Publisher: Runic Games
Developer: Runic Games
by: Nicholas Puleo
Utter the line "It's the Butcher!" to any PC gamer over the age of 25 and they'll immediately know what game you are talking about. The Diablo series started a trend of games that are near and dear to my heart, it's the action RPG genre with a strong concentration on item collection and player customization. While we've had many "clones" over the years, nothing has gotten as close to the original as Torchlight, from Runic Games. It probably helps one of the game's producers, Max Schaefer, and various other team members worked on the original Diablo. I could go on comparing the games, talking about how the music and sounds even appear to be straight from the big D, afterall they share composers; but to do that wouldn't be fair because Torchlight stands very well on it's own.
Torchlight features three character classes to choose from; The Destroyer (melee), The Alchemist (magic), and The Vanquisher (ranger). While Torchlight is a single player only game, you can bring a trusty companion along for the ride in the form of dog or cat. These pets will attack for you, pick up gold, and even sell your items in town. Through the use of fish that you acquire through fishing holes, you can even transform your animal into other creatures temporarily by feeding him. As your character levels up you'll learn new skills from three skill trees, as well as upgrade core attributes like strength, dexterity and magic. My playthrough was done with the Alchemist class, and I focused on things like summons (imps and Golems) as well as some kick ass spells. My personal favorite is a gorgeous looking laser beam I can shoot from my palm.
Of course your characters attributes are a small piece of the puzzle, it's really the loot that games like Torchlight are all about. Your provided with everything from standard drops, to rares, to super rares, to epic sets. There's slots for gems, attributes that add +5 to this and 200 points to that. Seriously, the list of bonuses on some of the epic pieces i picked up were 8 or 9 items long. The pseudo SteamPunk/Fantasy setting of Torchlight allows for interesting weapons like rifles and guns, swords, and equally unique armor types. There's something innately satisfying about having a pistol in one hand and a magic wand in the other.
Torchlight's interface is fine tuned for the genre, making it easy to do just about anything you'd need to do quickly and efficiently. Item management, including selling and comparing, is extremely easy and quick casting of spells (the tab switch especially) is incredibly intuitive.
For $20 there's a ton of value in Torchlight. You'll get a gorgeous and scalable game with a ton of playtime in the main quest, and infinite replayability thanks to random dungeons and items. I was a bit disappointed to find the lack of cooperative play, the genre is made for it, and eventually Torchlight will get it in the form of a free MMO. Thankfully the lack of co-op makes the game a little more casual, allowing for quick 30 minute sessions - or in some cases - 3 hour sessions. It's up to you.