Bats flitter overhead as you stomp over arched stone bridges spanning mist-shrouded depths. Your faithful dog trots at your heel, sometimes running ahead to scout, but never far from your side. You hear a distant music thrumming in your head. Or is that just the wind? Broken tiles crunch under your boots as you step out onto a ruined platform. Suddenly, the floor shatters as skeletal warriors erupt from below, eager to strip the flesh from your bones and drag you down to join their ghastly horde. You grip your axes tightly. Here we go again…
I could begin this review by pointing out Torchlight‘s obvious connections to the highly successful Diablo series. Hell, every other reviewer is. And it makes sense, seeing that Torchlight’s creators are the ones who designed the first two Diablo games. But I’m not going to tell you that. Oh, shoot…I just did. Okay, but I’m not going to elaborate on it. Because if you care about Diablo, you probably already know. And if not, then what’s the point in going on about it?
My Computer is So Old
How old is it? Well, it’s so old that the hard drive consists of a small pterodactyl writing on a clay tablet. That’s pretty damned old. And until I can pony up the dough for a sparkling new computer, I am stuck playing whatever old games will work on my antique PC. That is, until Runic Games‘ Torchlight came along. There are many things I love about this game, but near the top of my list is the fact that the system requirements for Torchlight are lower than you would expect. They managed to make a game with wonderful graphics and sound, and yet it plays on my Neanderthal 2000. They even included a “Netbook Mode” that will enable this to run on your laptop. Now that’s considerate!
No Class? Here’s Three.
Torchlight gives you three character classes to choose from. The Destroyer is the guy you wouldn’t want working in your china shop. He is a brute melee fighter type, and likes to get his big, meaty hands dirty. The Vanquisher likes to shoot stuff with either a bow or a gun, so you probably wouldn’t want her in your china shop either. She also uses traps to mess with the enemies. Your basic range rogue class. The Alchemist is a spell caster. He zaps things with his spells, and he summons friends to break your china so he doesn’t have to get his pale, dainty hands dirty. Each of these classes has a different set of skills you can choose as they gain in experience and power. My only beef with the game is that there is not a whole lot of variance to the skills, so there is a limit to how you can customize your character. But it’s not a huge gripe, and it is vastly overwhelmed by the other aspects of the game. For example, you get to choose a pet. You can have a dog or a cat, and your pet will follow you around, fight with you, carry loot, and even run it back to town and sell it for you. Now that’s a good pet!
Whichever character class you wind up choosing, your hero starts in the tiny town of Torchlight and is immediately sent on a quest to explore the mines below the town. Seems that the magic mineral called ember is causing some sort of problems, and there’s some guy named Alric who has disappeared or something. To be honest, I didn’t pay all that much attention to the story because the actual game itself was so much fun, and reading makes my head feel funny. But there is always an excuse or three to go down into the dungeons below and kick some monster ass. And collect loot. Lots and lots of loot. There are magic items galore, from common to rare to unique items, and even sets of items. Collect them all! But wait! There’s more! Call now and you can get fabulous gems that you can fit into socketed items to make them even better! Long story short: there is an endless amount of crap to collect.
It’s All About the Atmosphere
This game falls into the Action RPG genre, which means that there is going to be a lot of clicking of the mouse and tapping of the hotkeys. But when you are not rabidly clicking, you will find yourself enthralled by the level of detail the designers packed into this game. The music is fantastic – sort of Pink Floyd meets Brian Eno – and the sound effects bring you right into the moment, whether it’s the explosion of a fireball or the rattle of your dog’s collar. There are plenty of stunning visual effects as well. Torches flicker and smolder. Water ripples and splashes. Bats flit by, and tapestries wave. Between battles, as you run along corridors, or over rickety wooden bridges past pools of lava, you will want to just stop and look. It’s all just so pretty.
Little Things Mean So Much
Do you like surprises? I’ll tell you a few, but I don’t want to spoil the fun of discovering them for yourself. Like to fish? Find a fishing hole and there’s a mini-game where you can fish for…well…fish. Feed the fish to your pet and watch him change! You can also find some other items when you fish, including magic items. So there’s a certain slot-machine quality to this mini-game that is surprisingly addictive. I also really like the various portals that pop up to other “hidden” dungeons. You can even buy maps from a vendor that create a portal to a randomly generated dungeon. Another special touch is the swarms of monsters that occasionally boil out of some hidden doorway, or jump down on top of you from a balcony. This game is full of such special little touches, and that really shows how much the designers care about their audience. It is obvious from the start that this is a game that was made by people who like to play games. And that is what makes the difference.
No Fooling, This Game Rocks
Okay, I think you get the picture. You can download a demo and see more pictures and information at the official website. It is only available for the PC, but there are plans to release a Mac version in 2010, I believe. There is also a level editor for the PC, though I don’t believe there are plans to make an editor for the Mac. And there is talk of a multiplayer version yet to come. There are so many good things I could say about this game, but I think the last and best thing to say is that the game only costs $19.95! That’s right. One of the best games to come out this year, and it costs about a third of what you would pay for a boxed game from the store. So don’t waste your time reading this blog entry anymore! Go! Download the demo and play it! I guarantee, you’ll find it more than worth the 20 bucks to buy a license for the full version.