To say that downloadable titles haven't become popular is like saying that Peter Molyneux doesn't talk enough. They have really exploded recently, and even though there are plenty of titles that are just mediocre, there are definitely some that stand out. One such title comes from the folks over at Runic Games called Torchlight for the Xbox Live Arcade and PC. Based on the evidence though, it's safe to say that Torchlight may well light its way into your heart.
You play as a character that you name yourself, and you can choose between three main character types: a Warrior, a Mage, and a Ranger/Hunter. Each character will also be accompanied by a pet. While on your journey, you come across the town of Torchlight. And after looking around a little bit, you find that a cavern that runs below the city is full of evil beings and sinister plans. You team up with a woman named Syl who is trying to find out what happened to her master and teacher, Alric, who disappeared. Throughout the story, you find out about a magical substance called Ember that allows you and others to use magic. There's a catch though, it also has the power to corrupt a person.
When trying to figure out how to describe the gameplay in Torchlight, one phrase came to mind - "baby's first MMO". While Torchlight on the Xbox is NOT an MMO, it has all the elements that one would have, but it's in much smaller and more manageable chunks, something which can help newcomers to the series. If you've played World of Warcraft, you should have no trouble getting into the game.
The controls are relatively simple. You have your basic attack button that will wield whatever weapon you have equipped. As you gain levels, you can spend ability points on skills, magic, stats, etc for your character. Each job type has three different sets of abilities to choose from. In other words, each character has 3 different ability trees to go down. I chose to go the mage route and spent all my points in being able to summon additional creatures to fight by my side! You can also make hot keys out of certain spells in order to streamline your combat sequences. All the while, your faithful pet will be along side you the whole way. Each stage of the dungeon handles like the next; you battle your way through wave after wave of monsters until you reach the boss for that section of the cavern. With there being 30 levels to traverse, Torchlight is by no means a short game. Without doing any of the extra bits, it can easily run you 10+ hours to get through.
Fights will yield experience points and enemies will drop equipment and items for you to use. While your inventory space isn't limitless, Torchlight added in a very clever game mechanic to help deal with this. They allow you to load up your pet with any items that you don't want, and then you can send it off to town to sell all the items for you so that you can keep battling your way through the dungeon. If a section of the cavern is too difficult for you to get past on your own, you only have to wait for 45 seconds for your pet to return.
In addition to the main story mode, there are quests from three main NPCs that you can take on throughout your journey through the caves. Some involve killing certain mini-bosses, others require you to locate certain items, and others have you find a particular landmark. None of them are gratuitous as you will complete most of them while you're going through the campaign and they are a great source of extra money and experience points. Throughout the story, you'll collect special maps that you can bring to a particular NPC. This NPC will allow you to go to these special areas to find an artifact for him and he'll let you keep any money or items you find while you're there. It's a great way to gain extra EXP. And after you beat the story mode a new dungeon is unlocked which sends you to random parts of the caverns you've explored but with much harder enemies.
The weapon and armor system is also incredibly diverse. You can buy equipment from NPCs or you can equip what you find from monsters. In addition to that, you can also enchant your equipment so that it has better stats. However, there is a chance the enchanting can be borked and if that happens, you lose ALL special stats on the equipment. I nearly put my controller through the wall when I screwed up my uber-powered wand.
The presentation from the game is pretty damn good. The art style is very much like the older Warcraft 3 titles. The colors are big, bright, and bold. The sound was also very well done; the SFX worked really well with the action on screen. The voice acting was actually quite good. The music, while not very distinctive on its own, worked well in context to the different levels. On the whole, not a bad looking and sounding game.
Let's wrap this baby up. Is Torchlight worth it? Well, for a game that is only about 180 mb (about the size of one 30 minute video), they were able to pack a ton of material into it. From the excellent gameplay, the fun story, and the well done presentation, Torchlight definitely gets my seal of approval. This game will give you hours and hours of replay. Download it today!