Torchlight, a New World, a New Love

31 March, 2010

On Sunday I bought Torchlight on Steam for $5. Thus began my plunge into the abyss.

When Torchlight first came out I downloaded the demo. I think I played for half an hour before saying to no one in particular, “Hey, this is just a Diablo II wanna-be!” (ok, so I might have yelled a little). I then promptly placed the game into the back of my mind, well the memory of the game. We aren’t cyborgs yet! I didn’t think about it until this weekend, when I checked Steam for any deals. For the past couple of weeks they usually have something decent for cheap. Well here in front of me is “Torchlight $5” and I think to myself, “Maybe I should try the demo again.” I try the demo again, somehow it remembered my character from the last time I played the demo, even though I had uninstalled it. So my character was still there, and I played for about 10 minutes. For $5 I was sold. I should have been sold on $20 the first time I played the demo, but I was half a year younger and naive. What changed my mind? I’ll tell you what:

1) The game-play was smooth. Usually I get these new games and they run like a bowling ball thrown in space. That has nothing to do with game-play, but it impressed me. The game-play is extremely similar to Diablo II, which is actually helpful in this situation because that means simplicity. You just click on the screen and boom you are there, or you click on an enemy and boom you are attacking them, or you click on an NPC and boom they are like, “What do you want to buy from me? I have an infinite supply of potions.” Then you just hold shift and click on potions. You just bought a potion.

2) The game made me realize what I have been missing in games recently: The feeling of actually being the character in the game. Torchlight completely immerses the player in the game. The sounds, the sights, the skills. Everything in the game just works together so well. It might seem cliche at first, but the setting is familiar while still being unique. For example, there is a robot bard that gives you xp and fame points for killing unique enemies.

3) The skills are fun to use. I’m using lightning and can’t help but smile every time I hit an enemy and they are knocked back off screen. I’m just a few hours into the game, but I’m looking forward to starting again with the other classes. I don’t mean this in the, “Oh dang, my build sucks” kind of way, but the “These skills are crazy, I wonder what else there is!” kind of way. With these skills the only way to mess up is to not put your points into anything. The skills work well together, and there isn’t a skill that is too weak. Whoever did the work on the skills should be promptly promoted and set to work on all games which have skills. In Diablo II there were skills that were obviously weak and worthless. The player would need to dump all their points into one skill in order for it to pay off at the end of the game. So far in Torchlight I haven’t had that feeling of desperation.

4) It made me realize why I don’t like playing games online. Some games need to be online, they are built around social interaction, and need the feeling of companionship. Torchlight is not one of those games, and I love it for that reason. You are the champion, there aren’t 1,000 other champions running around and doing the same things you are. It adds more weight to everything you do. In other words your actions have meaning. You aren’t constantly reminded that 1,000 other people are playing the same game you are. You don’t have to worry about someone stealing all the loot, or killing all the enemies and taking the xp. Its intimate. You can go your own pace and actually enjoy the game. Torchlight finally proved to me that online games lack personal experience. Sure, you can interact with thousands of people, but having to see that many people is just distracting your attention from the actual game. In Torchlight I actually want to listen to what the NPC’s say because they move the story forward. I actually look forward to fighting hoards of enemies by myself. I can see my progress, and that is all that really matters to me when playing a game. Also, you know that you can’t depend on someone else to hold your hand through the game. Enemies are manageable, skills work by themselves, you don’t have to find a tank if you are a mage. You also don’t have to prove yourself to someone else. If you die in Torchlight you know its your own fault and you can adjust. In an online game you have to take everyone else into consideration as to why you died, “someone wasn’t doing their job!” Most importantly though, Torchlight has a story that is concise. You don’t have to read through a mountain of text, or run for 20 minutes to find an NPC that advances the story. You are always doing the story, which is how a game like Torchlight should be. After playing Torchlight I realized how much I loved playing Diablo II for the first time, before I went online and ruined Diablo II for myself. In Diablo II when I started playing online I would just worry about leveling up fast, doing Trist runs and Baal runs. Well you know what? I can’t remember most of the story now. I barely remember the III act. I was worrying more about how people said I should have fun instead of actually having fun. That is why I love Torchlight, it forced me to realize that most games should not be online games.

5) I realized how much I love to collect loot. I know it may be weird to some people, but I like to organize my inventory. I like to decide what I need to keep, and what I should sell. I’m not sure why, but it gives me some peace of mind.

That is what I think about Torchlight after only playing for a couple hours. I hope it continues to be fun, which I know it will be. If you didn’t catch the sale that is alright. It seems to go on sale every once in a while. Although, I wouldn’t mind paying full price for it now.

At least do yourself a favor and play the 2 hour demo.


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