Torchlight: XBLA review

  • Format: XBLA (version reviewed), PC, Mac
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
  • Developer: Runic Games
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://www.torchlightgame.com

It’s no surprise that Torchlight is an excellent action-RPG filled to the brim with monsters, loot, and dungeons; after all, it was released for personal computers in 2009 and later saw a Mac version in 2010. But now Runic Games has ventured into the realm of console games with this XBLA release in 2011, and trading the mouse and keyboard for a controller brings up a whole bevy of issues to overcome. At its core, this game is still Torchlight through and through – but the trip to the Xbox 360 has left it feeling a mite discombobulated and more than a little shaky. The mysterious mining town of Torchlight is having all kinds of trouble as humans and monsters alike flock to the magical veins of ore that glow beneath the earth, known as Ember. As one of three classes (the beefy Destroyer, the long-ranged Vanquisher or the spell-focused Alchemist), you must get to the bottom of these unnatural events – quiet literally- by venturing down into a deep series of dungeons. The plot is little more than a frame on which to hang the stellar setting and gameplay, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Trust us, you’ll be far too busy smashing rat-men in the face to worry yourself about a story.

Some people go to a store to acquire some new shoes; others murder mutant bat things. To each his own.

Those familiar with Diablo should have a good idea what makes this game tick, which makes sense considering the two titles share a number of the same designers, and Torchlight does a great job of striking out on its own while remaining true to its roots. Using your weapons and faithful pet to bring down hordes of foes is endlessly entertaining, and the piles of shiny loot they drop make every step rewarding. You’ll pick up axes, swords, guns, bows, armour, rings, spells, potions, scrolls, gems, fish, and more even than that as you battle your way through floor after floor of diverse enemies. Popping back up to the surface allows you to restock your supplies and take on a few quests, but most of the better items can be found in the dungeons themselves; and you can always send your beast of burden on its way to sell things in your absence. You’ll nab experience points with every kill, too, which can be put towards character stats and skill trees. Learning to use purchased abilities in conjunction with your weapons is key, granting you meaningful tactics and highly entertaining results. The dungeon floors use a clever system of randomisation to keep things fresh, ensuring that you’ll never know exactly what to expect around the corner. Some dull and repetitive spots can arise here and there, but (aside from the frustratingly overpowered final boss) the constant character progression and top-notch combat rarely disappoint. After sinking 10 to 20 hours into completing the story, an endless dungeon is unlocked, which will keep the Torchlight fanatic playing all the way up to the level cap. One could ask for multiplayer, but it’s hard to complain about such a polished single-player experience.

An intelligent interface makes sorting through loot a non-painful process. In fact, it's kind of fun. Okay, it's pretty much the meaning of life.

And Torchlight is a lovely place to spend time, at that. Visuals highly reminiscent of the Warcraft series virtually pop out of the screen, and the oftentimes ominous music creates an excellent mood with deep drums, baleful horns, an echoing Spanish guitar, and subdued electronic elements. The only drawback to Torchlight’s production values on the XBLA is the terrible framerate that crops up whenever masses of enemies appear, which is not at all uncommon. It’s easy enough to overlook after a while, but this is a serious issue that needs fixing. Speaking of console problems, the Xbox controller has less skills readily available (only four at a time) than did the old-fashioned keyboard, although a tap of the D-pad opens up a second set, doubling that number. It’s a shame this same idea wasn’t implemented for weapon sets, as manually digging through the inventory to switch them is a useless chore that was absent from the PC version. The menus and overall UI are slower to navigate and less elegant this time around, but considering the restrictions involved, the new set-up suitably gets the job done.

You can't go wrong with an analogue stick in situations like this.

The XBLA release does contain a positive trait of its own, however: direct control over your character. Instead of clicking on monsters and dragging a cursor across the screen, as was custom in the PC version, using the analogue stick to dodge attacks helps to tighten up an already tight game. It’s a little rough around the edges, but spelunking and collecting loot is still a blast, Xbox or no Xbox. If you have a decent computer, that’s still the definitive version to buy; but this is a great substitution for console gamers and will provide many levels of dungeon-delving good times.

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Written by Stephen K

A lover of video games in general, Stephen will happily play just about any sort of game on just about any sort of system, especially if it’s a platformer or an RPG. Except sports games. Sports games are boring.

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