Torchlight is to Diablo what Champions Online should have been to City of Heroes.
Where Champions Online inherited many ideas, themes, sound effects and such from City of Heroes, but changed some of the core game-play that made CoH so well loved and tried something new and brave, but which ultimately didn’t really work as well, Torchlight has taken everything that made Diablo great and built upon that with new features that just make the player smile at the simplicity and brilliance of the implementation.
Have no doubt, if you buy Torchlight you are buying Diablo 2.5; there’s the brooding, almost melancholy ambient music that drifts in and out of the periphery of your consciousness as you play through a level, and which is so close a tribute to the Diablo score that if you closed your eyes you might be hard pressed to tell which game was actually running on your PC; the piñata mobs that burst open and erupt loot all over the screen whenever you so much as look at them; scrolls of Town Portal and Identify; the disembodied voice of a strange old man that – slightly creepily – follows you around and provides narrative relief while you take a break from your excessive loot-candy highs. I haven’t found a Horadric Cube yet, but I’ve only played an hour or so. It’s there somewhere, I’m sure.
Games like Titan Quest tried to clone Diablo and tap into that rich vein of Blizzard devotees by presenting something that was familiar to them, whereas Torchlight unashamedly is Diablo, but with an up-to-date graphics engine and additional features that are different and unusual enough to tempt even those virtuous souls who are chastely saving their gaming cherry for Diablo 3. One simple and obvious example of a new and excellent feature is the pet companion that accompanies you everywhere you go, it is far more than a token addition to differentiate the game from others of the same ilk because there is an entire sub-game involved with making the best use of the functions that your pet provides. Suffice it to say that any player familiar with Diablo will feel immediately at home but still have plenty to learn and adapt to.
I haven’t played enough of Torchlight to go into an in-depth reviewlet yet, but the game has certainly impressed upon me enough to warrant mentioning it now, because if there are any of you who are wed to the Diablo series but are perhaps feeling that seven year itch, then Torchlight is quite possibly The Girl to spark your imagination.
Dare I say: it’s quite possibly more Diablo than Diablo 3 will be.