I’ve made my feelings on Diablo 2 perfectly clear in the past; I don’t like it. Used to more tactical RPGs with a slower pace and where ability isn’t primarily determined by how fast you can click your left mouse button, Diablo 2 left me underwhelmed and over-stressed.
Torchlight on the other hand is a game I love, which is strange because, as you’ve most likely heard, it pretty much isDiablo 2. It’s made mainly by Blizzard North founders who formed their own company and who’s previous titles are predominantly Diablo ones. It’s cut in the same mould as Diablo; the same genre, mechanics, ideas and themes.
The thing you probably haven’t heard though is that it’s actually better than Diablo 2. It feels smoother, simpler and more accessible. It’s not buried under needless storyline and gory imagery and it doesn’t demand a huge commitment to grind on even the normal difficulty. It’s easier to get your head around, but at the same time still makes allowances for the hardcore audience.
A lot of what makes Torchlight great is that it doesn’t take itself all that seriously, with a fantastical, fairy-tale presentation that makes the game feel immediately engaging and a style of storytelling that gets straight to the point and stays there. It’s all very tongue in cheek, but never distractingly so.
The plot is simple; the town of Torchlight is an old-west style boomtown that’s been built around a recently discovered vein of Ember – a magic-bestowing ore that fetches a high price but can cause mutations and corruptions in people exposed to it for too long. As a wandering hero, you are drawn to the town in hope of discovering some powerful magic items – they seem to just be laying around the mine for some reason.
Horses - snobby buggers!
Naturally, it’s not all as easy as turning up and filling your bags with enchanted swords though. Shortly after arriving you find a pair of other heroes warring with some beasties that have infested the mines and they reveal that their master, the wizard Alric, has succumbed to an Ember infection and gone crazy. Not crazy like a fox either – crazy like a demented wizard with an evil plan and near-unlimited power. Eek.
The story is fairly predictable stuff then and it’s not going to knock you off your seat with the sheer power of its simple narration – but it does form a solid foundation for the gameplay. Torchlight becomes the town that you endlessly retreat too whenever your inventory is full or a quest completed and the mine is the single dungeon which you are forever plumbing the depths of, though there are a few side missions to be undertaken in other areas and dimensions too.
Mostly though, there aren’t a huge amount of extra areas to delve into – you just plough through the mine’s various levels until you’re forced to return to Torchlight itself, then you return via a portal. Rinse and repeat. It’d be boring if it wasn’t so fantastic and if not for the fact that the mine itself is randomly generated and kept aesthetically pleasing by the introduction of archaeological ruins and enemy bases.