Have You Played… Torchlight?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I admit, I missed the first two Diablos at the time. Yes, yes, think of me what you will, but I did. I’ve made up for it since, and the genre is one of my absolute favourite ways to while away merry time. And few more than the glorious Torchlight [official site]. Have you played that have you?

This of course came from those who had previously brought us Fate and Mythos, with Travis Baldree heading the project, so everything important was in place. And it worked. It didn’t break new ground, or redefine how we understand the ARPG as a concept. It just created the incentive to click on hammering away at your mouse buttons until they were a dusty pulp.

The levels were perhaps a mite small, and it certainly didn’t put any significant effort into creating a reason why you were hacking and looting, but yet it was so entirely compelling. For me it remains my favourite game to play while listening to podcasts.


  1. malkav11 says:

    I have, but I found it rather dull. It’s a competent enough ARPG but aside from a few handy convenience features it didn’t really distinguish itself for me in any way, and the classes and enemies aren’t particularly interesting. The sequel was substantially better in virtually every way. But even that’s kind of palled since I discovered Marvel Heroes. (And since Diablo 3 got good, and since Grim Dawn and Van Helsing… but mainly Marvel Heroes, which is the only ARPG I’ve ever spent more than 300 hours playing.)

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      I agree, it was very well-done and had some nice additions compared to Diablo 2, yet lacking in many important ways.

      It felt like you were walking on an endless road without purpose, without enjoying yourself. The basic gameplay of fighting enemies, getting loot, customizing gear/skills and repeat never got near Diablo 2’s level of fun.

      I have it on an external drive, in case I ever want to return, since I went pretty far down and don’t want to do that all over again, but I don’t know when I’ll be in the mood to continue.

      • desolation0 says:

        I recently went and played the first Fate and was amazed to find pretty much everything I thought was new or innovative or just different for Torchlight compared to Diablo was already in the series all the way back then. Torchlight 1 was pretty much a reskin of Fate with newer graphics, more items, more areas, classes (though rarely meaningful feeling in play), the pet being able to cast spells, and a slightly more pronounced story hook. It feels really scant on innovation for what I would now consider the fifth game in a continuous series in hindsight.

    • Baines says:

      I found Torchlight 2 to be the uninteresting one, “walking on an endless road without purpose”. It felt like Runic took a good but simple game and just bolted tons of stuff on it in the logic of “‘more’ automatically means ‘better'”. Like that pointlessly large overworld that just meant it took longer to get to the interesting parts of the game or the multiple hub areas that just meant it took longer to get to the interesting parts of the game. And the misguided “fixes” to what Runic saw as issues, like making physical range damage STR-based and the overhaul of the enchantment system. Neither “fix” actually fixed the issues that bothered Runic, and arguably helped make the issues worse.

      Torchlight 2 ultimately make me feel that Runic didn’t really know what they were doing. Not that they were bad developers, or that Torchlight 2 was a bad game, but that they had managed to luck themselves into Torchlight 1’s quality despite themselves.

      • malkav11 says:

        There’s far more narrative context in Torchlight 2, though, which is something I happen to care about even in ARPGs, and the classes are much more interesting in design and variety of builds. And frankly, violently murdering things is much more satisfying from an animation-and-feedback perspective. There’s also more area variety, more things to find, more types of encounter, etc etc etc. These are all very important to keeping a very straightforward and repetitive game genre fresh.

      • po says:

        What gave me the impression they didn’t know what they were doing, was that completely unsolved, and unacknowledged bug (despite several large threads on their forums about it) that broke multiplayer, causing clients to unrecoverably disconnect at random, sometimes hours into a game, leaving groups with no choice but to start again from the beginning, with a very good chance the game would just disconnect the clients all over again.

  2. Xocrates says:

    “The levels were perhaps a mite small”

    The levels grew significantly as you progressed, to the point that I’m pretty sure that by the time you’re on the Dwarven city a single level is about as big as the entire first area. Frankly, by the end of the game I found the levels to be tediously long.

  3. kalirion says:

    I was addicted to the demo, then I beat the full version once or twice and was kinda bored. Then a couple years later I went back to it and did the hardcore achievements – now that turned out to be the way to spice this game up!

  4. SomeDuder says:

    Well, at the time, it’s most damaging feature was multiplayer. Or rather, the lack of it. The developers simply didn’t have the resources to implement multiplayer functionality, but the game was released in that weird time just before EVERYTHING had to have a multiplayer feature. Most games can do without, yet this type of game desperately needs it.

    Technically, it was a competent hacking and occassionally slashing game, but after 1 playthrough there’s no real reason to go back.

    I recall that there was also going to be a Torchlight MMO, but I guess that the devs ran out of happyjuice at some point and started using their brains, quickly realising how fucking stupid of a move that would be.

    • malkav11 says:

      I could swear I beta-tested whatever the Torchlight MMO turned into – it wasn’t called Torchlight-anything anymore at that point. But I so don’t recall details.

      • orionite says:

        Are you thinking of Mythos? I played the beta too, but left to wait for it to be completed and then it kinda sorta never was.

  5. HefHughner says:

    Throughout the years i got the impression they seem to be bored by their own creations. They only deliver the bare minimum and move on asap… Best example is Rebel Galaxy, a few fixes to make trading more fun would make this mmo-textmission-grind at least somewhat enjoyable, but they are already done with it… like with Torchlight 1 which needed multiplayer and Torchlight 2 which needed more classes, more areas and harder difficulty (all of that had to be done via mods).

  6. Freud says:

    I think the Torchlight games lacked the replayability that Diablo 3 has, especially after the expansion. Though I’m done with D3 for the time being that one I kept coming back to for years.

    Torchlight and Torchlight II are charming games that are fun to play through once or twice and then move on.

    Grim Dawn was fantastic but that too didn’t offer much once you had played it through once or twice.

  7. TheBuzzSaw says:

    Torchlight II may not be all things to all players, but it is such a good game for me. I was an avid Diablo II player for years, and Diablo III disappointed me in every way imaginable. TL2 came at exactly the right time. I have sunk over 300 hours into it. I’ve been playing the last few months, and it is better than ever.

    TL2 beats D3 in so many ways. For starters, uniques drop at a sane rate to where you get to actually enjoy the loot the game offers. I get that Diablo wants you to really appreciate good loot that drops, but it is so rare that you eventually stop caring and quit long before you acquire any. Yes, I’m aware of Loot 2.0, but it’s still too little too late. Also, how can you beat the TL2 permanent pet? More inventory, the ability to sell stuff while questing, etc. Also, screw D3 and its online requirement. I like being able to backup characters, play offline, etc. I shouldn’t need a closed online economy just to experience all the gear.

    The only thing D3 has is story, but as a father, I also appreciate TL2’s more lighthearted tone and art style.

    It’s funny how people are trying to compare TL1 to TL2. TL2 gave us exactly what we wanted: multiplayer support. I had fun with TL1 when it was the only option, but I haven’t looked back since TL2 came out.

    • FuriKuri says:

      Seems like you haven’t played D3 in such a significant amount of time your comparison/hate isn’t really valid any more. Loot 2.0 isn’t even the half of it. Play a season character (and if you’re ‘new’ to the game, there’s no reason not to) and you’ll earn a full legendary set within a couple of days of hitting the max level via the season journey mechanic. Even if you’re unlucky with drops you can now craft legendaries, good legendaries, albeit at the mercy of RNG.

      What I’m saying is, the D3 of today is a much different, improved and (importantly for the genre) moreish experience. Although, regrettably, you’ll have to buy Reaper of Souls to get access to most of it if you only ever owned vanilla.

      • TheBuzzSaw says:

        And have you played TL2? The loot rate in TL2 is far more enjoyable than in D3. If you’re in it for the LONG haul, sure, knock yourself out with D3 and its extensive loot tables. TL2 is simply far more enjoyable in terms of being able to find good things.

        • pepperfez says:

          Yeah, Torchlight feels like a game I can finish rather than grind on indefinitely. As someone very prone to that kind of behavior, it’s one of the game’s most appealing features.

  8. aoanla says:

    I gave it a go, but the usual things that annoy me about Diablo-style “RPG”s – the huge number of drops, most of which are junk, but some of which are good. The pet helps, in theory, to handle disposing of junk drops for money, but it still felt like a completely unneeded mechanic that got frankly tedious. (It’s the same thing that contributed to my rapidly developing boredom with Borderlands…)

    • JackMultiple says:

      I bounced off this game really hard for mostly the same reasons. Plus this… aren’t you looking THROUGH a transparent “mini-map” of the area while seeing the game action behind the map, or vice versa? Maybe there was a way to turn this off, or minimize/reduce the minimap to be more like a traditional in-a-small-opaque-window minimap. I just gave up trying to see “through” a constant haze.

      • Jason Moyer says:

        The mini-map taking up the whole screen isn’t even the default setting, afaik. In order to get to that point, you would have had to have hit the minimap shortcut and hitting it again would have placed the map in the corner of the screen.

    • FreshHands says:

      Ahh, junk.

      You are so right – all this virtual junk is messing up my gaming experience. How many hours have I played Fallout4 with my face to the ground instead of enjoying the scenery?

      Concerning games like Diablo and Borderlands (and Magic the Gathering) however – without junk all the shinies wouldn’t be that shiny, would they.

    • pepperfez says:

      TL2 actually includes an option to make only certain grades of loot show up. By default of course it’s everything, but you can customize it on a fairly granular scale.

  9. Zarathruster says:

    “For me it remains my favourite game to play while listening to podcasts.”

    Is this a common thing? I mainly listen to podcasts to make tedious things less so. If you really need podcasts to get through a game, wouldn’t you be better served by something more stimulating?

    • Thulsa Hex says:

      I think that’s a bit of a cynical take on what John meant. I read it as giving his hands something satisfying, familiar and relaxing to do, while he catches up on his podcasts. Sure, podcasts are great at distracting one from tedious chores or travel, but they’re also great if you just want to chill out. Some people (like myself) find it easier to relax to podcasts or music if their hands are occupied in some small way.

      • malkav11 says:

        Yeah, same here. I can’t focus on audio content if my hands aren’t occupied, but if they’re doing anything that requires much brainpower then that distracts me as well. I find many Diablo-style games are the perfect combination of something that occupies my hands without requiring a great deal of attention. That may not say a great deal for them as games, but on the other hand, the thing keeping my hands busy does have to have some enjoyment value to it (or at least make me money, as at work) or I will get bored of it even though the primary point is the podcast.

  10. Jason Moyer says:

    Torchlight 1/2 are like Diablo 1/2 except actually fun.

  11. Thulsa Hex says:

    This is one genre that I never got in to, outside of replaying the Diablo 1 demo over and over when I was a kid. I probably would have liked these games well enough, but instead spent what CRPG time I had with the likes of Baldur’s Gate.

    If the couch co-op and controller functionality of the console version of Diablo III was present in the PC version, I would have definitely gotten it to play with my wife. I don’t have too many real life friends in the same time zone anymore, who would be in a position to play serious online co-op with me. I think loot-y ARPGs need that for me.

    • Baines says:

      Do you mean the PS2 version of Baldur’s Gate? Because it would have been a shame if you missed that the PS2 had multiple games of similar genre with four player local co-op.

      They were more console-y, but that isn’t a negative when it comes to Diablo-style games.

  12. dethtoll says:

    Torchlight was what I wanted in my life after Diablo 2 turned out to be such a disappointment. Bonus points because a Blizzard knob-slobbering sorta-friend was offended by its very existence. (We didn’t talk for many years not long after that)

  13. kinghorn says:

    Worth mentioning that Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer (co-designers of Diablo and Diablo II) worked on Torchlight 1 (and I think 2 as well).

  14. fish99 says:

    I actually preferred Torchlight to the sequel. When I played Torchlight I hadn’t played an ARPG since Titan Quest, and thus I really enjoyed it, but I played Torchlight 2 straight after Diablo 3, and for all D3s faults it does play very well, and T2 suffered in comparison. So I found the sequel dull and gave up within a few hours.

  15. MOOncalF says:

    Didn’t finish it when it was new, went back to it years later and started a hardcore character – so satisfaction, much enjoy.

  16. Thulsa Hex says:

    You mean Dark Alliance? No, the only D&D I played back then was Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2 (and related Infinity Engine stuff) on PC. Admittedly, I looked down upon DA at the time for what I saw as piggybacking on the BG name. Despite being a console fan myself, it irked me that publishers were increasingly diverting their focus (and funds) toward the growing mainstream console market — diluting certain series in the process. I’d lumped DA in with the negative side of that trend.

    Looking at it now, however, had I judged it on its own merits I daresay it could have made for a grand old romp with friends on my beloved GameCube. Ironically, if it hadn’t used the BG name, I’d probably have been more receptive to it in the first place!

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  18. Viral Frog says:

    I never played the first game in the series, but Torchlight 2 is one of those games that I will never uninstall. Hands down my favorite games, even if the story is pretty lackluster (it’s an ARPG, you know). I found out about TL2 shortly after the disappointment that was D3 launch and fell in love with it.

  19. stairmasternem says:

    I played both it and its sequel. They basically followed Diablo and Diablo 2 in development – one is more conceptual, the sequel more expansive.

    I like the style of them, but I found the overall elements to be too random. So much was just in the game because the set piece or enemy design was cool.

    But I love their freedom to be modded. Much more enjoyable to Blizzard’s no tolerance policy.

  20. Neutrino says:

    I played it briefly, was not impressed.

    As someone who loved D&D as a kid I exect I should love dungeon crawler games, and I have tried quite a few looking for something engaging, but instead what I find is that the more graphically rich and shiney the game, the quicker my interest fades. And it isn’t due to lack of story, it’s because as games focus more on the action, fighting and graphic effects there is a corresponding reduction in complexity of the systems, interaction of the different components, and the sense that the dungeon as a whole a a puzzle, a lock to be picked by intelligent decisions, rather than just sloshing and grinding your way through it.

    You know what dungeon crawler I find most interesting these days. Brogue.