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March 19, 2011

Review: Torchlight for XBox 360

Posted by on Mar 19, 2011

In case it wasn’t obvious, we here at NNAR are fans of Torchlight, and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Torchlight 2 so that I can leave Wade’s hardcore character to die in a pile of screaming goblins. That’s why it piqued my interest when I heard that Runic had released Torchlight on the XBox 360.

I’m always apprehensive of translating games designed for the computer to a console environment. Starcraft on the N64 always struck me as a terrible idea, and Halo Wars never really did anything for me.

Since I have strong opinions on this type of thing, I thought I’d see if it works for Torchlight.

Interface

Mapping an interface that you can point and click wherever you want to one that works with a console is difficult. Some have taken the approach of literally giving you a crosshairs on the console a la a cursor and allowing you to click that way. It drives me nuts when publishers do that though, because its slow, irritating, and frankly not very effective.

Runic Games has done an admirable job of redesigning the menu and inventory interfaces into lists and tabs that can be effectively navigated with a controller. There  are even a couple of things that I think work better than the PC version, such as giving you an ‘identify’ option on an item as long as there are scrolls in your inventory. That’s alot better than having to click on the scroll and then click on the item itself, especially now that they’re in different tabs.

During gameplay, your skills are controlled by four mappable buttons: left trigger, right trigger, Y and B. Theoretically this limits the number of skills you can use, but there are two full sets of these button mappings as well, and I can’t remember the last time I used 8 skills on a regular basis in Torchlight. Your regular attack is X. This is easy to use and intuitive, and in some ways has advantages over a mouse that only has two buttons. It took me all of five seconds to dive in and start playing.

Gameplay

I created a new Destroyer character, and was immediately pleasantly surprised by the intuitive nature of the controls. The game is obviously a verbatim clone of the PC version, with redesigned controls.

Targeting is mostly a directional exercise, but when you’re swinging a huge sword around that doesn’t matter at all. Somehow the game seems fast paced, and there’s less irritation around clicking . Sometimes in the PC version I find that instead of clicking on an enemy, I’ll click past them, then end up running around them instead of hitting them. I ran into no such problems with my barbarian, and was merrily cutting rats into pieces before too long.

I may not be able to hit anything, but I still look badass.

However, this led me to a realization – if it works so well for Destroyers because you don’t need – or really want – any kind of precision, what would it do to the ranged classes. I created a Vanquisher and as suspected, discovered some flaws. The directional targeting system isn’t dumb – if you’re facing largely the right direction it will auto target the closest enemy in that direction –  but it’s pretty tough to be selective about what you shoot. It’s very easy to end up shooting a wall instead of an enemy, or shooting the wrong enemy.

It’s also a little hard to tell if there’s loot on the floor unless you’re standing next to it, but I suspect there’s an option to change that and I just didn’t see it.

Conclusion

I was apprehensive when I set out to write this review, but I have been pleasantly surprised. There are some flaws to be sure, but overall Torchlight on the XBox is a ton of fun. It’s a little unfortunate that the issues expose themselves along class lines, since it means playing a Destroyer is much more fun than any other class, but I didn’t detect any insurmountable issues. I can only imagine that Runic released Torchlight on the 360 in anticipation of Torchlight 2 and the associated multiplayer that XBox Live supports, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works.