I went and grabbed Torchlight from Direct2Drive on Wednesday night, letting the game download while I slept.
Not that it was a huge honking download. It was just convenient for me to do it that way. I prefer to let downloads that last more than a minute or two happen while I am away from my computer.
So the next evening I installed it to give it a try.
After about 10 minutes I realized I had been playing for an hour. It is one of those.
It is slick, smooth, and quite clearly acquired some of the greatness that the Diablo series showed in the past.
If you have played the Diablo games of the past, the learning curve will be very short indeed. There are some deviations from how things worked in Diablo II, but Diablo II first shipped over nine years ago, so it is quite possible that reflection over that time might have lead the developers to different choices.
The main departures from the Diablo series are in art style and story tone.
The art style is cartoon-y, in the same vein as Team Fortress 2 and Battlefield Heroes. To wit, my Destroyer:
Vikund the Destroyer
Some people won’t be able to get past that I am sure, but it works for me.
And part of the reason that it works is that the tone of everything is a little lighter than it was in Diablo.
Diablo was very dark (though not without humor) while tone of Torchlight is more befitting its look.
If you can get past those two items, the game feels like Diablo II brought forward 9 years.
Click to move, click to attack, right-click for your secondary attack, click to loot, click to do just about anything.
The settings are stone simple for a modern game.
I’m not sure what “Netbook Mode” does, but I gather that Runic is shooting for a large audience by trying to support very low end systems.
You cannot even remap keys. Not that you need to, since there are not all that many keys to learn, and almost everything you need is clustered on the bar at the bottom of the page.
Belly up to the bar!
I am a little leary about having the hot keys split up the middle. I tend to memorize the few keys I use all the time and go click on everything else. On the other hand, having health and mana moved in from my peripheral vision seems to be quite effective. Many of my Diablo deaths could be attributed my no glancing down to the corner of my screen to check health during a hairy fight.
But most other things will be remarkably similar to Diablo fans.
There are also health potions, mana potions, identify scrolls, town portal scrolls, three skill point trees, and all the equipment in the world dropping in various forms. There is even a hardcore check box at character creation, which I am going to assume means perma-death.
Which is not to say that there is nothing new.
The simple fact that the game runs on my home system at 1600×1200 versus the 640×480 for Diablo and 800×600 for Diablo II is a big deal to me. And on my system, a two year old quad-core with an nVidia GTS-250 video card, it runs very well.
It also runs well on my soon-to-be five year old laptop, though the CPU usage is such that I wouldn’t count on doing anything else on the machine while I was playing.
You also get a pet, either a cat or a dog, which fights along side you, has its own inventory slots, and can run back to town and sell stuff for you, though I haven’t check to see if he is getting short changed.
And speaking of inventory, you not only get the usual chest in town to store your excess goodies, but you get a shared chest that your other character can access.
Then, finally, there is fishing.
I caught one!
I haven’t actually fed a fish yet to my pet, nor eaten one myself (I’ve been too busy simply smacking stuff), but various fish are supposed to endow you with special benefits. Something to look into.
Sound great so far?
Now the killer. No multiplayer.
I know, what do I want for just $20?
But seriously, if the game had multiplayer, I could tell you what the instance group would be doing for the next few weeks.
Without multiplayer however, I get to decide if I go play with my friends or play Torchlight.
So that is a let down.
But, since the plan seems to be to move to a Torchlight based MMO of some sort, we may get multiplayer in some form in the future.
And since the game was designed with MODs in mind, I expect that the game will take on a life of its own if it achieves large scale success.
In the end, for $20, the game delivers enough sheer Diablo-esque joy for me to not fret too much about the missing multiplayer aspect. I am not that far into the game, but I can already tell I will get my money’s worth out of it. And there is something to be said for keeping things simple. I hope it finds enough success to finance the follow-on plans.
If you miss Diablo, you will probably be able to find a home in Torchlight until Diablo III ships.
But if you didn’t care for Diablo, this probably isn’t the game for you.