Sunday, December 20, 2009

Torchlight (PC)

Okay, enough talking about games that used to be better. It's time for some positive evolution.

Torchlight is Diablo III for those of us who can't wait for Diablo III. It's that same delightfully simple visceral click-fest that kept us all loot-crazed in the late 90s. Well, it's not the same; it's way better. Not only does it feature great graphics and fantastic art direction, it's also streamlined to remove any of the frustrations with the old formula. Oh, and did I mention that it's cheap? Yep, $20. Actually, this weekend it's only $10 on Steam.

If you've never played Diablo, know that Torchlight may still be the game for you. All you need to enjoy this game is a mouse and a pulse. Left button for one spell, right button for another, and go. The MMO genre stole a lot of it's core ideas from Diablo, but slowed everything way way down. I think we'd all forgotten that it doesn't have to be that hard. You don't need rows and rows of action bars with obscure abilities to have tactical depth. Left button, right button, win.

So you click like mad and unleash your fury on hordes of baddies. Then you run around and scoop up their shiny loot. Maybe you got some fancy new thing for yourself (yay!), but if not you can sell it for cash money. And this time around you have a pet to help you with this time honored task. That's right, you don't even need to stop the action in order to sell your goodies - just strap the loot to your pet and tell it to come back with the proceeds. But your pet isn't just a vendor mule - they fight alongside you and can even be given gear and spells. It's brilliant.

Torchlight stands on its own, but it really excites me that this game is the foundation for an MMO the developer is working on. They're going to take this simple wonderful gameplay and bring in that connectivity and persistence that makes MMOs so compelling. I'm officially excited.

I could go on and on about this game. But it'd be mean of me to post about it after the weekend deal. So instead I'll just leave you with some words from Alec over at Rock Paper Shotgun:

The odd thing with trying to write about Torchlight is that I can barely remember playing it. I can remember installing it, then darkness, and then about a week later. I didn’t feel sad or afraid come said week later – time had just blinked past, pleasurably if not terribly memorably. This might sound like a backhanded compliment, but really it’s a straight compliment – sometimes, it’s exactly this phenomenon that we play games for. We want something to take away time that we have no other purpose for. Not everything needs to fill our heads with tales of grand adventure, awe of digital entertainment’s great diversity or triumph over statistical adversity. Torchlight takes away time, quickly and painlessly, replacing it with a vague sense of achievement and a dim hunger for things that can be obtained with ease. If your life is overcomplicated, I can confidently prescribe Torchlight.

It isn’t this precise and effective medicine simply because it’s a decent Diablo clone. It’s because it ruthlessly removes the extraneous ingredients of what was already an incredibly simple formula. Anything that could waste your time or cause annoyance has been cleanly excised, leaving the perhaps cynical but absolute truth of why we play such games: we want constant reward from minimal effort. Click, kill, click, upgrade, click, kill, kill, kill, UPGRADE. It’s not even risk/reward – it’s just reward/reward

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