I never got bit by the Diablo bug. Lord knows, I tried. I played it and it’s sequel, but was never (un?)fortunate enough to get hooked. I obviously recognize their place in gaming lore, but they themselves never grabbed my attention.

I would never go so far as to say that Torchlight usurps Diablo’s crown, but this is a great game nonetheless. The slightly-less-serious take gives it a more relaxed feel, and the gameplay just feels right. You have the old command bar at the bottom of the screen tied to your keyboard’s number row, but you can set up to two spells on your right-click cast button, alternating with a tap of the tab key.  This allowed me to focus more on the action, hitting left-click to wail on the enemy, and right-clicking to cast my favorite spell. I liked the Arcanist class (one of the three classes available, the others being a ranger-type and a berserker) for his versatility, and early on I rode his ice ball spell. It hit masses of mobs, blasted some apart and chilled (thus slowing down) those it didn’t kill. I’ve since moved on to some new spells but that ice ball is still set as my secondary spell, ready to save my hide at a moments notice.

One of the biggest draws in an action-rpg is the loot, and there’s more then enough here to keep you coming back again and again. The weapons are diverse, and dressing up your avatar with fancy armor is fun. I usually – regardless of my class – eventually go to a one-handed weapon/handgun layout for my character. There are also wands, rifles, axes, crossbows, longbows, daggers, maces, staves, and whatever other fantasy fare you could want to kill your enemies with.

My favorite feature, by far, is that of the companion pet. Now, games of this ilk have long been

trying to give you a companion on your adventures. Torchlight takes this to a level. My dog (often either named Hot Diggity or just Woof; you can also have a cat) is more then a combat helper. It can lug extra loot around, even taking stuff back to the surface to sell for you while you keep trudging along. Your pet can also be outfitted with two rings and a necklace for added bonuses, plus it can learn two spells of it’s own. Any spell you find or buy can be taught to your pet, and it will use it automatically. One of my dogs has Skeleton II right now, so I have two companions most of the time – my dog and my dog’s pet skeleton.

Graphically Torchlight isn’t going to set the world ablaze, but you’ll find yourself occasionally amazed by the little details. Spells and explosions dynamically lighting up their surroundings, bats flying overhead while in caves, and the diversity of things to kill are a treat. The music isn’t overwhelming, and the sound effects work perfectly with the gameplay.

Pointing out faults isn’t real easy here because, while not spectacular, Torchlight is rock-solid. I think

the biggest complaint most have is the lack of multiplayer of any type. That’s not such a huge issue to me because that means you can just play whenever you have a few minutes, and you get to keep all of the loot. The game isn’t terribly difficult, partially due to the abundance of healing potions. There’s also a perma-death option, for those who take their character’s lives seriously.  Lastly, you will eventually reach the bottom of the dungeon, but hey – there are countless random dungeon scrolls you can use to keep going, or you can even retire and bequeath a beloved piece of gear to your next character.  That means the fun never has to end. Alphasim

[starreviewmulti id=1 tpl=20]