CES 2011: Torchlight Preview

jmaltz@pnosker.com January 9, 2011 0

Runic Games' Torchlight was a massive release on the PC, garnering both critical praise and commercial success.  The game's Diablo inspired dungeon crawling and interesting visual powered it to over 800,000 sales. All of this praise did not go unnoticed, as Microsoft tapped the game to be one of five in its XBLA House Party promotion.  Although we initially had some reservations about this PC success being ported to the Xbox 360, our fears were allayed after spending some time with the game.

Torchlight starts like most other dungeon crawlers, giving you the choice of whether you want your hero to be melee, mage, or ranged focused.  The one change in character creation is that you are accompanied by an animal companion who must be chosen right off the bat; your four legged friend will then follow you around, helping out in combat by damaging enemies.  The companions are too weak to make a difference, but they do allow for a touch more customization.

After creating a character, our demo launched into classic dungeon crawler action.  Tasked with saving a waylaid adventurer, we descended multiple levels into a mine shaft. The levels were impressively rendered and showcased some unique graphics that enhanced the creepy atmosphere of the mine,.  Most importantly the isometric camera was never obstructed, deftly avoiding that possible pitfall.

At each level, we had to battle through waves of enemies ranging from tiny gremlins to giant metal monsters. Combat functions excellently thanks in large part to a revamped control scheme. Of course, there is the standard attack, but that can also be combined with one of four powers mapped to individual buttons.  The system smooths the PC to console transition and makes combat both deep and intuitive.

However, fighting is only part of the equation, Torchlight wouldn't be worth its salt if it lacked a ton of loot; rest assured though, there are plenty of glittery goodness to be had. Once defeated, nearly every enemy will drop weapons, gold, or some other goodies.  The sheer amount of loot allows for impressive character customization, but it is tripped up by a clunky inventory management system.

Inventory issues aside, the only other problem spot for this port is the targeting.  Whereas mouse clicks could be used to aim on the PC, the console versionemploys a type of auto targeting system.  Although it functions admirably when there are only one or two options, sorting through a pile of loot or crowd of enemies can be near impossible at times.

In spite of the issues with the targeting and inventory management, our time with Torchlight proved rather enjoyable.  The action stays true to its Diablo roots and in the process delivers the same type of addictive Hack n’ Slash that gamers of all generations have come to love.  Although a release date hasn’t been set, action-RPG fans should definitely be on the look-out for Torchlight when it launches as part of the XBLA House Party.


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