Torchlight: a casual RPG?
Torchlight, Runic Game‘s first game, is an action RPG which has received pretty good critics since its release on October 2009. And it’s no surprise, this game is real fun! But one of the things that did surprise me was its “casual touch”. From the very beginning you realize that people who never had played an action RPG before could actually play Torchlight. This was done on purpose, of course.
This quote is from an interview to Wonder Rusell at Runic Games:
We’ve always believed that Torchlight is a casual RPG because any player can get started and enjoy the game, from beginners to veterans. We wanted it to be hugely accessible.
How did they try to achieve that?
Instant fun from the start
After choosing your character and a very short intro screen, you start the game in a town and you are given your first quest in a really short time. You are killing monsters in minutes! Usually, RPG games have a slow beginning. Torchlight skips complex character stories and throws you into the dungeons right away to kill some foes.
In the character screen, you get to choose the game’s difficulty level. Normal is recommended for players which are new to action RPG’s, while Hard is avised for veteran players (who have played Diablo or Sacred before). Not hurting newbies’ egos by stating that their current skills are ‘normal’ is a friendly gesture to them.
But what really makes a difference is that the game is filled with tutorial tips (which can be disabled). These tips tell you how to buy and sell stuff, how the stash works, etc. And you are not presented those tips all at once —they appear when you need help (for instance, when you find your first magic item, you are told how to identify it using a scroll).
In addition to that, the town is really small, so all non-player characters are close and you don’t have to waste time wandering around: you can trade and get new quests really quickly.
What you see is what you get
If you play Torchlight for first time for 30~60 minutes, you get a really solid game experience: what you have seen is what you will get. And this game experience is very rich.
In this first game session, you will experience all game mechanics:
- Talk to non-player characters for trading and getting quests
- Complete (at least) a quest and get a reward
- Defeat some bosses
- Use town portal and identify scrolls
- Play the fishing mini-game
- Interact with some scenario items, such as barrels, switches, shrines, etc.
The fact that you get to do all that stuff in a very short time (and this is true for the rest of the game) allows you to play Torchlight in relative short sessions, which is more appealing non-hardcore gamers.
While games like Diablo or Sacred (top referents in the genre) have dark and serious aesthetics, Torchlight aims to a more cheerful look. Torchlight‘s art is very Warcraft-esque, with saturated colors and cartoon characters. The game font is big and looks like a comic-book font.
Hardcore RPG gamers are prone to despise this graphic style (remember the Diablo III art direction controversy?), but Torchlight‘s aesthetics are potentially more likable for a bigger market segment (i.e., non-hardcore gamers).
Not only that, but having a high color contrast helps the gameplay: you can tear apart enemies, your character and special items from the background more easily.
Your pet, your best friend
Probably the only one unique feature in Torchlight, but the best one with no doubt: the pet. Your character has a pet which follows him the whole adventure. Cute, isn’t it? But cuteness is not the point: the pet is actually very useful.
The pet attacks enemies. It can also wear necklaces and rings, which can make it stronger. Furthermore, you can feed the pet with several types of fish and transform it in a different creature with different powers! From a spider to a fire elemental… There are a lot of transformations for the pet! The pet can also cast spells and summon minions (skeletons, zombies, etc.) that will fight at your side.
That alone could fully justify the inclusion of the pet in the game, but there’s one more thing: the pet can go back to town and sell your loot. Hell yeah. No more need to interrupt a dungeon exploration to go back to town and sell all the stuff. This is great for short game sessions, because you spend most of your time exploring and killing foes and not trading (which isn’t much fun).
Torchlight is an action RPG which tries to appeal to a player profile more casual than the standard RPG player, who usually is a hardcore game. While I wouldn’t label Torchlight as a “casual RPG” (like its creators do), I think that it does a very good job in being someone’s first RPG: cool aesthetics, user-friendly, apt for short play sessions… You can definitely beat this game without selling your soul, and have a great time doing so.
The guys at Runic Games have made a great game. Congratulations!
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