Torchlight is many things. Most obviously, it's an isometric adventure game, a click-fest of epic proportions. But, more importantly, we think it's a love-letter to Diablo, a sincere, heartfelt emulation of one of the greatest games ever made.
And, thankfully, it's a lot of fun. Sweet, addictive, one-more-hour-then-I'll-sleep-honest, fun.
The plot is pretty straightforward. You, as one of three adventurer types, have come to the town of Torchlight to quest in the vast ruins to be found underneath - but as you delve deeper and deeper, it becomes obvious that the mysterious resource known as Ember, which is mined in the area, is actually more threatening than it seems.
And, of course, you'll kill lots of monsters.
Torchlight, as a game, excels in giving the player a lot of control, while utilising only a few keys for most of the gameplay. Like in many MMOs, items and various skills and spells can dragged onto an action bar that maps to your number keys. Two favoured spells or attacks can even be further mapped on to your right mouse button, and these can be swapped around using the Tab key. With weapon attacks mapped to your right mouse button, you end up with an elegant system that lets you, for instance, blast off a poison bolt, fire a shot with your pistol, and then trigger a fireball with your off-hand wand.
As elegant and powerful as that is, Runic - the developer - went a step further with the design innovation. As you get more and better gear and spells quite often, swapping the old for the new is very important. To make that even easier, a single click on any of your hotkey slots opens up a window showing every item or spell/skill you can place there. You can effectively remap your entire control scheme in moments. Wonderful!
An effective inventory is paramount in games of this ilk, and Runic's again gone above and beyond to give you a lot of flexibility. All items take up one slot, stack appropriately, and can be moved about with a single sticky click. Every character also has access to a pet in the game, and this pet also has inventory slots. Indeed, it even has its own paper doll, so that you equip your wolf or lynx with cast-off rings and amulets - a very nice touch. Even more convenient is the ability to send your pet back to town by itself to sell excess gear. You have a lot of town portal scrolls, and can learn the spell eventually, but this is just another example of the game being very easy to play, and letting you concentrate on the good stuff, rather than selling and inventory management.
The good stuff
The real meat and potatoes of the game is split, appropriately enough, between two things - kitting out your hero in the latest dungeon raiding fashions, and swatting hordes of monsters using brawn, black powder or phenomenal cosmic power.
As we've said, the control scheme is quite effortless, so laying waste to waves of badguys, from scrabbling spiders, to hulking trolls to... well, all the usual array of underground nasties is, if not easy, at least a lot of fun. All your attacks have many different effects, from spells that blast out arcs of electricity when they critical, to fire-enhanced pistols and rifles, to mighty swords that knock opponents back. Because it's easy to switch between these attacks, you can get quite tactical, too.
For instance, you might want to use knockback attacks on a tough monster while you clear away the trash mobs surrounding it, before focusing the hurt on the big guy. You can also choose to focus on ranged attacks, mix up ranged and close in, or fight entirely up close and personal.
The skill trees you get to choose from are all quite flavoursome. We spent the most time with Alchemist class, who can choose to focus on learning and improving spell-like powers, using and summoning creatures, or combat skills like duel-wielding and using armour more effectively. Each talent has ten levels you can purchase, so the choice between advancing in a tree over focusing on a skill is very important, and allows for lots of different character builds.
And then you get to the gear...
There's a lot of it, and it drops regularly enough that you'll be updating almost every five or ten minutes. There's chest armour, boots, gloves, various rings and doo-dads, and of course weapons, ranging from mundane stuff all the way up to flaming magic pistols that burp fairy dust. You know what I mean. All of this bar the jewellery gets updated on your toon, too, and it's all very colourful. Combined with the skill customisations, you'll have a unique adventurer, working the way you want him or her to, in no time flat.
The game has no multiplayer - not that it's missed - but it would have been nice to have just so you could show off your awesome gear to other players!
Like Diablo, only...
It is very Diablo, obviously. It really does feel like a well-made remake, a truly honest homage to a great game that not only captures the spirit of the original, but improves upon it. It's for procedurally generated dungeons (though they're better), very atmospheric music (courtesy of the original Diablo composer), and even some similar quest structures (if we found a one-legged kid outside of town, we wouldn't be surprised).
However, it has a very different artistic style. It's a good move, too, and it keeps the game very fresh. The style is quite cartoony, like a more exaggerated version of World of Warcraft. The OGRE engine which powers it is also very pretty, with lots of particle effects and some very elegant animations. Each dungeon has a lot of depth, too, and this looks wonderful. You won't need a grunty machine to play Torchlight, either, but if you do, it looks stunning.
We can't say enough good things about Torchlight, but there's one more we must mention before running out of room - at $US20 to download (and it's not a huge game, either), you'd be stupid to miss out on it.