As the long wait for the third installment of legendary RPG Diablo stretches on about as long as infinite damnation in the fires of Hades, an increasing number of developers have decided to plug that gap and break out the sword and shields themselves. Runic Games’ latest, Torchlight, arrives on Xbox 360 hoping to sate the needs of budding adventurers everywhere.
Interestingly, the Schaefer brothers, co-designers of the original Diablo and Diablo II, helm this title alongside Fate designer Travis Baldree and much of the team that developed Mythos. So it looks like our intrepid developers are well-equipped and XP’ed up the maximum for this adventure. But how does their story turn out? Are they strong as Godly class armour or weak as a paper vest?
As ever, you must first choose your avatar, picking between Destroyer, Vanquisher or the Alchemist – each having their own peculiar quirks and traits. Best of all, you get to choose a pet – I was most pleased to be able to choose a vicious cat (OK, a lynx) much like my own at home.
I wondered whether Whiskas would be an available item, as I wandered round the merchants of Torchlight’s eponymous town. Various characters you speak to dole out quests like sadistic teachers setting extra homework and enjoying every second of it, as soon you are plunged into a world ridden with monsters, ghouls and various ugly henchmen.
I have to admit I wasn’t initially looking forward to embarking upon a long quest, but all the great playability that made Diablo such a hit is present and correct, and soon I was as hooked as Charlie Sheen on, er, hookers.
Torchlight follows the same kind of dungeon regeneration plan that ensures that no two adventures are the same, which keeps you returning even when the quests have been fulfilled. The manic ‘level-upping’ of your character (as you try to keep ever more difficult beasts at bay) reaches the same fever pitch as all in good RPGs.
More, the ability to send your pet back to town to do your shopping for you and get rid of unwanted items without having to teleport back yourself is an excellent addition, as you will find yourself laden with trinkets and weapons by the time you get a few levels down into the Ember mines.
Graphically the game is perhaps not awe-inspiring, but it is at least cute and, more importantly, functional – which is not only essential in a game like this but all too frequently forgotten by designers. I particularly liked the X-ray vision touches; as your character disappears behind a house or other obstacle, they show up as white outlines in the black shadow, with enemies in red, although sometimes I did just wish for the option of rotating the camera.
The music is excellent, supplied by, you guessed it, Diablo’s sonic master Matt Uelman. Full of stirring classical guitar and earworm melodies, it adds a great layer of atmosphere to what is already a bewitching package.
The lack of multiplayer is perhaps a sore point in these days of connectivity (possibly to be remedied in the sequel), and bearing in mind the title’s more over-familiar elements I can’t quite award this charming title a top score. Nonetheless it is well deserving of your time and at this price represents excellent value for money.