Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
Fans of dungeon crawlers have been waiting many years for Blizzard Entertainment to release “Diablo III.” Back in 2009, some of the great minds behind the original “Diablo” helped make the wait easier by releasing the fantastic “Torchlight” at a budget price for the PC.
In fact, “Torchlight” was more than a simple “Diablo” clone that would only serve to keep us busy until some bigger, better game came along. Despite its low price and lack of multiplayer, PC players latched onto the game and championed it as one of the best dungeon crawlers in a long time.
“Torchlight” starts by letting you choose one of three classes — a limited number, sure, but the usual bases are covered. You can choose to be a master of magic as an Alchemist, an expert of taking enemies out by afar as a Vanquisher, or you can get up close and personal with monsters as a Destroyer. Each class plays differently and has different abilities, so pick one that fits well with your play style.
You start the game in the town of Torchlight, and you’ll return often to buy, sell and upgrade items, get new quests and so on. You can return to Torchlight whenever you want by using a “Town Portal” scroll, which is useful, though not always necessary as you can send your pet to town to sell unwanted items for you (something I wish my real dog was smart enough to do).
But you spend the vast majority of your time in the dungeons underneath Torchlight, which are amazingly diverse for what they are.
The levels start off innocently enough, with you venturing into a series of mining tunnels directly beneath the city. But they quickly get weirder, showcasing an Atlantis-esque underwater area, a hell-like setting and more. It helps progression through the game feel fresh.
But what makes the game extremely addictive is the loot lust. This is nothing new to those familiar with action RPG games. It’s the feeling you get when exploring a dungeon, getting more and more powerful, and getting the feeling of, “Man, I really want whatever powerful piece of equipment I’m going to find down here.” There’s certainly an addictive nature to collecting new weapons and armor, especially when you get lucky and find really rare ones.
But this is all very much like “Diablo” and other PC games. The big question about this Xbox 360 version is how well it controls, as these games tend to be best and most popular when they’re played with a mouse and keyboard. How well does it control with a console controller?
Surprisingly well. Rather than clicking on where you want your character to go and what monsters you want to attack, you have direct control over movement with the left analog stick, and you can attack in real-time by hitting the X button. Skills (spells and abilities) can be mapped to other face buttons, as well as the triggers, and health and mana potions can be quickly used by hitting the left and right bumpers, respectively.
The menus have also been retooled to work better in the console environment, and I think the folks at Runic did a really good job with it all. Things may not be as quick as they could be with a mouse pointer, but they work just fine here.
The only thing the console gamers lose compared to PC and Mac players, really, is the lack of mods. Runic released its development tools to the community not long after “Torchlight” was first released, and fans of the game quickly took to making new items, new character classes, new pets, etc. Playing around with this stuff can be fun, but there’s not really an infrastructure for mods on the Xbox 360.
That said, mods are certainly not a requirement for enjoying the game. Personally, I’ve messed with a few of them on the PC version of “Torchlight” but spent a vast majority of my time playing the game without them.
The only other downside to “Torchlight” is something that plagues all versions of the game: a lack of multiplayer. One of the reasons “Diablo” became a huge success was because you could play it with friends, exploring dungeons, killing tough monsters and trading items. You don’t get any of that here. Personally, I still think the game is fantastic without it, but it’s certainly something to point out.
Multiplayer will, however, be a component of “Torchlight II,” due to hit PCs later this year. No word on if that game will also come to the 360, but I imagine it will if the original “Torchlight” does well on the system.
For its low $15 price tag, “Torchlight” on the 360 is easy to recommend for RPG players, especially if you’re just dying to get your hands on something until “Diablo III” hits. If you’ve never experienced the game before, you can’t go wrong with any version.
The game will be available on Xbox Live Arcade on March 9 and is available now on PC and Mac. The Daily Toreador was sent an early review copy of the 360 version for review.