Publisher: Runic Games
Developer: Runic Games
System requirements: Windows XP; x86-compatible 800MHz CPU; 512 MB Memory; GeForce2; 400 MB Hard Drive; Internet connection for activation.
Genre: Action RPG
Release date: Available now
I insist that “Diablo Clone” become a valid genre name. No, really! Some people like to use the term “Action RPG”, but that’s too vague. It could mean anything from Deus Ex to Dragon Age since both of those games are RPGs and have a lot of action in them. When you want to describe a point and click combat-centric game with minimal character interaction, “Diablo Clone” neatly sums it all up. Especially if the game in question was developed by the same people who created both Diablo and Diablo II and is essentially their spiritual successor. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Torchlight by Runic Games.
The titular Torchlight is a town built around an ember mine. In case you care, ember is both magical and valuable. As always, monsters suddenly appear, property values fall, and everyone is ever so frightened. That’s when a champion has to arise to clean up this mess. Yeah, you’re it, and you can opt to be one of the three classes of the classical Fighter/Rogue/Mage variety. Each has three talent trees which actually make for very different gameplay experiences dependant upon your choices. You also have a pet (a cat or a dog) which helps you fight, can wear some equipment, cast some spells, and most importantly can run back to sell the loot.
In town there are a few quest-givers, a few vendors, and a guy who opens portals to some extra levels that are inaccessible from the main dungeon. There are also two chests to store your stuff in, one of which is shared between all characters. That’s it. Down in the mines things are a bit more lively because there are monsters of all shapes and sizes. As you clear a level you descend lower and every few floors the setting changes. There are the mines, the necropolis, the Dwarven ruins, and the volcanic fortress. New monster varieties also appear every so often. Loot is plentiful, so your pet will be busy.
If this sounds like a mix between Diablo (one town, one dungeon) and Diablo II (talent trees, socketable items) it’s only because that’s exactly what it is. Everything is familiar, from Town Portal scrolls, to guitar music. If you’ve ever played either of those games you’ll feel right at home. If you haven’t, you will still feel at home because the game is very simple. True, there are no potions of Rejuvination, but there is a pet, so it all balances out in the end. There is also fishing (which works similarly to World of Warcraft), and if you feed the fish you catch to your pet, it will temporarily change shape and become some other creature.
Torchlight is designed to run on very weak systems, so don’t expect a graphical masterpiece. It looks very pleasant, however, and is both bright and cartoonish. Path-finding is problematic at times especially for minions. I had nine of them following me at one point, and they kept getting lost. Occasionally you will see enemies get stuck in impossible to reach places. One complaint that I anticipate from the fans of the genre, however, is that Torchlight is too short. Fortunately once you defeat the final boss, a new dungeon with an infinite number of levels will open up. With that said, to me the length felt just right, as I was just starting to get bored by the time I beat it.
I very much enjoyed my excursion into Torchlight. Even though I normally don’t care much for Diablo Clones, this game is both well made and fun. Despite a few minor problems it is definitely a solid title. Having low system requirements, it will run on most computers and it also costs a mere $20, which makes it impossible to not recommend it. If you enjoyed games like Diablo, Nox, or Dungeon Siege then Torchlight is definitely for you. For those looking for a nice inexpensive gift this holiday season, consider getting it for your gamer friends. Chances are it will be greatly appreciated!