to keep the player interested to prevent the mundane feeling that dungeon crawlers can so easily slip into. Although, the story begins in the mine, the uncovering of ancient magic near the Ember vein brings a variety to the level designs. New and bigger monsters throughout the game’s progression are nothing new, but they certainly add change. Other unique features aim to set the game apart from others, including the importance of the character’s pet. While pets typically have basic attacks or a few set abilities, pets in Torchlight can equip magical items, change aggression levels and even learn spells. Pets have their own health and mana and will use spells at their discretion in combat, allowing you to focus on your character during combat. The player can even fish at one of the many fishing holes in town and in the dungeons to catch an assortment of fish. These fish can be fed to pets to transform them into bats, spiders and other creatures for a short period of time, giving them additional abilities in combat.
Torchlight has been an admired game since its release for good reason. The game environment is fairly diverse for its genre and well done at every turn. With so many options for character training and a reasonably short playthrough, beating the game several times with different specializations and classes is definitely possible without it becoming repetitive. Much like many other popular series, Torchlight will not lose its favor with its players regardless of its age. It is up to Runic Games to improve upon the original game, not in an effort to outdo this still-relevant title, but to continue impressing fans with more eventual classics in the future.