Torchlight was a surprising hit when it first came out for the PC back in 2009. Now in 2011 it's making the jump to the Xbox 360. Can Seattle based Runic Games squeeze all that great RPG goodness into a Xbox Live Arcade download title?
The Xbox Live Arcade version of Torchlight has the same storyline as the PC version. The booming town of Torchlight sits on top of a mine rich in Ember, a stone that has magical properties that are used for spells and alchemy. A side effect of the Ember in Torchlight is that can corrupt the souls of people. Three adventurers have come to Torchlight for different reasons. The Destroyer has come after hearing of evils befalling the town, the Alchemist has come because of the draw of the power of the Ember, and the Vanquisher was sent to investigate mysterious slayings and missing townsfolk.
Upon arrival in Torchlight, the player is asked by a sage named Syl to help find her mentor, Master Alric. Soon afterwards you find Alric in the mine and he reveals that he has become corrupted by the Ember and that you cannot stop him. It should be noted that Alric is also the narrator of the game, revealing information about Ember and Torchlight as the player completes each storyline quests.
The player has to further explore the mine to find Alric, finding that there are other cities and civilizations buried under Torchlight. There are also many side quests that help fill out the background of the town Torchlight.
Controls and Gameplay
Originally Torchlight was to be ported as it was for the PC. The player would maneuver the character by moving a cursor and clicking, with attacks and spells mapped to various buttons. At some point it became clear that it wasn't going to work. Runic Games eventually rebuilt the controls and graphic interface to better work with the Xbox 360. Because of the control rebuild Torchlight also benefited from some technology that is in development for Torchlight II.
The resulting changes allows for the player to have direct control over the character. In fact I would say that the controls are more streamlined and easier to use than the PC version. There is a passive auto-targeting of enemies, inventory has a simple swap and identify system, and players can map four spells or powers to the two triggers, the "Y" and "B" buttons.
The gameplay is very similar to Diablo in the role playing dungeon crawl style which, like the PC version, is still a very good thing. They may have changed the controls, but they didn't mess with gameplay. The fun of exploration is still there as well as the random dungeon layouts which make for a unique game experience for each player.
Graphics and Sound
The art style of Torchlight is that cartoony, manga-esque style that worked so well for the original PC version. One difference I noticed was that the mines, dungeons, and cities are brighter overall, there were no dark corners where monsters could be hiding, so it lost a little bit of the atmosphere it had on the PC.
The music, voice acting and sound effects were also brought over from the original and are still very good.
Way back in November of 2009 I reviewed Torchlight and was very impressed with the game. I had only two really big faults with it. First was that it was a bit of a time suck, where you wonder where the hours went. The time suck aspect wasn't so much a fault as it was more a side effect having fun and wanting see what was on the next level. The Xbox version is just as fun and just as much a time suck. As the levels change in environments you want to see what is around the corner. The second was that there was no co-op play, online or off. This version of Torchlight is still only a single player game. Again this isn't a really big fault, but it is a game that certainly lends itself to co-op play. Torchlight II has been announced to have co-op play.
There were things added specifically for this version. Players of the original Torchlight will notice right away that you have a choice of one of three different pets instead of two. The new pet is a Chakawary, sort of a lizard/mini-dragon like pet. All three pets work the same way they do in the PC version, you can send them to town to sell excess treasure while you keep exploring the mines and they will fight at your side.
One other thing PC players will notice is that the game seems easier. The controls play into that a bit, but I have defiantly noticed that I died a lot less. If you are looking for a bit more challenge, bump up the difficulty a notch from what you normally use.
Sadly, because it is a Xbox title, there is no TorchED level editor so there won't be any player created levels to exchange and enjoy. Still there is plenty here to enjoy.
Even with all the changes Runic brought to Torchlight for the Xbox Live Arcade version it is still the same game I enjoyed on the PC. The new control scheme made it feel like I had a bit more control over the character which resulted in a great game. I give it a 4 out of 5.