WORDS BY: Cameron Lewis
As the narrative basis for a hack-and-slash dungeon-crawl RPG, you can’t get more generic: an old man’s warped lust for power and a supposed cure for a magical corruption send you scurrying into an underground mine, but you really exist only to murder anything that squeaks in the dark. Fortunately, what this exceptional new version of a PC favorite lacks in story, it more than makes up for with deep character customization, ever-more-powerful loot, and a dungeon-generation system that’ll devour whole days of your life.
Whether you sally forth with the melee-happy Destroyer, magic-weaving Alchemist, or Vanquisher markswoman, you’d never know Torchlight was once a repetitive-stress-injury clickfest. Combat always feels responsive and satisfying with a 360 controller, giving you added incentive to dice up crowds with a blade or let bloody-minded minions tear apart hordes of gangly goblins.
There’s so much more to your character’s advancement than simply picking a class and grinding out levels. Sure, you’ll earn five points to spend on strength, dexterity, magic, and defense stats every time you fill up the experience bar. Far more important is that each class also earns access to dozens of skills, divided into three categories. For example, a Destroyer might choose to develop his melee prowess, or learn to emit damaging auras, or add to his special-attack repertoire. One player’s avatar might regularly do things another hasn’t even begun to contemplate.
As you descend ever-deeper — past 35 expansive floors of subterranean catacombs — you’ll find that any of these heroes could’ve sustained an entire game on their own. These themed underworlds are beautiful, too, from mossy emerald caverns to the ominous purple shades of the Black Palace. Skeletons, zombies, and spiders the size of houses mingle with luminescent elemental spirits and treasure chests that suddenly spring to snapping life.
The screen-filling special effects can go a little overboard, to the point where you can’t see your character or what you’re fighting. But occasionally choppy framerates can’t stifle Torchlight’s addictive appeal.
+ Refined controls; richly customizable classes; enough gear for an army.
+ Beautiful environments; towering bosses; a bottomless pit seething with baddies.
- Pedestrian storytelling; big battles lead to slowdown; simplistic non-puzzles; no co-op play.
? Why is nearly all the on-screen text ridiculously miniscule?