July, 20th, 2015

Hours played: At least 20

Last played: July 6th, 2015

Torchlight: a dull glow

I played Torchlight way back when it first came out, circa 2009. I enjoyed it, but there were some things that just nagged at me while I played it. Unfortunately, the more I played it, the less I liked it. Going further and further into the game did not increase my enjoyment. And I ultimately stopped playing.

Sadly that perfectly describes my most recent experience with Torchlight.

I’ve tried to figure out just what it is that I don’t like, but every time I formulate my thoughts I come up with the same conclusion:

The game feels hollow and generic.

It doesn’t seem to have it’s own identity or stand out as unique from other games in the ARPG genre. Hell, Torchlight is essentially an “HD remake” of Diablo from 1996… without the “Hell.” The game follows the same basic progression and is, in many ways the same game, but with less of an edge.

I feel that really hurts Torchlight.

Plenty of games can be fun without a cool in-game world or a “gritty” story hook to pull you in. It’s gameplay that matters in the end, right? Sadly I think that Torchlight also falls flat here as well.

Torchlight is pretty a pretty shallow game, to its detriment. Killing monsters is fun in its own right, but only for so long. Other ARPGs alleviate this by giving you things to work for: new more powerful items, more powerful skills, harder challenges, etc. Torchlight does have all of these things… they’re just not interesting. So although the game does have the “carrot on a stick” incentive to continue playing… I’m, sadly, not interested in the carrot.

I found the gameplay to be rather lackluster and boring. Torchlight’s art style does not appeal to me. The environments lacked feeling, and ultimately felt sterile. The items in the game were shallow, and only the “unique” items had any flavor. The various character skills weren’t very impressive, and didn’t feel very powerful.

But let’s break down the individual pieces of Torchlight and critique it against the five points I mentioned previously.

Atmosphere and Story

Atmosphere

the pervading tone or mood of a place, situation, or work of art.

Torchlight has little to no atmosphere. Certain areas in the game look pretty darn cool, but carry absolutely no feeling.

My favorite areas are a necropolis found underneath the mines beneath Torchlight (Yes, that’s the name of the town) and the underground jungle-temple ruins beneath the necropolis. Why I like these two areas over all the others? Probably because they have the most ‘flavor’. But even then it’s spread pretty thin.

There isn’t much to be said about the game’s various locales other than that they don’t make much sense and require a bit too much suspension of disbelief for my taste.

Story
an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.

I consider story to be tied very closely with atmosphere, and like Torchlight’s atmosphere, there isn’t really much to be said about the story. It’s pretty generic and could be summarized in two sentences: “Torchlight was built over a corrupted source of magic caused by an ancient evil deep within the Earth. Go kill it.”

More accurately: The town of Torchlight is mining a substance called Ember, which allows for the various forms of magic in the world, but it turns out the Ember under Torchlight is corrupt and will turn anyone who comes into contact with it evil! This is because the Ember Vein runs over an ancient evil, later revealed to be a dragon. You are called to Torchlight to help the mining operation, which is being attacked by monsters, but are promptly betrayed by the man who summoned you. As it turns out he wants to revive the dragon sleeping beneath Torchlight. And you, the hero, have to stop him by traveling deeper and deeper into the Earth uncovering older and older civilizations that fell to the corrupting allure of the Ember.

Pretty good ideas! Not going to lie, there’s definitely a cool story in there. But it’s really only used as an occasional spur to remind you to continue murdering monsters as you travel what seems like miles into the earth. A shame, really.

There is very little involvement in the story, and to be honest the voice acting is pretty hammy. If you like that sort of thing, then good on ya! I had to skip most of it.

But hey, atleast you can skip it! Actually all of it! Which is nice.

Enemies
the persons who are actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.

Unfortunately, the enemies in torchlight are boring. There isn’t any way around it. I don’t like their designs, and none of them really seem to have any interesting mechanics to differentiate them. They’re all just bigger and bigger punching bags. Some will revive their comrades, and some will leave noxious fumes after death. But by and large, the majority of them are meat sacks that fling their bodies against your weapons.

It doesn’t help that the enemies have massive spikes in difficulty towards the end of the game. There is a LARGE increase in enemy health and damage in the last area. And every time I’ve played, it has come as a shock.

I’ll be doing just fine, then I’ll walk into the last section of the game and be murdered. Only to find that I’m unable to deal significant damage to the enemies. Their scaling seems to be off, and it’s just not fun.

Your Character

the representation or expression of something in a tangible or visible form.

Torchlight utilizes the typical stat system. Your RPG standards are all present: Strength, Dexterity, Magic, Life, and Defense. Every time you level, the game gives you five points to allocate to each of these different parameters. Unfortunately it seems like the various stat points are really just a way of directing your progression. It didn’t seem as though loading a bunch of points into Magic made my Alchemist’s magic any more powerful, despite it being his main damage stat. It seemed as though it was just a holdover from previous games. “Diablo had them, so Torchlight will too.”

Really the stats just felt like numbers I had to inflate in order to put on different armor. My character’s power seemed to be located in the weapons and armor he was wearing rather than the character himself.

Skills

skill or expertise in a particular activity or field

Torchlight also follows a rather traditional skill tree format, present in almost every ARPG. Ever.
That’s perfectly fine. Skill trees are used so commonly because they work. Sadly, the skills in Torchlight are boring. Plain and simple. The coolest spells I got for my Alchemist were Chain Lightning and a laser. Everything else rather boring.

I think that is was a major contributing factor to why Torchlight felt boring to me. The three different classes all had pretty boring skills. Nothing really stands out, and everything felt pretty lame.

Itemization

the balance and distribution of items, their types, and the various effects, powers, and statistics attached to them

Last but not least, the items. Again, there isn’t a lot to say. Torchlight’s items were rather lacking. Most items are of the, “+10 fire damage,” “+20 lightning damage,” “+5% attack speed” variety. Nothing to write home about.

This is probably the one aspect of the game where Torchlight tried its hardest to please me.

I received about 7 unique items before reaching level 15. Unique items are Torchlight’s highest rarity item, apparently. They were all decent, and some of the unique wands I found had cool effects that altered combat, like shots bouncing and releasing arcs of electricity on the ground. But they were little more than more powerful versions of the base items. Not particularly exciting.

Boring skills, boring monsters, boring items, boring combat.

Very sad indeed.

Closing Thoughts

Overall I find that Torchlight is just lacking something. Nothing about it makes me want to come me back to it. The game has its moments of tension, and can certainly be fun, but it just lacks flavor. I personally find the game to be a hollow experience. It left me feeling empty.

Torchlight’s unsatisfying combat, loot, skills, and enemies combined with its generic art style just doesn’t compete with other games in the genre.

But,  the kicker is; Torchlight has received almost universal praise.

So maybe it’s just me. Your mileage may vary.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s