By Duncan Voice
If you’d have told me that a game with system requirements so low that a Casio pocket calculator could probably run it outsold the indomitable Modern Warfare 2, I would have probably given you a bit of a slap and told you to stop telling porkies. But apparently it’s true! I wouldn’t have slapped you really of course, I’m a lover, not a fighter… unless I’m playing Torchlight and turning groups of monsters into bloody messes like some sort of whirling dervish of hurt.
I’ve not had the opportunity to review a game recently because I had a dreadful conclusion to the end of last year. I took a surprise beating from a lovely chap who didn’t even give me the good grace to see his face a few days before Christmas, giving my eye the kind of yellow/purple shade usually reserved by make up artists working on zombie films, a terrific gash on the back of my head and a wobbly front tooth which makes me resemble the goofy looking truck from Disney Pixar’s Cars, and will cost a bomb to get fixed. Soon after I managed to get an almighty bout of man-flu to add to my woes, but thankfully Torchlight eased the pain a great deal. Although I could do without the repetitive strain injury. From all the clicking. Ahem.
The titular town of Torchlight is the setting for events, where in the mines underneath there is something going down to do with a mystical product called ‘ember’. In all honesty, and perhaps I’m doing this reviews credibility no good, but if you’re picking this up for it’s long-winded, finely crafted narrative then I’d imagine you’re the type of person to think Hollyoaks is comparable to Shakespeare.
It’s about heading into a dungeon, killing enough things to make Attilla the Hun blush and filling your bags with new weapons and armour. It almost feels like a tribute to the Diablo games, and is the perfect remedy to satiate the hunger for Diablo III, due possibly next year. "It’s done when it’s done", so Blizzard keep telling us.
To start things off you can pick one of three tried and tested classes. The Destroyer acts as your typical warrior/melee class, the Vanquisher is your archer and the Alchemist is the mage of the game. All three classes are as satisfying as they are simple to play, and all focus on causing as much chaos as possible.
The levelling up system is deceptively deep, allowing you to customise your character with attribute points to increase strength, dexterity et al. and skills points which give you access to, of course, new skills. Being a bit of a sucker for big numbers I tend to neglect any sort of defence in favour of picking skills which cause as much damage as possible in as short space a time, but you can tailor your character to suit your playing style.
For instance, the Alchemist can be a master of the elements, throwing lightning bolts and all sorts around, or you can focus on his summoning skills, allowing minions to do all the legwork for you. During character creation you also pick and name either a cat or a dog companion to accompany you, and assist you during fights. You can assign skills to your pet as you progress. My cat currently summons skeletons and throws fireballs. There are no words to describe how awesome this is.
As mentioned before, the system requirements probably won’t cause even the most run-down of systems to break into a sweat, and it is surprisingly attractive. Nothing special, but characters models are nice and chunky, environments are varied with a decent colour palette, and even during the most hectic of fights there was no slow-down to mention.
The town acts as a hub, with quests signified by old friends the yellow exclamation and question marks. You can buy and sell loot, as well as a handy little feature where you can store items for use by another created character. Entrance into the mines takes you to the first floor of the randomly generated dungeon, but using teleportation scrolls picked up during your battles allow you to hop right back into action down on the 12th floor for instance.
Having been a console gamer for as long as I can remember, I tend to take force feedback for granted and notice it when it isn’t there. Runic Games have done a sterling job with visualising solid, painful, sometimes chaotic combat. It doesn’t amount to much more than clicking away and using hotkeys , but it is extremely satisfying and takes all of 4 seconds to pick it up.
Something I genuinely never thought I’d write in a review, do take care to avoid aforementioned repetitive strain injury however, as you will often find yourself clicking like a loon for a good few hours on end, especially with the endless streams of loot popping up. The penalty for death is well thought out, with a suitable sacrifice if you choose to resurrect close by, or the prospect of working your way back down the dungeon if you don’t want to lose out on any money, experience or fame.
Born from the ashes of Mythos, Runic Games’ attempt at a Diablo flavoured MMO, Torchlight is sadly a single player only affair, but is backed already by a solid modding community. New classes are easily added into the game, and there are some excellent efforts to be dug up, including a decent version of Warcraft’s Shaman class. It may not have had any build up, nor is it likely to win any game of the year awards, but it is an incredible amount of fun. It’s the epitome of pick-up-and-play. Five minutes of monster bashing is just as satisfying as five hours. It’s as simple as the year is young, and it doesn’t contain any Daily Mail baiting scenes.
A terrific little game, and comes highly recommended.
8 OUT OF 10