Torchlight – The return of the old Diablo II crew


 PMUK Blog Torchlight 1


After the heady heights of the Diablo series, Fate and Mythos, a number of designers and developers that ended up being made redundant in the face of recruitment for bigger and better games managed to band together under the name of Runic Games.

Headed by the Schaefer brothers who co-designed the huge successes Diablo and Diablo II for Blizzard Entertainment, and Travis Baldree, the developer of Fate, Runic Games is made up of a number of developers, composers and graphic designers that had been splintered from their original companies. With the now-defunct Flagship Studio crew under their wing, Runic Games decided to “go back to their roots” and develop a small but very flexible RPG that would enable them to put their name back on the gaming market.

With the co-designers of the Diablo series in their midst it was pretty much guaranteed that any fan of the RPG genre would be interested in what this small company could come up with. In Diablo II in particular, the developers managed to stumble across an almost perfect formula for limitless enjoyment even in limited confines. Items, dungeons, monsters, lore – it was all there to some degree, but the degree was perfect for the whole concoction to come together to produce a game that is currently nearly 10 years old and still going incredibly strong in both the single-player and multi-player variants.

 PMUK BLog E3 bridge fight troll lava torchlight

What Runic Games came up with is Torchlight. 11 months in the making, Torchlight does indeed go back to the Diablo roots and presents a wonderfully simple yet deceptively addictive single-player RPG that simply highlights the incredible talents that Runic Games currently holds. Released in October 2009, Torchlight is really just the essence of action role-playing – the small town with baddies to kill, a merchant for gear and another for potions, the rather weak but strangely enthralling storyline about an evil buried deep in layers and layers of caves underground. There’s no flesh to this skeleton because it doesn’t really need it to be good. All the points are covered – characters, storyline, graphics, sound – and the game really does stand up well by itself.

The game is very easy to enjoy but to a rather veteran gamer like myself (I’m also very modest, can you tell?) you can instantly recognize the tell-tale signs of things beneath the surface just waiting to be revealed – items, bosses, skill builds, etc – and this indicates that Runic Games didn’t stumble back onto the magic formula – it was carefully planned and mapped out.

Gameplay is refreshingly smooth, with spells looking very clean and importantly, magical. Music is kind on the ears (though the annoying gem drop sounds and the YOUR PET HAS ARRIVED comments made by the narrator at times does give you a little shock) and the graphics are, to be fair, just about spot-on for a game like Torchlight – not too realistic to lose the fantasy touch but not too “what the heck?” to prove a hindrance to gamers.
To be completely honest you can see that Runic Games does not have the funding that Blizzard managed to provide to the developers. The graphics are cartoony (although this was the objective), the storyline is flimsy, the itemisation doesn’t make sense at times (20% faster cast speed on a sword?) and the dungeons may get a little repetitive.

PMUK Blog 1 year stomp torchlight

However, what Runic Games managed to do though, was use that money and funnel it into making a game that was simple, flexible and set the tone for… wait for it… a Torchlight MMO to be produced in the following years. With the release of Torchlight, the developers stated that they would like to have an MMO based on Torchlight in the next 2 years.
Now, if they manage to keep the special formula intact for their MMO, I personally guarantee it will be huge – almost every Diablo fan will jump ship and Blizzard (now Activision Blizzard) will be ruing the day they let Max and Erich Schaefer go.

Paul Park



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