Saturday, January 02, 2010

Byte: It's not a skirt!

I have to add a late entry onto my list of my favourite games of 2009.

While I was spending a very pleasant Christmas in Alsace getting quite merry on some very good French wine and eating some very excellent food, I also managed to devote some time writing 16,000 words of a fantasy short-story/possible novella, spent quite obscene amounts of money buying a set of gaming headphones to replace the ones paid for by my Devils Advocate piece for PCG six or seven years ago (has it really been that long?) and devoted several afternoons to plundering dungeons in an unashamed Diablo-esque grind-a-thon.

I am, of course, talking about Torchlight. It strikes me as a bit of a cross between the much-maligned Space Siege (which was maligned not least by me) and the much-fabled ZangbandTK, the staple indie game of the long-defunct State forum for many a month. Torchlight, however, manages to be more accessible than ZangbandTK (not to mention a whole lot better looking, to boot) and about a million times more polished than Space Siege (though to be fair, the story is no less cliched and the voice acting is no less stilted, either).

However, unlike Space Siege, Torchlight is touched in places by genius, not least the ability to send off your pet back to town with a full inventory so that you don't need to stop crawling the dungeon for loot and mobs to kill. There's also a WoW influence in the loot grading system (perhaps not surprising, given that a lot of the design team are ex-Blizzard) and the shared loot chest back in the town of Torchlight itself is another stroke of inspiration, allowing you to spread out the best loot between your characters. Obviously, with my chronic alt-o-holism problem, I've played a little with all three of the available character classes. I'm not massively fond of the Destroyer (read: Tank/Warrior/Barbarian) class, but the Alchemist (read: Mage/Glass Cannon) class is quite nice, especially if you wander around with massively destructive magic wands in each hand as I've taken to doing. But my favourite character class has to be the Vanquisher (read: Hunter/Ranger), not least because my Vanquisher (inevitably called Shareth) is smoking hot. I've got her up to level 29 and she's kitted out almost entirely in Rare and Unique kit. With 350+ dps pistols dual wielded, she totally kicks goblin, dragonkin and undead bottom in the most emphatic way possible.

The art design is very Warcraft, though this isn't a problem as far as I'm concerned, given that I think WoW is has of the best aesthetic designs found in videogames well, ever. (Perhaps only the Metroid Prime games are more perfect in terms of a coherent design of a game world) Torchlight, then, is pretty, well-balanced and rather hideously compulsive. I've already gifted it via Steam to two friends of mine, so I don't think I can really give it a much better recommendation than that.
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