30th March 2011 - When Torchlight first premiered on the PC, one of the major issues that plagued it was a severe lack of streamlined controls. Hearing this one gripe alone, I left it alone. Now this hack and slasher is available on XBLA, as if to spite its critics. Of course something that works on a PC might not work so well on a Console’s downloadable market and it can easily be marked off as a knock-off of Diablo and forgotten, or can it?
The story of Torchlight is one we’ve heard before. The protagonist, whether he is Destroyer (Warrior), Alchemist (Mage) or Vanquisher (Rogue), goes to the town of Torchlight only to discover they have accidentally opened a mine that houses some dark malevolent evil preventing them from harvesting a valuable plot relevant material and beseech him or her to help with the obvious incentive or oversized musical instruments… I mean fat lootz. There is also the side story of an evil wizard trying to utilize the plot device relevant resource for dark purposes, and of course, waves upon waves of demonspawn to wade through. It goes without saying that Torchlight isn’t going to win any awards for its amazing and groundbreaking writing anytime soon and the whole setting is tropetastic, almost to the point of it being self-aware satire. Then again, that was probably what I took it as to get as far as I did.
Basic gameplay should be familiar with anyone who has played a game in the vein of X-Men Legends or, again, Diablo. You select one of the three classes, choose a difficulty, choose between a cat, dog, or baby dragon for your pet, then you venture off into Torchlight’s mines to kill your way to a small fortune. The new streamlined controls are all mapped logically. You can map the face buttons and triggers for special attacks, X is to attack, A is to interact, and the top shoulder buttons are for using potions. Good news is this basic set up gets the job done and with the Hints/Tutorial option on, any novice can go in and not get overwhelmed as the mechanics are introduced. Unfortunately, despite great improvements in the control department, some problems are still around elsewhere.
As you collect gold and equipment, you’ll want to equip better armor and weapons as you progress. Problem is when it comes to comparing stats, Torchlight includes probably the most bureaucratically asinine thing I’ve heard of, Identification. Eventually you’ll come across a helmet or whatever with its stats covered or hidden, and in order to find out whether or not to sell it, you must use an Identity Scroll on it, which are found like everything else in the game. In other words, you need to find an item simply to know the value of another item. It was unnecessary when the game was on PC, and they still didn’t bother to remove it for the XBLA release.
Fortunately, your pet is a real aid to have around, as opposed to the dog in the Fable games that is only good for finding dig spots. Your pet fights with you in battle, can temporarily transform into other creatures after feeding it certain kinds of fish obtained via a pseudo Quick-Time Event mini-game, and manages to maintain game flow by being able to hold onto any unwanted equipment and sell it for you back in town. Read that last part back to yourself a few times. Your pet is able to take equipment that you don’t need back to town and sell it for you. I don’t know how it works either but it helps keep the game going.
It is a shame that I really don’t know where the game is going. The story is secondary to the gameplay, and the gameplay just gives the impression of being phoned in. The level design is just copy and pasted, almost to the point of shear confusion, the only thing close to enemy AI is to continuously swarm you with increasingly large numbers of goblins and the like, all of the classes have large Area of Effect attacks that makes fighting multiple enemies yawn worthy, and the difficulty is just unbalanced. There is something wrong with a game when you set the difficulty to Very Hard on your first playthrough and haven’t died once or even came close to dying after three missions.
Torchlight can’t hold a candle (pun intended) to the likes of Bulletstorm or Call of Duty’s graphical fidelity, nor does it fall into the humdrums of last console generation graphics. The art style seems to balance a mix between the cel-shaded cartoonishness of Zelda: Wind Waker, with a steampunk fantasy edge. So to say the graphics aren’t realistic isn’t exactly a point against the game, but using different texture sets to disguise reskinned maps is, both of which the game is guilty of.
Torchlight isn’t exactly something amazing in the sound department. The voice acting, what little there is, is passable. The sound effects communicate mechanically the action on screen but aren’t something to write home about. The score is fairly atmospheric, if a bit minimalist, and will probably remind people once again of another game like it that I’ve already mentioned twice.
Torchlight gives the impression from its low budget origins that it wants to be something bigger than what’s being presented. It wants to be a unique series, but comes off as the videogame equivalent of a B-movie being played with a straight face. The story wants to be epic and intimate but just comes off as by the numbers. The gameplay wants the player to feel empowered by slaughtering hordes of enemies, but the aforementioned difficulty problems make things too easy to be considered a challenge at all, and any progression becomes meaningless when the level design repeats itself to the point of utter confusion. The only thing that I can say is notable is that the action, what little there is, is nonstop thanks to your pet having an Adventurer’s Platinum Member’s Club service in the Torchlight branch, but at the current price of 1200 Microsoft Points, it’s asking a bit too much.
To summarize, Torchlight is a brisk walk through a hellspawned mine that has a tendency to repeat itself, and what little fun there is isn’t enough to justify its asking price. Perhaps if they ditched the Identification system and dropped the price to 800 I would recommend it, but it would be close.
AAG SCORE: 7.5/10
+ Constant combat
+ Interesting art style
+ Well ported controls
+ Pet is a combat partner and junk courier
- Repetitive dungeons
- Difficulty overall is too easy
- Uninspired story
- Unnecessary equipment Identification
Reviewed and Written By Tyler Chancey