Torchlight, the sleeper hit on the PC a couple years ago (it was my 2009 Fun PC Game of the Year), has made it to the Xbox 360 via the Xbox Live Arcade. Here is my review.
(This review assumes a certain level of familiarity with Torchlight on the PC. As in you at least played it for more than a few minutes.)
Torchlight tapped into the psyche of the old-school PC gamer with its Diablo-esque hack-and-slash lootfest, adding just enough freshness to hook the Diablo veteran and hopefully snare new gamers with the joy of whacking the closest baddie, pinata-like, and having all multi-colored, unidentified magic goodness drop to the ground. It’s a fiesta in here!
Now, that joy has come full force with the XBLA version of Torchlight, this time in wholesome, 50″ high definition goodness.
Story? Yeah we got a story. You’re not here for the story, shallow as it is. It’s just enough to move you along, urge you to delve deeper and deeper in to the Ember Mines, in search of answers and a cure for your sudden ailment. Along the way, you’ll meet people looking for you to do certain things for them. They’re mainly excuses to do even more hacking and slashing than you’ve already been doing. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
On the Xbox, Torchlight feels more action-y than the PC version. What I mean by that is you feel more in control of the character. Part of that might be with the character I’m using with my first play-through with this version. On the PC I played as both the Vanquisher and the Alchemist, characters whose strengths are definitely ranged attacks and require a little mouse-fu to get your character to “stick” when you need them to and to move when you need to. The third character, who I am currently playing, is the melee-heavy Destroyer. He doesn’t rely on ranged attacks so much and therefore can be controlled much easily. With the Xbox version, I actually feel like I can more easily evade slow moving attacks. This can be directly related to the stick controls. It feels very natural.
Going from the PC and its hot-bar of skills to four face buttons is a challenge, but Runic has done a great job of translating these controls to the Xbox. It also brings with it a Guild Wars inspired austerity in the skills you can employ at any given time. You can have two sets of skills mapped to the triggers and the B and Y buttons, eight skills in all. I’ve found that eight is actually more than enough for the heat of battle. Again, this has the added benefit of forcing you into focusing on a certain number of skills instead of trying them all. There will be plenty of play-throughs to try them all.
Combat with the Destroyer is a blast. It actually felt “button-mashy” to me until I realized I could hold the X button down and my guy would automatically mow through the bad guys. Being the Chief Button Masher that I am, that was a little disappointing.
The look and sound is pretty much a one-to-one, with the exception of the size increase going from my 17″ LCD to my 50″ HDTV. No complaints in either department here. It looks lush and fantastic. One drawback, though, is that things get chuggy when there is bedlam on the screen. And quite often things get dicey and the framerate suffers for it.
Not everything is perfect. There are some things I miss from the PC version. In the PC version, the pet could be your little loot vacuum, picking up all the goodies. Not so in this version. Also in the PC version, to heal your pet you could drag items (health potions, fish meat) over to your pet to keep them alive. Unfortunately to feed your pet something you have to switch it over to their inventory and manually use it for them. Which means you won’t do it and you’ll be stuck hearing “Your pet is fleeing,” because he is getting hammered and not getting healed. It’s breaks my heart to see the poor guy like that.
For being on a console, inventory management is serviceable, except when dealing with gems. You find varying qualities of gems (ember) as you got about your adventuring. You can combine lesser quality gems, producing higher quality ones. This is a cinch when you’ve got a mouse to handle inventory but it’s a little trickier when you have to arrange your gem inventory with the controller. Otherwise inventory management is just fine.
One unique addition Runic added to Torchlight on the 360 is the leader board. It’s an Xbox Live Arcade tradition and once again I find myself checking the board, seeing who’s ahead of me and how many kills I need to record to catch up. Darn all you sissies playing this game on Normal!
Normally, we give a grade of “Buy,” “Rent,” or “Pass.” This game is a no brainer. It’s got everything you want in an XBLA game — quick, tight gameplay, pick up and play in little chunks (or in five hour marathons, which happen just like that) and immediate, continual positive feedback. You won’t put your controller down.
I give Torchlight an unequivocal Buy.