I like big loot and I cannot lie.
You can try to deny it all you want, but deep inside you love looting. Don't try to hide it, it's inside us all. There's something warm and fuzzy about killing rows and rows of skeletons and then seeing what the hell they were carrying (and why the hell they were carrying it). Among all the gold and random junk, if you're lucky and find a new piece of armor just a tad stronger than what you're wearing, a smile grows in your face. Old pen-and-paper RPGs already had looting before people even thought of playing games on personal computers, but the "loot whoring" genre of dungeon-hacking games truly began in a conscious manner when Diablo was released in 1996. And since then, countless others tried to imitate the feel of fighting countless enemies and the discovery of new loot.
[image1]Most hit around the mark in terms of satisfying our craving, like Titan Quest and the Dark Alliance series, but it was with Diablo II that we truly got to savour the true joy of tinkering with equipment and actually customizing our unique characters. Thanks to a deep loot randomizer system, we never knew what that odd creature now lying in a pool of its own blood would "drop" for us. And with Diablo III still looming far off in the distance, former Diablo creators Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer's newly minted Runic Games are trying to fill that craving for loot with Torchlight.
Torchlight is strikingly similar - that is, nearly identical - in structure to the original Diablo. The town of Torchlight acts as the main hub between dungeons, and just like Tristram in the Diablo series, it's where you'll spend your time selling whatever junk you come across, buy items, repair your equipment, and pick up quests. Dungeons come in the form of caves, actual dungeons, abandoned mines, and other dimensions, all randomly-generated and with all kinds of enemies to fight against.
Quests are numerous and varied, making Torchlight feel like a mix between an MMO like World of Warcraft and a single-player dungeon crawler. The yellow, familiar "!" which appears on top of quest-givers' heads isn't the only thing that makes Torchlight feel like ye ol' WoW. The quest style makes it possible to play for short spurts of time, or for hours, as it continuously pushes you toward new areas and stronger monsters. The story written for the game is not much to write home about, but with most titles in this genre, most players skip through the story in the blink of an eye anyway.
[image2]The art style is right up there with Blizzard's, which isn't surprising, considering the developers' history with the company. Areas are colorful and rich in detail, with characters taking a more cartoony look than the "realistic" type we've come to expect in high fantasy games like Dragon Age: Origins. The world of Torchlight isn't purely fantasy-oriented either - in terms of swords, armor, shields, and dragons - taking a cue from a steampunk aesthetic, which results in a fresher and much improved setting that we've come to expect from such games.
This Diablo structure also directly influences the three character classes. The brawny Destroyer is a towering hulk that focuses on melee but is also a strong summoner; the Vanquisher can be equated to WoW's hunter class, with powerful ranged attacks and traps; the last class is the Alchemist, a more magic-focused archetype that can create mechanical and demonic beasts to fight at its side. These classes might seem limited at first, but the skill trees can open numerous possibilities as you level up, with each class having three separate branches that have various paths of their own. It's up to you whether or not you keep your Destroyer a weapons-focused warrior or a casting paladin. Further customization can come from looted scrolls, which can teach skills to any character regardless of class.
This might be a single-player game, but you won't be alone in your dungeon crawling. At the start of Torchlight, you get to choose an animal pet that not only helps you in fights, but also has an unique (and truly awesome) secondary ability to help you keep your purse fat and your backpack junk free. Your cat or dog has its own inventory that can be filled with unwanted items, and with a click of a button, you can order it to go back to town to sell everything. Whether he/she will haggle a good price for your loot with the vendors is another matter, but little abilities like this make Torchlight rich.
[image3]It's worth noting how low the specs are for Torchlight. Even on an aging rig like my seven-year old computer, it still runs smoothly and is totally playable. As I mentioned before, don't expect to see all sorts of effects like bloom or super-detailed textures. Fitting into its graphical style, the game manages to be colorful and look great in its own way.
You'll have a lot to play through if you are aiming for total completion, and the random nature of the dungeon generator is sure to make every trip you take with your alts a new adventure. Torchlight isn't particularly difficult on its Normal mode, though it presents multiple difficulty settings for the people who loved Hell mode in the old Diablo games. Still, I loved playing the game on Normal, taking my alchemist Elric and his dog Hiyate through the hordes of undead.
We are bound to see more from the world of Torchlight in the coming years. The developers are locked into making a MMO version of the game, slated for next year, and from my experience with their past online game project, Mythos, it's safe to say it's worth waiting for. Torchlight is one heck of a fun game, well past the twenty dollar price of admission. It's just too damn much content for such a low amount of money and it's sure to satisfy that crawly itch for loot-hunting and hoarding, even up 'til Diablo III.