So I spent a large part of this weekend playing Runic's upcoming $20, single-player action RPG Torchlight. I'll be doing an interview with the developers for the Immortal Machines Podcast this week, and they were kind enough to hook me up in advance with a press copy so that I could check it out a bit ahead of our interview. If you already know about Torchlight, let me say that I've put a little more than 6 hours in, and have a Level 23 Destroyer ("warrior") and a Level 6 Alchemist ("mage"). If you don't know what Torchlight is - well, you could go look at the site - but if you take the randomly generated dungeons of Diablo and add a cartoony look, some well-updated mechanics and a pet that acts as an item mule, you've got basically the right idea. It's got a pretty great pedigree, with folks who worked on both Diablo I and II on the team, as well as Travis Baldree, who designed the (very similar but far less polished) casual action RPG Fate for WildTangent back in 2005.
I'm not going to do a formal review of the game with a score or anything - I haven't played it enough yet, and I'm not sure that assigning scores is something I ever want to do here - but I've played enough to feel comfortable saying that if this type of game interests you, it's an easy buy. The visual style of the game is fantastic, the random level designs are really good so far, the loot that drops is varied and fun to sort through, and the combat is some of the best I've seen in an action RPG. The art and sound come together in combat to provide extremely satisfying feedback for everything you do; as your character grows in power you really feel it in every hit he delivers. On the Normal difficulty level I've found the game to not be terribly difficult thus far, only getting into tight scrapes a few times, but two higher difficulty levels exist and there's the traditional "Hardcore" (1 death, that's it) mode for those who want them, so the game doesn't have to be friendly if you don't want it to be.
Oh, and in addition to using them as an item mule, you can teach your pet spells. My dog can cast fireballs, and summon skeleton archers to fight for him. I'll say that again: my dog summons skeleton archers.
He's such a good boy.
Torchlight is coming out officially on Tuesday, will be available on Steam, and like I said - 20 bucks. It's also getting an extremely capable level editor very shortly after launch, free for people who buy the game. (Go check out some videos for that thing, it's really impressive.)
I understand that for some people, when thinking "action RPG" the lack of co-op multiplayer is a dealbreaker - Runic is working on an MMO in this same style to address that next, by the way - but let me entreat you to not let that make the decision for you. This is a really excellent game at a great price by a team that clearly put a lot of love into it. I think it deserves to succeed. Go give it a look, and if you haven't bought it by the time they put a demo out, at least try it then. I suspect you'll have as much fun as I'm having.