Review: Torchlight for XBLA

Torchlight has been out for the PC for some time, but makes its debut on console as a downloadable XBLA title.  The dungeon crawler offers hours of game play with untold number of dungeons to fight your way through as you fight a mystic ancient evil with your pet by your side.  A straightforward RPG that in many ways feels like a game developed by people who enjoyed playing Diablo, but had a list of things they would of like to of done differently.  So is Torchlight bound for your download queue or is this one dungeon you should sit out?

You start your quest by selecting your character between three different character cast, the RPG staple barbarian style “Destroyer” who specializes in melee combat, the Amazonian style “Vanquisher” who specializes in range combat and the necromancer-like “Alchemist” who is all about magic and summoning minions to do the dirty fighting for him.  Having spent hours in Diablo II as the necromancer class I immediately choose the Alchemist and set out on my quest….err no wait, next I had to pick a pet.  Your pet choices are a wolf like dog, a lynx like cat and a dragon… thing.  My new pet cat and I set forth to Torchlight to begin our adventure at last.  The town offers several merchants including one allowing you to combine items, and a cruel tempter of fate that will either add enhancements to your items or screw up and remove everything; either way he charges a hefty fee. Several of the town’s residents will also serve as the source for various side-quest throughout the game, most consisting of finding a certain item and returning it to them or defeating a certain foe.

You begin the real game soon as you enter the ember mines, a twisted cavern that ultimately reveals many floors of buried ancient ruins and monsters galore.  You and your pet will fight your way down further and further to ultimately destroy the ancient evil corrupting the mountain and all within it.  The combat is fairly straightforward, whether using ranged or direct weapons, the game’s combat is at its’ core a hack and slash.  For the most part the gameplay is reminiscent of the classic dungeon crawler Gauntlet Legends.  There isn’t a ton of depth to the fighting, simply aim your attacks in the direction of the current monster trying to eat your face off. The game does get repetitive at times as a result, but remains just fun enough that the thought quickly passes. Playing as the Alchemist I found myself letting the nymph minions, summoned by harnessing the energy of the corpses of fallen enemies, doing the up close work as I sat back and hit enemies first with my gun, and then later with my duel-wielding wands.  Despite the class, the opportunity to fight how you want is heavily present.  It would have been just as convenient for me to put my skill points into offensive spells and use those while hacking and slashing away with a broad sword, or an axe-gun-defense spell combo, or any combination.  The point is that while I chose the route of raising an army of minions to do the bulk of my fighting, the class did not by any means require it.

This is where Torchlight really shines.  The character customization is simply in a word, fantastic.  Depending of course on what you find and what you buy, you can essentially mold your character to whatever style of play works best for you. The level of customization allows you to get as detailed as you want in the RPG elements, and in this way the game draws comparisons to Diablo II, with some notable differences.  Your not constantly investing in a weapon or piece of armor only to throw it off two or three level-ups later; if you want you can often continue to enhance and upgrade many of your items keeping them relevant to your level.  Additionally if you should choose that the gems you placed into your sockets could be better, simply head to town and destroy the gems re-opening the sockets, or vice versa if you wan to save the gems destroy the item.  All of these abilities make it so that when you find an item that plays to your style you don’t have to sacrifice it simply because the effects are no longer strong enough.  The same essentially works for the skill points.  Since there is no skill tree you are not forced to invest skill points in a spell or upgrade you don’t want just to get to the ones you do want.  Furthermore, you can upgrade your skills enough that even the nymphs which I started resurrecting in the first level were still useful on the last level (having purchased all the upgrades for minions and nymphs available I had six fully upgraded minions at my disposal by the end). The same can be said for the Alchemist’s steam-punk inspired golems.  Unlike the golems you summoned in Diablo II, you can summon both of them at the same time; effectively not punishing you with wasted skill points for upgrading a “lower” golem if you chose to.

Armor and weapons are in no short supply, you will often sell off large amounts of them, and the direct comparisons in the inventory screen make it easy to decide what choice is the best one.  When your inventory gets too full your pet comes to the rescue.  In addition to fighting along your side, your pet can carry as much inventory as you can, and when that starts to get full you can send your pet to town to sell all the items it carries without ever having to leave the dungeon you are in.  You can also use certain items from your pet’s bag and have them apply to the pet.  Simple items like health potions; to more strategy-based choices like teaching your pet up to two spells that it will use while you fight your way through the dungeons.  I ended up teaching my pet a “Heal All” spell which it would cast with fair regularity helping to heal everyone, and thing, in my party, and a fireball spell that added a range attack to his repertoire.  Basically whatever charm spell you come across can be taught to your pet, and between that and the “send to town” function the pet is incredibly useful.  You can also feed your pet the different types of fish you catch in the various fishing holes.  Most of them will temporarily change your pet into a more powerful creature, but be careful as some fish have permanent effects. I realized this when I accidentally fed my cat a fish that turned it into a spider five minutes into my first game, prompting a restart. You will spend a lot of time going through your inventory, in particular armor, and one thing I desperately wished for while playing was the ability to organize or sort the items in some way shape or form. (Especially the gems)

Visually the game once again calls up memories of Gauntlet Legends, offering a much lighter, for lack of better words “cartoon-style.” art design, at least compared to that of Diablo II (Although the game does borrow Diablo’s overhead isometric camera perspective).  Despite being in a dark mine or in a buried tomb 20+ levels below ground, the game remains colorful.  Most enemies are distinct and uniquely identifiable, and the overall visual presentation is enjoyable.  Things do get hectic though, and it was often very hard to keep track of where my minions where, how many I had, and what was left enemy wise when in the midst of large battles.  This of course was due in part to the fact that by the end of the game I had a total of anywhere from 16-25 minions on screen at a time. To say I would of hugged an ogre for a visual representation of how many minions I currently had summoned would be an understatement. The in-game audio was full of plenty of quality sound effects, but most narration and character interaction is text based and there are no real cut scenes to speak of.  Some of the text was a little difficult to read on my HD TV, mostly in regards to inventory items with many enhancements, but not a major issue.  For the most part the game’s interface works great with the controller and was ported well from the original point and click interface of a PC mouse.  The only real issue that ever popped up was the occasional difficultly targeting a single enemy in a group.

The game is quite easy, maybe too much so, on the normal setting. I believe I only died at most three or four times and at least one was because I hadn’t realized I was standing on a fire-trap.  Another was because the game is not great at recognizing that you have pressed RB between you spamming X to attack your enemies. That said, the game offers multiple difficulty levels, I just wouldn’t have chosen normal from the onset if I had known how easy it was. The game also suffers from a few glitches: On at least two occasions I was able to summon not only more minions than I was supposed to be able at that point, but more than I could even after I was fully upgraded.  While I’m not 100% it was a glitch, the first several excerpts of Alric’s journal, which appears when you enter a new dungeon area, were narrated and the last several were not; leading me to think there was a glitch at some point.  I managed to find the same “unique” wand twice and theoretically could have dual wielded two of the same supposedly unique weapon.  I also did experience one single instance of the console locking up and freezing mid game.  (And while very minor and technically not game related, the male avatar award shirt that the game unlocks has “tears” in it) Most of these glitches are likely a result of the porting from PC to Xbox and are largely trivial but did occur, and considering the amount of time spent in the game they weren’t very common.

Take one part Diablo and two parts Gauntlet Legends and you get Torchlight.  Yes, it is that good. It is a dungeon crawler with complex elements, especially in character customization, that compare to Diablo that will appeal to the more hardcore gamers who enjoy a deep RPG experience, but is “simpler” and bound to appeal to those who are put off by a game like Diablo’s micro-managing.  It strikes a strong balance between the two and will have assets that appeal to both audiences and at the end of the day is an exceptionally fun dungeon crawler that is not currently matched on XBLA.  The game continues literally on forever after the main mission is over as well, with the “shadow vault” dungeon mixing and matching enemies scaled to your level and various dungeon types. Perfect for grinding the fame achievement after you have finished the core game. In Short: Don’t be surprised if you lose a week of your life to Torchlight.

Final Rating: 9/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360
Approximate Time to Completion: ~20 hours
Gamer Score Earned: 200g
Price Bought at: N/A – Furnished by Runic Games
Current Price: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15)
Recommend Purchase Price: Lots of value for 1200 points here, you’d be a fool to not buy it if ever goes on sale for 800 or less.

While the game is a great value at 1200 points, you simply can’t beat free.  Yeah, that’s right, thanks to Runic Games we have 3 copies of Torchlight to give away to you! There are two ways to enter:

This contest is over and the information below is only still on the page for archival purposes, thanks to everyone who submitted!

First, comment on this blog and tell us what your favorite RPG class is.

Second, gain an additional entry by following us on twitter and sending the following tweet: ” @ClearanceBinRev is  giving away 3 copies of Torchlight for XBLA! RT/Follow to Enter. More Details:

Remember that you have to follow us; any winner we attempt to DM via Twitter who isn’t will automatically forfeits their win. If you enter via Twitter include your twitter name in your post below.

The contest will go until Friday, 6pm CST. No entries will be accepted after then, and three winners from all qualified entries will be selected shortly after.  CBR reserves the right to disqualify any entry that does not meet the entry requirements.


About Tristan Rendo

I've made movies, written and performed music, and in January of 2011 got bored and started the awesome gaming site you see before you. My gaming roots began with the original NES, and endless hours spent spilling quarters into machines at the local arcade. I have a personal collection of over 200 Nintendo 64 games, and for many years it was the only system I owned. I re-entered the modern generation of gaming consoles when I decided to purchase a 360. I typically prefer the single player experience of games, so I’m usually playing through some single-player campaign, but can occasionally be found doing some damage in Halo Reach.