If I had to make a list of games you should be checking out that aren’t on your radar, Torchlight would be number one on my list. It quietly snuck into E3 & judging from the responses I get when I talk about it, most of you didn’t see it. I can understand if you missed it. I almost missed it too. I just happened to be wandering by the Perfect World booth & happened to glance at it. It caught my eye, so I stopped & got a tiny taste. Instantly it made it on my “anticipated games” list. In the weeks that followed, I watched the development of the AARPG/MMO title & managed to schedule an appointment at last weekend’s Penny Arcade Expo up in Seattle. If you have an affinity for Diablo-style PC games, then Torchlight is one you won’t want to miss.
The storyline starts out in a typical fashion that all experienced dungeon crawlers should be familiar with: Adventurer X explores the cavernous dungeon underneath the town of Torchlight in search of treasure & Ember (an ore used to create magic items). The key though is the dungeon itself. The environment is modular, which allows them to do randomly generated levels. No play through will be the same. That’s not to say there isn’t anything interesting about it. The player will discover much more to the story as he/she delves deeper into the dungeon.
At first glance, one might think this is a game for kids. Don’t let the cartoony visuals put you off. Honestly, they could have made this into a gritty, hyper-realistic title. They just didn’t need to. Not only will it keep the minimum system specs to an acceptable low (meaning you don’t need a Crysis II-caliber rig to play it), but it works well here for the story & makes it accessible for players of all ages (my son was happy to hear that!). Even though they still have another 6 weeks until launch, the build I played ran smooth as butter.
Of course, a 3/4 isometric view point isn’t the only thing that give Torchlight the Diablo feel. With tons of unique items (both socket-ed & unsocket-ed), class spells & passive spells, there is quite a bit here. All the gear is stat based. That means that even a spell caster can wear heavy armor if the requisite stats are high enough. As a bonus to the standard experience gain, Torchlight also has a Fame system. I didn’t get into it too much with Runic, but basically the players fame will impact stats & the gear that can be worn.
The modding community will have a ball with it too as the single player package will ship with a full editor suite from the start. After chatting with them at PAX, it sounds like it’ll be robust enough that creative modders will be able to completely rebuild the entire game if they so choose, from the story to the art assets. That editor is going to be very useful as it will keep players going with fresh content for the next 18 months or so. What happens then? Glad you asked! The single player packer is just a pit stop on the way to a full on Torchlight MMO. Obviously with the SP launch right around the corner, they weren’t too talkative about the MMO at this point. But it is in active development & they are shooting to have it available in about a year and a half.
Ultimately, I’m surprised. Not about the quality of Torchlight as the pedigree behind the title is phenomenal (the dev team is made up of people who worked on little games like Diablo, Diablo II, Hellgate, Mythos, & Fate). No, I’m surprised I didn’t know that this game was coming. As I said, I stumbled on it at E3 & after a couple of play sessions plus watching the various press releases & such over the summer, October can’t get here fast enough.
Look for Torchlight to launch through digital distribution on October 27, 2009 & I should have a review up here for you somewhere around launch as well…