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Mar 04, 2011

Torchlight (XBLA) Review

Lights Off
5 Incredible
Retails for: $14.99
We Recommend: $14.99
  • Developer: Runic Games
  • Publisher: Microsoft Studios
  • Genre: Action, RPG
  • Released: Jan 19, 2011
  • Platform: Xbox 360
  • Reviewed: Xbox 360

If you’re returning or just coming into Torchlight for the first time, enjoy your stay – you’ll be here awhile. Torchlight for the Xbox Live Arcade is an in-depth, addictive, action RPG that you haven’t seen since the likes of Diablo. And for good reason, Runic Games was formed by Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer – the original creators of Diablo.

Editor’s Note: To read my PC review of Torchlight for comparison or as a companion, go here

Before you begin your journey, you start at the character creation screen. Notice I didn’t say customization, because there isn’t much. You get three templates to choose from: Destroyer (male, melee class), Alchemist (male, mage class), and Vanquisher (female, ranged class). Once you give your character a name, you can move onto a Pet. Pets are companions that will fight and loot with you through the dungeons of Torchlight. You can choose between a Dog/Wolf, Lynx/Cat, and a new exclusive pet just for XBLA, the Chakawary – which was seen in the Torchlight II announcement trailer (for PC). Pets can be sent into town to sell your gear for money while you continue fighting and looting in the dungeons. After you assign a name for your Pet, you decide on difficulty. There are 4 difficulties and a toggle for each difficulty: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard. For Diablo or even returning Torchlight veterans, you should AT LEAST start on Normal, but I recommend the Hard difficulty. The toggle I mentioned is a Hardcore mode. When on, death is permanent. There is no save file you can load back up. Once you die, you must start over. You can view the ethereal former character at the character select screen.

The story is unchanged; you arrive in Torchlight to help fight the blight that is cursing the town. You meet Syl and Brink where the creatures have reached the surface and must help push them back underground back to the reveal the source and who is behind it. The rest is for you to uncover and explore. If you ever played Diablo, you’ll be familiar with the way Torchlight plays, which is a “one town, one dungeon” system. As you battle downward deeper into the dungeon/mines, every 5 levels is a new tile set and is vastly different from the last. Every dungeon is randomized, so the layout you play on will likely never be the same. You’ll fight through Ruins, Mines, Caverns, and even a Prison – with a few other surprises along the way.

Combat is in real-time. Attack is mapped to the X button and you can assign spells to the triggers and Y and B face buttons. As you level up, you’ll be given attribute points to invest into Strength, Dexterity, Defense, and Intelligence. Skill points are given per Level and Fame Level that give you passive and active abilities and spells. Quests are acquired in the Torchlight city hub. You can have many active quests at any time. Once a quest has been completed, you may use Town Portal scrolls to go back and complete the quest to gain an item and also sell some of your loot. You don’t have to do it right away, but you could start another side-quest that may have a reward you may now meet the requirements of.

Your view of the action is in the isometric view. The right stick can be used to zoom in and out, but not around. The camera stays locked in a certain position where it can never get in the way. The major difference and improvement to Torchlight has been direct control of your character. For reference, on PC/Mac you click where you want your character to go and who to attack, and what to pick up. Included is controller rumble effects for heartbeats when you have low health, quakes, and strikes. It’s a good to feel those effects in addition to the sound. One of the worries I had in the transition, was the UI. It’s completely redone and designed for the Xbox and works as it should. There are no longer any grid squares or slots for gear, just a 50-item carry limit for your person.

The game looks great. Simply put, the art design and animation look smooth. The wide range of colors used creates a vibrant landscape and looks amazing when battling tons of magic-wielding monsters. Sound effects are wonderful and powerful throughout. The main characters you interact with have voice acting, but the rest of the random quest givers, traders, and merchants you run into do not. The music features the composer of Diablo: Matt Uelmen. He provides a positive, yet dark and moody atmosphere that fits the world of Ember.

There are a few bonuses found in the Xbox Live Arcade version. An old Xbox feature, “Recommend” is in-game which will allow you to send messages to your friends to get them to buy Torchlight. Now normally that would be classified as spam, but when that friend creates a character in Torchlight – they receive a Potion of Respec which their character and can ingest at anytime. They will be able to reassign all attribute and skill points if they made mistakes along the way. Previously that was a mod for the PC game. But you can reap benefits as well – you won’t see that until your next created character though. An interesting, but great inclusion is the Leaderboard. Now you can compare against friends and the world to show where you are, how many kills you have, points accumulated, current level, and difficulty played.

The only caveat when playing Torchlight, is the slow down during some of the more intense battles and particle effects from the magic on display. It’s not jarring, just some loss of frames per second. Just know that it recovers quickly and it is barely noticed as you’re deep in combat monitoring your health and mana levels while using active spells and swinging a sword, staff, or shooting a gun. I will address the lack of multiplayer in this one sentence, it’s fine without it as the game lasts 7-10 hours based on difficulty and there’s an infinite dungeon to explore when it’s complete.  There’s plenty to do without an online component.

There was never a point in the game where I felt, “boy I should just go play the PC version I have”. There has been care and attention given to the console version that makes it stand tall next to it’s PC/Mac counterpart. I highly recommend Torchlight as it is a great version of the game for those who did not get a chance to play it before. Even those who have, I hold strong in that recommendation.

Torchlight is part of the Xbox LIVE Arcade House Party and will be available on March 9th for download in the Marketplace.

An XBLA code for the game was provided by Runic Games for Review purposes