Torchlight Review [Xbox 360]

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.

Loot Ninja

So I’ve been putting in a lot of time with Torchlight on the Xbox 360 (a post is forthcoming) and I started to notice that I have a distinct looting “style.” So I was wondering, what type of looter are you?

Me, I’m a wait until the inventory is full before I delve in. I don’t know why. Sometimes I wait until I’ve reached the end of a level. But whatever comes first, of course. I identify everything magic, equip what I can wear and send everything to town to be sold. I know that is mostly specific to Torchlight since I can send my pet back to town loaded up with all the extra loot to

Do you immediately inspect the item as soon as you pick it up? Or do you wait until your inventory fills up to examine your booty? Or do you even pick everything up? Do you just ignore everything you already know you won’t use and just grab what suits your fancy?

In My Digital Hands

Torchlight coming to the Xbox Live Arcade

This may be somewhat old news, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that it’s AWESOME NEWS

Torchlight XBLA

More info at the Torchlight site.

Torchlight 2 Announced

Torchlight 2 Announced, to the surprise of no one.

Torchlight 2

How will this affect the MMO version of Torchlight?

Torchlight on Mac? Tomorrow!

Kotaku is reporting that the Steam client for Mac computers comes out tomorrow. If you already own Portal and Torchlight on the PC, you may already own it on the Mac.

If you bought Portal or Torchlight via Steam on your Windows-based PC then you may in fact already be the proud owner of tomorrow’s releases. Portal (and possibly Torchlight — the press release is unclear) will support a feature called Steam Play, which, according to a press release from Valve today, “allows customers to purchase a game once and play it on all Steam supported platforms. Gamers who have previously purchased games on Steam will find them available in their account on the Mac as they are released.”

I think this is AWESOME because these games should run fine on my MacBook. I can now play Torchlight on any computer I own.

Wait. That may be a bad thing.

FGotY 2009 [PC]

With the portable games behind us, here’s our list for the Fun PC Game of the Year for 2009.

Nat – I never thought I would say this again but I am in love with PC gaming. Another hallmark year with titles such as Dawn of War II, Demigod, Plants vs. Zombies, Empire: Total War, and Torchlight. Valve should be commended for the strides they’ve made in my personal PC gaming renaissance. I don’t like ties, so I need to pick a winner based on hours alone. Borderlands—even with all it’s console conventions, nit-picky faults, and connection difficulty for a co-op title—is my Fun Game of the Year. At fifty hours and counting it fed the loot whoring monster inside me. Torchlight comes in second. A close second. We’re talking a Michael Phelps victory for Borderlands.

Brock – I’ve only recently gotten back into PC gaming to any real extent but I’ll have to give Plants Vs. Zombies my pick for the most fun I’ve had with a PC game this year. I’ve played through it on two different systems, worked through it again with my son and haven’t even scratched the surface of what is available in the bonus/zen garden modes. I’d also give a huge nod to my runner-up, Machinarium, which is a fantastic point-and-click adventure game that oozes charm.

James – I actually only played the game I chose for a short while but I think it deserves to be listed here. Killing Floor is a FPS horror game. Playing this game was reminiscent of Left 4 Dead in the way you needed the help of your teammates and how much fun it was. I only played it for three days but I am considering picking this up, especially because you can get it cheap on Steam. I never thought I would be able to get along without a cross hair to shoot with, but it works!

Will – I’ve always dabbled in PC games, but I have never had a rig capable of running modern games the way they were meant to be played. This means that the majority of my PC collection is made up of older titles (just look at my list of Steam games to see what I mean). Thanks to Steam, I bought Dawn of War II, GTA IV, Borderlands and Torchlight; all of which are up for my FGotY 2009 [PC] award. I gave it to Torchlight because of the loot monger in me (the one that makes me love Borderlands so much). I haven’t put many hours into it yet, but I feel the hopeless addiction setting in. I was initially turned off by the lack of online play, but I got over myself and bought it and am now loving it. Part of me wants to buy a netbook just to see how it runs on one, and to be able to bring the loot hunting with me everywhere I go.

Tony – I, too, am having renewed interest in PC gaming, strictly on the strength of Steam. I wish it had entered in my life earlier, but it came just in time this year. I didn’t play a lot of games, but I’m also picking Torchlight as my FGotY for the PC over Plants vs. Zombies. Not only did Torchlight scratch the loot itch, it also eased me in to using Steam and getting back into the groove of using the tried-and-true keyboard/mouse combo. I still prefer the 360 controller to my mouse and keyboard, but it’s been nice to get to know an old friend.