Torchlight is a Diablo clone action RPG (made by some of the original Diablo designers) with a cartoon-like style. The game starts in a town where there is a problem in the mines that you need to investigate. This is the main storyline where you journey deeper and deeper to defeat the source of evil, Diablo (just kidding, Diablo would kick the end boss’ butt).

Around town you can find merchants to sell you weapons, scrolls, gems, and perform actions like enchant weapons (which does not always work), and combine gems into better gems (technically pieces of ember) for item bonuses. There is also a wizard who gives you search and find quests and a guy who has random dungeon maps who also wants you to bring back items for him (these random maps are not tied to the main story). The town also contains a chest to store extra items and a shared chest where items can be placed and shared among different game characters.

If you have played Diablo, Torchlight will feel very familiar. You have health and mana points (and health and mana potions), identify and town portal scrolls, and quick slots for spells and abilities. One thing different you have is a pet. Your pet, which you choose and name at the beginning of the game, can learn spells, carry items, and change forms (with different animals you catch while fishing, a little mini game you can play at fishing holes scattered throughout the mines). Your pet can also be sent back to town to sell items, but I preferred to go back to town myself whenever I neeed to unload stuff.

The main quest is 35 levels long. Every 5 levels you fight a boss and find a waypoint back to town, but I really didn’t use these much as you finds tons of town portal scrolls (as well as health and mana potions). There are extra levels you can reach by either talking to the guy in town with treasure scrolls I mentioned earlier, buying map scrolls from the girl who also sells gems, or by killing a phase beast in the mines (which opens a lost portal). These random levels are just for experience and items and are not necessary to finish the game. Once you finish the main quest and return to town, there is a new dungoen in the SE corner of the map. You will find two people in front of it to give you quests (plus the wizard in town who you did quests for during the main story). This dungeon is called Shadow Vault, also referred to as the infinite dungeon because it randomly generates levels forever (for those who just can’t get enough Torchlight).

Some things I figured out while playing the game include making better gems and learning spells. You will find pieces of ember and other items that can be combined by the guy in town who transmutes items. You can only combine two pieces of the same type as far as I know. From worst to least the pieces are cracked ember, dull ember, discolored ember, ember, and cut ember (insert descriptive names in front of ember such as cold, life, etc.). The better ember obviosly gives better bonuses, and you get offensive or defensive bonuses depending on which item you insert the ember into (if you can, items can have 1 or 2 sockets for ember). If you want your ember back later, there is a guy who can destroy your item and retrieve the ember; there is another guy who can destroy the ember to free an item’s socket. For spells, it took me a while to figure out you had to get rid of spells to learn more if you had learned a certain amount already. My pet could learn 2 and I could learn 4 (I played a warrior). You <ctrl>-click the spell to unlearn it (it disappears forever) but then you can drag another spell in its place (a different spell or a better version of the same spell).

After you earn enough experience to gain a level you get 5 points to distribute among your abilities (strength, dexterity, magic, and defense). You also get to learn or improve a skill. Abilities affect how much damage you inflict and can absorb and what items you can use. Levels affect what spells you can learn (higher spells require higher levels), what items you can use, and how high a skill level you can go. You also gain fame as you beat boss monsters and complete quests. When you get enough fame, you get a skill point to apply toward your skills.

My impressions of Torchlight were a fun game for a while, but the middle to the end becomes a grind. After about level 20 you get a better variety of enemies, but it is still a grind. Also, the game is too easy. For most of the game I rarely if ever used health or mana potions. Only until about the last 5 – 10 levels did I really have to watch my health or mana. You receive way too much treasure, most of which you just sell for money. You also get way too many potions and scrolls. I never broke a sweat with the bosses, even the final boss (he just had about a million hit points).

I had fun with Torchlight, but really had no desire to play again as another character or play in the Shadow Vault (I just tried one level). The game really needs a better story, better spells, and a little more challenge. But it is definitely a good start and worth $20 (or $5 if you can get it on sale).

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