These reviews I am republishing on my blog were originally published on texasteamplayers.com (now teamplayergaming.com) and are my copyrighted work. Please do not repost or use these reviews in part or whole without my consent.
Publisher: Runic Games
Release Date: October, 2009(Steam Version), January, 2010 (Retail Box)
Rating: T (Teen)
Article by: Kyle “Rumble” Bousquet
With the recent retail box release of Torchlight what has become something of an underground sensation is gaining some of the mainstream attention it deserves. Torchlight is often referred to as Diablo II.5 and for good reason. Runic Games, the developer of Torchlight, is made up of people who made the Diablo franchise games at Blizzard. Their Diablo fingerprints are all over this game, and if you’re a Diablo fan this game is a great distraction until the eventual release of Diablo III.
Like the Diablo series Torchlight is a 3rd person dungeon crawler. You can choose from one of three classes in Torchlight, Alchemist (mage), Destroyer (fighter) or Vanquisher (hunter). No matter what class you start as you also get a pet (cat or dog) who can later be transformed into other animals or monsters through magic (or fish). You are thrust right into the action by a venerable old wizard who wants your help in some mines outside of town. While the old man is no Deckard Caine, he is remarkably similar.
One thing I will say about Torchlight compared to the older Diablo games is the wealth of quests available to you. Just about everyone in the town you start in has a quest for you, and most of them are chains of quests. Most of the quests revolve around the mines you start in, and eventually go deeper and deeper into, however there are some side quests available. The side quests take the form of both an individual wanting you to explore dungeons he has available and maps you can buy from the vendor that open short self-contained dungeons. The biggest advantage to these side dungeons is you can do them over and over to level up which makes the main storyline dungeon easier. Whenever I felt I was getting in over my head I would do four or five side dungeons, gain a few levels, and then go back to the main dungeon.
The class system is pretty robust in Torchlight. Each class has three skill trees like in Diablo II, but I’ve found that World of Warcraft has a lot of influence on the skill trees actual complexity. There are more options here than in Diablo games to be sure. While some players might just go online and find builds that people rave about I found part of what makes Torchlight so good is figuring out just what kind of Vanquisher you want to be by playing with the talent/skill system. There is just so much flexibility in designing your own class I think anyone who just looks up the most popular build is costing themselves an integral part of the games experience.
In Torchlight you have two banks, one shared across all your characters and one for just that character. This really helps your subsequent characters, as I found myself stashing all the good set items and unique items my first character couldn’t use. It’s not as useful as it could be though as the loot tables in Torchlight seem to be geared more towards your class, making drops that are good for other classes less frequent. That’s just my opinion though, I couldn’t swear to it. Torchlight also has a fishing system where you can gain items that give you special enhancements or can change your pet into other animals. You can find the fishing holes throughout the dungeons and even off a dock in town. I found the banks and fishing to be a real unexpected bonus.
Torchlight is a beautiful game. Like the impending Diablo III, the artists made use of a brighter pallet than some may want for a dungeon crawler, but the object with this game was clearly not realism. The game has a slightly cartoony feel, reminiscent of Team Fortress 2, but not quite as over the top. You have a whole host of graphics settings you can customize including, but not limited to, Antialiasing, Hardware Skinning, control of particle detail and shadows, even the ability to tell the game to render graphics behind walls. The game also offers a wide array of resolutions, far more than any Diablo game ever did.
What really sets the graphics apart from any other game I’ve ever played is the “netbook” mode. Most designers these days are trying to push the envelope on graphics and made games that push hardware to their limits. Runic decided to do a nice job on the graphics but make the game playable on as many systems as possible, and take advantage of the growing netbook market. Netbook mode sets the graphics to a level that doesn’t tax a netbook, but still gives you essentially the same gameplay experience. One thing to note though, in my testing you had to turn down the Particle details all the way; the netbook mode did not do it for me. Once this was one most of my choppy play went away. There is a lot of talk on the net that which netbook you play on really determines what kind of play you will get out of the game. I found as long as your netbook meets or exceeds the recommended minimum requirements you should be fine.
I really should have entitled this section “Wow, how did they not get sued by Blizzard!?” The soundtrack of Torchlight is so close to Diablo and Diablo II it is eerie. There were times I was convinced what I was hearing was indeed Diablo II’s soundtrack. I’m really impressed with the quality of the music and since I enjoyed the Diablo soundtracks. Blizzard was always very big on the quality of their music, and it’s nice that Runic Games didn’t cheap on the music for Torchlight.
While the soundtrack was of the highest quality the rest of the games sound (monsters, spells and general ambiance) while not groundbreaking were a good quality. I didn’t hear any noticeable surround sound at play in Torchlight, but the sounds were still engaging and help immerse you in the game. After some research on the game I found conflicting reports of whether the game actually supports true surround sound or not. Unfortunately for Runic I didn’t see any options for surround, and my in-game experience made me believe I didn’t have a true surround sound game. I can’t help but feel this is a major shortcoming for a game with such good audio.
While Torchlight does not support multiplayer, and from what I can discern there are no plans to add it at a later date, there is good news for fans and soon to be fans of the Torchlight franchise. Runic is developing a Torchlight universe based MMORPG. I am saddened by the lack of any multiplayer in Torchlight though. It would normally hit their scores hard. It’s not easy to overcome a zero in any category. There’s a bright side for Runic Games though. Since the game was never intended to be a multiplayer experience the zero isn’t going to be counted.
Torchlight is clearly a top notch single player game. The graphics, sound and especially the gameplay make Torchlight an addictive and consuming experience. I now have several characters over level 25 and show no signs of losing interest. As a first game for Runic Games this is certainly a home run. I only hope that when the MMORPG comes out they do as good a job on a multiplayer game as they did on the single player.
Praise aside, I think it was a brave move for Runic Games to not put out a multiplayer component in Torchlight. I feel justified in not counting their zero in the multiplayer category because you cannot ask a spoon to be a fork, or a fork to be a spoon. Torchlight is no spork, it’s just a spoon. A spoon of single player goodness.
Teamplay: 0/100* (not scored in final rating)
TeamPlayer Rating: 88/100
• CPU: x86-compatible 800MHz processor
• GPU: DirectX-compatible 3D graphics with at least 64MB of addressable memory (such as an ATI Radeon 7200, nVidia GeForce 2 or Intel GMA 950)
• Ram: 512MB
• Hard Drive: 400MB
• OS: Windows XP or later
• DirectX: 9c
Reviewers System Specs:
• CPU: Core 2 Quad Q6600
• GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 216.
• Ram: 4.GB
• Hard Drive: Dual 500GB Seagate Barracuda’s in Raid0
• OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
• DirectX: 11
• Sound: ASUS Xonar X2 7.1 Surround
• Optical drive: DVD/RW