Easter Eggs: Torchlight

By Jonathan Barnes,
Welcome to Easter Eggs, where the TA Team shines the spotlight on games that many gamers might have missed, perhaps hidden away behind the millionth copy of Call of Duty or FIFA. Much like a gamer who finds an Easter Egg hidden away in a game and proceeds to trumpet it from the highest hills and forums, the TA Team is going to be featuring these Easter Egg games on the front page for all to see.
Gather 'round, children, let old man Barnes tell you a quick tale of a time from the way-back-when, in the long-long-ago. You see, boys and girls, there was a time when the Xbox 360 didn't have a great, isometric, loot-driven, dungeon crawler. That's right, we didn't have Diablo III in all of its glory, as it was being horded by the PC overlords like "The Precious" that it is. We had to survive on second-rate scraps like Realms of Ancient War which did little more than remind us what we were missing out on. The one bright, shining example of promise was Runic Games' Torchlight, and I'd like to tell you its tale.


The Basics

After the smashing success of Blizzard's Diablo II, a small cadre of developers left the PC giant to venture off on their own and form Runic Games. Their first game didn't stray too far from the golden goose. Originally released onto PCs in October of 2009, Torchlight was an indie-success that capitalized on the things that made its forefather great: an amazing gameplay loop that drew its power from leveling and loot and a great art style. Furthermore, Runic took things a step further and incorporated new bells and whistles that made the game even smoother and more addictive. With its simple interface and easy-to-approach nature, the game found a massive audience and Runic had themselves a hit.

In August of 2010, Runic made the announcement that they were porting the game to consoles and, with Microsoft stepping up to bat as publisher, the game hit the Xbox LIVE Arcade in March of 2011 with a redesigned UI specifically made for the Xbox 360 controller.

In a time before Diablo III was on consoles, this redesigned interface was nothing if not a proof of concept that these type of games could work on consoles. That control design felt natural and intuitive and made playing the game a joy.

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The Hook

Let's start with a quick question:

Do you like Diablo III and want another game like that?

If your answer is yes, feel free to stop reading and go buy Torchlight, you won't be disappointed. If you've never played Diablo III and are curious as to what makes Torchlight special, allow me to elaborate.

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The story to Torchlight isn't anything to write home about. The town of Torchlight lays on top of an "Ember" (a precious magical resource) mine that has become corrupted by an ancient evil that has infused the Ember with its darkness. The town needs a champion (hey, that's you!) to slay the evil and restore purity to the Ember.

Like most games of the genre, you have heroic options, you can choose to be one of three character classes at the outset: Destroyer (your basic warrior type), Alchemist (hello, Mr. Wizard!), or Vanquisher (Ms. Rogue at your service). Each of these classes has their own skill tree, weapons, and accessories to keep things fresh and exciting as you venture down into the depths.

Further supplementing your character is a pet. Now some pets are cute and some pets are functional, but the pets of Torchlight just happen to be both. In addition to looking cute/cool and helping out in combat, your pet will also mule unwanted items back to town and sell them, saving you a trip and allowing you to keep grinding away. I'm no expert, but I don't think Lassie ever did that for Timmy.

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As you descend deeper into the Ember mines underneath Torchlight, you'll encounter mobs of enemies that range from easy grunts all the way up to bosses. Upon slaying these foes, they'll drop loot of varying qualities. As you might expect, the choicest of loot can really buff up your character while the chaff can get shuffled back to town with Fido. Finally, a shared stash can allow items to transfer between characters... much like Diablo III.

On the control front, the aforementioned UI is a joy to behold. Four different skills are mapped to buttons with four additional skills only a click of the D-pad away. Within a few minutes/levels, you can be razing enemies and raining destruction like a seasoned pro. With mana and health potions hard-wired to the bumper keys, it's almost impossible to get caught in a bad spot which leads into a big pro-con judgment about Torchlight: it's ridiculously easy.

Personally, the ease of play (even on the "Hard" setting) seemed to echo the whimsy and fun of the game's style. While contemporaries like Diablo and RAW may have set out for dark realism, Torchlight goes for a much more stylized and animated presentation. If you've always been curious about this genre, but didn't want to jump straight into Diablo, Torchlight is a great set of training wheels.

One of the more unique features of Torchlight is the retirement system. Upon reaching Level 30, you will have the option to "retire" your character. When you retire a character, you pass down perks and bonuses to a newly-created character PLUS you can pass down one item which then becomes unique and more powerful.

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The Achievements

As one of the older games in the Xbox LIVE Arcade catalog, Torchlight bares the scarlet letter of a low gamerscore, featuring twelve achievements for 200G. That being said, it does make for a relatively easy completion, if a bit time consuming. The "grindiest" achievements is Superstar which tasks you with achieving maximum fame. Fortunately, this achievement is easily unlocked through normal play and may only take a bit of grinding after defeating the final boss. The rest of the game's achievements are naturally unlocked through the course of normal play.

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The Stats

While not the most popular of Easter Eggs thus far, Torchlight does have a player base of over 22k on site. Of those gamers, just over eight thousand have completed it (good for 36%). Our community has been very kind to the dungeon-crawler, giving it a 4.1 out of 5 while Metacritic almost completely agrees and has its composite score at an 81.

The Price

As an Xbox LIVE Arcade title, you're not going to be able to price shop for a great deal. The price currently sits at $14.99 (or your regional equivalent). Unfortunately, the game hasn't been on sale since 2012, so you may be stuck paying full price. That being said, the price is well worth the adventure. The game has great replayability between the three character classes and is easy enough to complete that it should scare off no one.

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The Verdict

If you didn't figure it out, the most simple selling point of Torchlight was that it soothed the savage console gamer that was hungering for Diablo, but couldn't play it on console. Now that Blizzard's most-recent iteration is out, the passion and desire for Torchlight may feel a bit less, but don't be fooled, Torchlight is a fantastic game on its own right. Its addictive gameplay loop spurs on the "just one more level" or "just one more dungeon floor" mindset that can keep you up until the wee hours of the morning, button-mashing and monster-slaying. While the story is easily disposable and the achievement list is generic at best, the charming style and gameplay more than make up for it.

If one were to think of Diablo III as a meal at a fine restaurant (something you've waited a long time for... something that is to be savored and enjoyed), one could consider Torchlight to be the fried appetizer sampler a casual dining restaurant: it's not going to leave you saying, "Wow!" but it tastes great, goes well with beer, and will probably keep you coming back for more.

If there's a game you'd like to see featured in Easter Eggs, be sure to let us know in the comments!

We've got the full list of Torchlight achievements - check the list for guides to unlocking them.
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.