Monday, July 30, 2012


Developer: Runic Games
Publisher: Perfect World
HDD, 1 Save File
1 player

Torchlight is an ARPG made by a bunch of the former Diablo development team. As you'd expect, Torchlight is in the same mold as the original click-fest RPG, but sports a bunch of modern additions to keep it fresh. What does that add up to? Quite possibly the most boring game of all time.

I can't exactly say what went wrong. Granted, I never thought Diablo was particularly fun either, but Torchlight seems devoid of any soul. Just like Diablo, you've got your home hub and a dungeon to traverse. There's a barebones main quest where you survive to the bottom floor and fight a big boss. Along the way, you get sub-quests from other citizens in town which are either a) kill a certain goon or b) find a certain item. Fulfilling those grants you experience and/or fame points and an item.

As far as customization goes, you can choose one of three classes - a melee warrior, a ranged weapon specialist, and a wizard who relies on spells and summons. Each class not only has their own playing style, but unique skills and special attacks that you can invest in. Leveling up through experience points gives you 5 points to distribute to your stats as well as a skill point. Leveling up through fame points simply gives you a skill point. So there's two progression systems happening concurrently, which will give you access to more skills in the long run.

But it doesn't stop there. There are gem stones that you can fuse with your weapons and armor to give you stat bonuses, or fuse with an identical gem to create an upgraded version of it. You can enchant weapons and armor for a chance of gaining additional random bonuses, such as the addition of +12 electric damage or +10 knockback or +5% experience point bonus.  The systems are not deep, but they are plentiful and have a notable impact on your character abilities.

Still, for all the trouble in creating all these systems, Torchlight never becomes enjoyable. There are fundamental problems with this kind of game. First, the action isn't interesting. Although most games boil down to "just clicking", the Diablo subgenre is particularly offensive in this regard. Torchlight doesn't make an attempt to move the genre forward, so it's no wonder it has the same trappings as its predecessors. The only tension that occurs in this type of game is when you get flanked by mobs of enemies. But as the player, it's the difference of clicking vs. clicking faster. Even though you need to balance out your clicks with keyboard presses for healing, the sum experience is one slightly detached. I never feel like I'm really controlling my character, only guiding it.

Even worse than the poor gameplay is that it lacks charm. I never liked Diablo, but it has some personality with the gothic tone and the enemy death animations. On the surface,Torchlight seems like it's a better, more competent Diablo. But I'm convinced Runic Games made this game because "that's what people like", not out of any personal conviction. There's no passion in it, and it shows.

Torchlight is less than the sum of its parts.