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A good dungeon crawler may drive you to the edge of insanity, but it’ll never get old and can always be reinvented. Case in point: Torchlight from Runic Games, available from Valve’s Steam for Mac digital storefront, combines the best elements of Blizzard’s classic Diablo titles with an accessible arcade style that makes it easy to create a character, upgrade their talents, and keep playing without interruptions.
You play as either a barbarian-esque Destroyer who can summon ancestral spirits, a spellcasting Alchemist who can launch fireballs and summon demons and robots, or the Vanquisher, a female guard specializing in ranged weapons and trap mechanisms. Once you create your character--and choose the trusty wolf or giant cat as your animal ally--you explore the caves under the mining town of Torchlight to find out why a mineral known as Ember is corrupting the town and its citizens.
With its solid graphics and sound effects, well-placed music, fun level design, and admirable vocal work, Torchlight proves that a role-playing game doesn’t need to be overly involved to succeed. Simply accept a quest, hop into a dungeon, target an enemy with your mouse, and left- or right-click to launch an attack. Special attacks can be selected with the Tab key, and all items can be assigned a hotkey for easy access during battles.
Like any great RPG, Torchlight lets you upgrade your character with experience and skill points. Keep leveling up and eventually you’ll even be able to learn the skills of the other classes.
Torchlight shares a large amount with the Diablo games, even down to the appearance of the items, but goes beyond Diablo in some important ways. The simpler menu layout, the ever-present animal companion (who happily mauls your opponents as you fight), and the brighter, more inviting interface make Torchlight approachable, and the gameplay itself almost second nature. The ability to shift inventory items to your pet, then send that pet into town to sell those items, removes the infamous grind found in Diablo and keeps you exploring the next level of the dungeon before you.
That said, Torchlight still has a few kinks. It’s single-player only--a multiplayer co-op mode would make it way more fun. Plus, while performance was solid during testing, a bug kept me from finding the item that could turn my pet into assorted creatures that could fight on my behalf.
Torchlight’s appeal is easy to grasp. Players can jump in and out with no need to find a save point--just launch Steam and pick up from exactly where you left off. Namely, battling evil while your dog trots back to town carrying 78 pounds of treasure.
COMPANY: Runic Games
REQUIREMENTS: Intel processor, Mac OS 10.4 or later, 1GB of RAM, ATI or Nvidia graphics card with 256MB of VRAM, 800MB free disk space
Solid performance, good graphics, great music, good replay value, competent story, and outstanding game engine make this RPG as accessible as an arcade game. ESRB rating: Teen.
Lacks a co-op multiplayer game mode. Critical item could not be accessed during testing.