If you liked Diablo, you’ll like Torchlight. If you like Dragon Age, you’ll like Torchlight. If you liked Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light – especially for the combat but you hated all the jumpy bits, then you’ll love Torchlight. So what is Torchlight? Well, think of it as a top down isometric 3D World of Warcraft, that you can only play with one player.

It was first a game for the PC, released in 2009 by a team that had worked on Diablo, Diablo II, Fate and Mythos – so these guys knew what they were doing. A very loyal and involved fan-base means that the game has a sense of balance and depth that is often missing from XBLA games (not Beyond Good and Evil HD, obviously), and unlike some console games that have been adapted from the PC, the control system has been completely reworked so that it’s appropriate to the console.  There’s no XBox 360 ‘Command and Conquer’ style frustration here. You walk around and fire your weapons, of which there are a huge variety, and the look of your character actually changes with each one!

You’ll find yourself presented with an initially fairly daunting inventory screen, which turns out to be one of the best RPG inventory screens that has ever been invented.  If you have just picked up a weapon or piece of armor that is better than what you are wearing, then a green arrow will tell you. Things that are categorically worse than the items that you have with you have a red arrow, and you don’t even need to dump them half way through a quest as you have no inventory slots left, you can give them to your pet (a wolf, lynx or slithery lizard XBLA exclusive thing) who’ll take them to the shop to sell them for you – which for a compulsive hoarder like me is AMAZING. In the town, weapons can be set with attribute-giving jewels, and even enchanted for new powers. They can be ranged, magical, close-combat, one-handed or two-handed; you’ll find your favorites and stick with them for a while, before something cooler and nastier comes along… which you have to level up to use. This gives a real incentive to doing side-quests as well as advancing the main story. It’s the first time that the inventory hasn’t got in the way of my enjoyment of the game.

There are also stats to upgrade to allow the use of items and skill points that you can use to gain different abilities you can map to the buttons you want, with easily swappable on the fly ‘skill sets’. And those skill sets change depending on whether you are a Vanquisher, Destroyer or Alchemist.  If you play a cool-looking, sexy Vanquisher like me, I recommend you start investing in your trap quite heavily, quite quickly.  It’s awesome!  I miss not having my mystical flame thrower when I’m playing Dragon Age II.  That’s right, my loyalties have been torn between Torchlight and a game whose predecessor I loved so much I had a Grey Warden griffon tattooed on my back. The game even has a little bit of a steampunk vibe. You can learn spells, teach your pet spells… hell, you can even give it jewelery.  If you can find it something that helps it withstand poison attacks, do it – my wolf seems to love to jump in to the nasty green stuff. Oh, and health and mana potions are automatically stacked and easy to use.

So, what about the problems? Well, to be honest – there aren’t that many.  The levels are always fresh due to a random dungeon feature that links together pre-rendered sections, as well as including certain set pieces, and the dungeons look different too!  There are always areas to explore, but the dungeons never tend to make you get lost. The automap (a feature that comes from the PC’s Torchlight 2 development) does help you work out where you are, although it’s not always quite clear what you’re meant to be doing.  No endless Final Fantasy XIII corridors,  though. There’s also some quite major pop up with the many varied enemy types… funnily enough, I quite liked that. It also has some cheesy sample dialogue that characters in the town say whenever you meet them, but I kind of like that too; it reminds me of SNES samples… which makes me smile. Oh, and I would recommend in the town picking up as many quests as you can, as you can find yourself completing three quests in one dungeon run that you would have to repeat otherwise. Also, stock up on Identity Scrolls – if there’s something I can’t stand, it’s not being able to use something that I just picked up (damn you and your grayed out inventory, Dragon Age II!). And the story… it’s okay; about a mining town and the mysterious element of Ember… but if you don’t enjoy the questing for the leveling up and questing’s sake… then you may not be completely gripped by this game.

Oh, and the biggest problem with the game – it’s not co-op over XBox live, but they do have to keep something back for Torchlight 2 (which was originally going to be an MMO, but then they do have to hold something back for Torchlight 3). It also does have difficulty settings that mean what they say.  The easiest is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, which with a judicious use of the cheesy samples and pad rumble is actually quite satisfying. On the most hardcore setting, if your character dies, that’s it.  No coming back… you’ll have to start again as someone else.







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