Retrospective Review: Torchlight
As much as i tried to resist its charismatic visual charm and overt Diablo nostalgia, Torchlight finally baited me into downloading the XBLA demo. Before i knew it, i’d purchased both the full XBLA version and the discounted PC version, and sunk quite a few hours into the game.
Now that i’ve seen almost everything there is to see in Torchlight, i have to say that i’m extremely disappointed with how unnecessarily long it took to reach this point. Don’t get me wrong, the game is expertly crafted in many ways, but my lasting impression of the experience is frustration.
As much as i want to show off screenshots of Torchlight’s compelling atmosphere, i can’t bring myself to recommend the game to anyone – for the simple reason that it quickly turns into addictive torture by design.
Believe it or not, the whole reason i played the demo was because the XBLA description promised that i could transform my pet into various creatures, including elementals. I’ve had a soft spot for elementals since the original Warcraft.
What that marketing blurb didn’t explain is that you have to “play” their braindead fishing “mini-game” for 5-10 hours straight in order to catch one extremely rare fish to permanently transform a single character’s pet into a (random!) elemental. I mean, why??
Can you imagine how many productive hours have been utterly wasted in search of that tiny speck of satisfaction? It’s not even a challenge. It’s just dumb, pointless grinding. How could Runic Games get so many things right, yet still relapse into that old sadistic routine, which sadly still permeates the open-ended RPG genre?
The truth is, Torchlight is a great game until your character reaches lvl40. Beyond that point, it has nothing of substance to offer – but it’s terrified to admit that. As long as you stop at lvl40, you’ll remember it fondly. If you keep going, what little you find won’t justify the growing time investment.
If you want to continue playing, you’re far better off starting a new character. All three classes are interesting in their own way, so there’s no wrong choice between them. Instead of replaying the main campaign, you might want to try heading directly to the Shadow Vault in the southeast corner of town.
Maybe the coolest part of taking the Shadow Vault route is that you never have to lose Brink. Normally he accompanies you from the second level of the main campaign until the first boss battle on the fourth floor. As long as you avoid that fourth level, he’ll never leave your side. Brink isn’t exactly dominant in later stages, but he’s free and it’s still fun having him around.