By Chan Chi-Loong, a freelance writer
WITH gorgeous graphics and music, infinite replayability and a low price tag, Torchlight is one of the best keyboard-stomping action role-playing games (RPG) I have played in the last couple of years.
|» Price: $28
» Genre: Action RPG
» Platform: PC
» Rating: 9/10
Gamers familiar with Blizzard's 1997 monster hit Diablo, which inspired the action RPG genre, will have no problem getting into the groove of this unabashed clone.
You play as one of three classes: the hulking, dual-wielding melee Destroyer; the ranged amazoness Vanquisher; or the magic-using Alchemist who can summon a steel golem (an animated robot-like monster) to pound foes.
Gameplay consists of venturing deeper and deeper underground in randomly generated levels, repeatedly mashing mouse buttons and hot keys to devastate hordes of monsters with your sword and sorcery skills.
Many game mechanics that made Diablo such a vanguard - tech trees, randomly generated loot and levels that scale in difficulty - are present in Torchlight. Even its backstory - of an ancient evil that lurks within the depths of the town of Torchlight - is reminiscent of Diablo's storyline.
Clone though it may be, Torchlight is extremely polished. It is one of the best Diablo-like games out there and I have had more fun playing it than others in the same genre like Dungeon Siege or Titan Quest.
Monster design is first-rate. Boss fights are varied and interesting and the wide variety of mobs keeps the game fresh.
Level design is also outstanding: your hero will traverse damp, moss-covered caverns, ruined undersea gardens and raging rivers of lava. A first-time playthrough of the main storyline will take about 12 to 15 hours across the 35 levels.
The game also adds small flourishes that enhance the dungeon-crawling experience. For example, you get a pet companion that can be sent back to town to sell unwanted loot, which means even less downtime as you explore the levels. There is even a fishing mini-game to play if you want to take a break from hacking monsters apart.
Torchlight is deliberately light on system requirements and the stylised art design looks good and runs well even on netbooks.
One of the best reasons to recommend Torchlight is its affordable price. This indie game, released late last October by Runic Games, is available only via download at Torchlight's website (http://www.torchlightgame.com).
There is no multi-player component but editor tools come bundled with the game and there are tonnes of fan-created mods out there that will extend the game replayability.
Developed by ex-Blizzard employees who worked on Diablo, Torchlight is a pure blast and I have lost countless hours playing this gem. If you like action RPGs, be sure to give Torchlight a shine.
Enhance your Torchlight experience by installing mods, most of which are coded by the Torchlight fans and are free.
One of the most popular is the tech-tree 'respec' (short for respecialisation) mod, which refunds you the points spent in levelling your skills.
I found it an incredibly useful tool as it allowed me to experiment with character builds easily without having to level another character.The mod is stable for the latest Torchlight patch 1.2.
There are also hundreds of other mods that allow you to tweak the game in innumerable ways.
Some change how things look. For example, your Alchemist looks like an undead warlock and your pet dog becomes a spider.
Other mods add new items to the game, like fan-created swords and guns with unique names and art. Some even change the tech trees of the classes entirely to form brand new custom classes like the Enchanter and Valkyrie.
Download these mods from Torchlit.net (htttp://www.torchlit.net) or via links on the official Torchlight forum (http://forums.runicgames.com)
Before you try the mods, make sure to back up your existing game data - just in case anything goes wrong.
This story was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life.
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