March 18, 2011

Having played the PC version of Torchlight, it is difficult not to draw comparisons between the two products. So I won’t. Torchlight on XBLA is in direct competition with Torchlight on PC. The game is best described as Diablo II with no multiplayer and a WoW-like aesthetic. With that in mind, Torchlight does some things that really set it apart from its predecessors, and it’s a better experience for it. 

First, Torchlight heroes all have a pet. Not only does this make combat better, but it makes the entire game more convenient. My dog fights along my side like any good dog in a fantasy world would. He can also take quite a beating. Where my dog beats the ever-loving crap out of the warhound from Dragon Age: Origins, however, is his magical ability. Fido (because I am a creative namer of dogs) can heal himself when he needs it. Also he can summon skeletons to fight alongside us. Not bad for an animal that can’t talk. It’s best not to question the skeleton-summoning dog anyhow. Fido also lets me obsessively pick up everything without penalizing me for doing so. Even if Fido couldn’t summon horrible undead armies to do his bidding, he’d still be the best polygonal dog ever because he’s willing to run up 30+ dungeon floors (I assume he slaughters everything along the way, like any good boy would) sell the detritus from my recent troll genocide, run back down (more assumed slaughter) and give me the money. And he’s quick about it. A better AI-controlled companion I could not ask for.

Second, there are only a few classes. Some people might see this and think it’s a bad thing, but the classes are different enough from one another that there is very little overlap in play styles between them, and each class can be customized through gear loadout to create different play experiences. I don’t need or want to choose between three different kinds of casters. One is enough. Similarly, I only need one guy whose sole ambition in life is to lift heavy clubs and bring them crashing down upon the heads of his enemies, and one kind of lady who is better with a bow and arrow than anybody else. It’s nice to have choices, but it’s even nicer when the choices are both meaningful and easy to make.

Third, dungeon floors are randomly generated. Boss floors are the same from trip to trip, but the Torchlight mine is otherwise a wonderfully amorphous place. If you delve deep enough, you will even find that floors are configured differently on your trip up than they were on the trip down. And after you’ve completed the main story, a random dungeon is unlocked, so your character won’t be forced into early retirement.

Torchlight on XBLA differs from the PC release in two key ways. First, you have direct control over your character. I absolutely love this. I move the stick, and my dispenser of death moves in that direction. I press the attack button and he beats the snot out of whatever monster is unfortunate enough to be situated in front of him. This direct control is better than the Diablo-style controls found in Torchlight PC. I never accidentally keep running when I mean to beat up a goblin. Never. This happened to me all the time on the PC, and I’m not sorry to see it gone.

Torchlight XBLA falls short of its PC counterpart in the mod department. I’m sure that this is inherent in the platform and not in Runic’s treatment of the console audience, but it makes me sad that I can’t alter my play experience in the same ways on the 360 as I can on the PC. I miss my summoned skeletons with no dissolve timer and the ability to craft with no chance of ruining my favorite weapon. Torchlight on XBLA is a great game, and I love playing it. I miss my mods, but I don’t miss them enough to give up direct control.

Pros: Tons of randomly-created content, great and useful pet, direct character control works really well

Cons: None of the mods you’re used to playing with on the PC are available on the 360


Score: 4/5

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