If the long wait for Diablo III has got you down, put in some quality time with Torchlight.
Developed by many members of the Diablo/Diablo II team, Torchlight follows the story of a mining town that serves as the base of operations for a large deposit of “ember”. This “ember” grants people with magic abilities, and serves as the game world’s primary resource. While there is a story to explore within Torchlight, it seems to have been created only because a story is necessary. It isn’t going to pull you in or make you interested in what is going on outside of the mine, although the mine explored within the game entices you with its randomized layout and extensive loot.
Torchlight’s visual style is very simple, but extremely scalable. Requiring only an 800 MHZ CPU and a GeForce 2/Radeon 7200(!), this game can run on just about any system bought in the past decade or so. There is even a “netbook” visual setting that allows it to run on the low-powered small laptops that are so popular now. Magic spells look excellent, and blood mists from hard hits look great. Utilizing a mashup of the OGRE open source rendering engine and a custom engine designed by Runic Games, Torchlight is extremely flexible and has a budding modding community. Because of the art style, Torchlight can look quite good when played on a high-end system; textures are plain yet attractive, and the amount of detail can be deceiving at first. Running Torchlight on a netbook is one thing, but crank the resolution up to 1920 x 1080 on a big LCD and you will be shocked at how quickly the visuals go from decent to excellent. It’s not going to win any awards, but it still looks great.
Torchlight truly feels like Diablo, just slightly more lighthearted. The music is extremely similar (especially in town), and will sometimes even overlap perfectly with the classic guitar work used in Tristram. Many of the game mechanics are the same as well; everything from the skill trees to the keyboard shortcuts will drum up happy memories. The gameplay is very similar too, although I believe Torchlight is a bit easier than either Diablo or Diablo II. Much like how Diablo III will function, items take up a fixed inventory slot so you don’t have to play inventory Tetris anymore. Something that Torchlight takes directly from the first Diablo is that any class can learn any magic spell provided their Magic attribute is high enough (with the exception of class-specific spells/abilities.) Taking a cue from Titan Quest, there is also a large shared stash so you can freely move items between characters. One area where Torchlight differs from Diablo is the way attribute points affect your character; builds are much more straightforward now on the attribute side, allowing you to concentrate on the skill side. Oh, and there is also no multiplayer. That’s right, this is a solo outing only. There are plans for a free-to-play MMO based in the same game universe, but that is still a little ways off.
Due to evolving game mechanics and the length of time since Diablo/Diablo II were released, Torchlight surpasses both of them in many aspects (although, for me, Diablo II is still the point-and-click RPG champ.) I have found it to be a great way to ease the wait for Diablo III, as it is not only an enjoyable game in its own right, but it brings back a ton of fond gaming memories from my adolescence (6th grade/Diablo, 10th grade/Diablo II). Torchlight is one of the best releases in the genre, and at only $20 on Steam, it won’t break your budget. Highly, highly recommended.