Ever wondered what would happen if you took the best and coolest aspects of your favorite action RPGs and blended them seamlessly into a single title? You’d probably have something a lot like Torchlight. While there’s very little innovation or novelty here, this gem from Runic Games is easily the best ARPG I’ve laid eyes on in quite some time.
On its surface, Torchlight sounds much like another derivative Diablo clone, and if it weren’t laden with tons of style, polish, and all around fun, it would be. Players choose from one of three character classes, the melee-centric Devastator, the magic-using Alchemist, and the ranged-attacking Vanquisher. There’s a nasty dungeon in town, the world is at risk, and there are scads of monsters (and countless mouse-clicks) between Our Heroes and victory.
Each character has a decent selection of skills available in their skill trees, allowing for some interesting character customizations. As expected, killing monsters nets experience, which translates into increased levels and advances through the abilities. The abilities themselves are typical action RPG fare, with attacks, passive bonuses, and summons. Unlike many titles, there are no progression lines of advancement, only level requirements, so players are not forced down a particular path of abilities to get to the coolest powers. The trees overlap a bit between each of the classes, so it’s quite possible to make a melee character out of the Alchemist or Vanquisher for a change of pace. In addition to skill trees, characters can also each learn up to four spells, which are found as loot or bought in town. The spell selection further allows for increased character customization.
Characters also begin the game with a pet, either a dog or cat, that can lend a hand in the fighting. Additionally, pets can be equipped with rings and necklaces, to give them a bit of an edge. Pets can also learn two spells on their own. I was constantly amused as my companion cat would be summoning a horde of zombies to do its bidding. The AI for the pets is quite good, and I found that mine did a great job keeping me healed when necessary and keeping my undead armies in place. Should you want something a little more impressive than a dog or cat, pets can be temporarily changed into various monsters through the ingestion of some of the dungeon-dwelling fish that can be caught at certain points throughout the dungeon. The quality and type of fish determines the transformation duration and identity.
Pets also act as pack-mules, with a bigger inventory space than the characters themselves. Not only can they carry much of those hard-earned gains, they can also run back to town (although I have no idea how they do it so quickly) and sell off their items, bringing back the money after a few moments. While this is incredibly convenient, as players don’t have to stop grinding through the evil hordes, I did find myself missing the helping paw that my pet lent to the battle.
The dungeon levels are randomly constructed, but impressively so. I seldom encountered any lay-out that I considered strange or out-of-place. There are several different tilesets used, depending on the level of the dungeon, so the atmosphere never grows dull. Levels are littered with secret passages, multiple story construction, and the occasional trap to keep everyone on their toes. Each section of the dungeon has its own style, from the typical dank stone passageways to an underground greenhouse to the fiery depths of volcanic doom.
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