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Torchlight (PC) Review

Something lurks under this mountain. Something Ancient, and something evil. And it’s your job to figure out what in this blatant clone of Diablo. (Not that this is a bad thing.)

Torchlight starts with your arrival in the mining-town sharing the name of the game. Your reason for arriving is never made clear: Only that a very powerful magic user came before you, and the first entry of his journal the game reads to you talks about some REAL power being here. This power comes at a price that might have been too high, and had he known what it would do to him, he probably would have never even shown up. The mines used to produce precious metals as well as a magical stone called Ember. Used to is the key term, because recently monsters began to pour into the mines from below. Being the good guy you are (or perhaps because you wanted to go down there anyway), it isn’t long before you follow two other adventurers down and begin an adventure that will ultimately pit you against the source of the monsters in an epic battle for the fate of the town, and possibly the world.

When you first start playing, that this game is Diablo 2.0 becomes instantly clear. You will be greeted with a control panel much like Diablo, complete with mana/health gauges and ten slots in which you will place your spells and items, and even start with 4 taken up by health/mana potions and identify/town portal scrolls. In fact the only differences in this panel are that the health/mana are each taking half of one sphere in the center instead of each taking their own on the sides, you do not have a description box for what you are fighting (rather, that is more like Diablo 2 where the game will show that on top as you attack it), and you now have both your left and right mouse button attacks displayed in front of you, as well as an “alt” attack, which by hitting alt, you can swap with your right mouse button on the fly. In short, it takes a lot from Diablo, adds a little of Diablo 2, and improves on both to make for a very adaptive interface to configure and use quickly while in the dungeons. Even the automap returns in almost the same way: you can have it not be there, in the corner like a radar, or in classic overlay, which still remains my personal favorite for these games.

However, not everything is exactly the same. For starters, your belt no longer controls how many slots or what might be waiting as the next item you might choose to use from your 10 slots. Rather, much like World of Warcraft, or many other MMOs, you will choose an item and all of those in your inventory are attached to that button, be it a kind of health/mana potion, a kind of scroll, or even spells/skills you want hot-keyed for quick use. This helps speed up the game to make and make it even better to play.

When you get right down to it though, the ability to place whatever you want in those slots will not be the only thing to remind you of WoW. Graphically, this game shares a lot of the same style and flair as the juggernauted MMO. The 3d rendering and cartoony style will remind you a lot of this, and in a good way. The game has character and charm, and the art will not leave you bored of what you are looking at. On top of this, the game also takes full advantage of this to minimize the power needed to run this game. For giggles, I brought out an old Dell P4 laptop with 1.5 ghz CPU, 512MB RAM, and some old forgotten Intel graphic chipset and installed the game on it. Sure, loading times were long, but the game itself played smooth as butter…. well as smooth as this game runs on anything anyway.

And I do have to bring that up, because this game has one flaw in it’s presentation: The way it loads. Basically, this game takes a “load as it needs” approach to running, which may sound great, until you realize it’s loading all it’s data from a literal zip file in it’s main directory. The results may vary depending on what you run it on and what AV you are using (MSE may not have liked this very much), but anytime anything new showed up, the game would have to pause to load it into memory, disrupting the game for a little bit. Thankfully, these issues are brief and the longer you play that session, the less you run into them, but it is an obvious downside to what otherwise is an absolutely excellent blend of graphical style and performance.

Sound-wise, this game doesn’t fair so badly, either. The music might as well have been ripped right out of the Diablo series…. literally. If you walked into a room with this game idling and the screen turned off, you wouldn’t be able to tell unless you knew before hand the PC it’s on doesn’t have Diablo 1 or 2 installed. Sound effects, are also very pleasing, to boot. Weapons sound about right, all the voices are well acted (and none repeat between enemies… of course few enemies even scream, much less talk, so this isn’t a big issue) and all your major quests include full narration along with the text! That’s right, this clone’s main story is FULLY VOICED. A very nice touch to finish the feel of the game. Course do not expect this kind of detail on any side-quests you take on, but then, a number of those are randomly generated, so to do so would be impossible. (Not to mention some of the later ones that actually are planned have a few bugs, such as a portal that you have to click to the left of to use and voices stop being used altogether… clearly things that are small, but they just did not have time to fix.)

Sadly, I do have one last fault to bring up, though. This game has no multiplayer at all, so if you want to bring a team with you down into the mines of Torchlight, you are just SOL.

Overall, this game is simply amazing, especially for the price. (It launched at $20, and if you can catch it on sale, you can often get it for even less.) If you enjoy Diablo style games, you are doing yourself a disservice to miss this game. This is the game type refined, and it would have scored even higher had it included online gameplay.

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