Retro Review: Torchlight + Anthem Revisited

I have at last bowed to the inevitable and installed the Epic Games Store. It joins Steam, Uplay, Origin, and Battle.Net as other game launchers that I have installed just at this moment.

My character in TorchlightThis madness must end.

Like most people, I was drawn to the EGS by its promise of free games. The first I picked up was ARPG Torchlight. I’ve nursed a mild curiosity about the Torchlight franchise for a while, recently intensified by the buzz around the upcoming Torchlight MMO, Frontiers.

Torchlight is a very, very traditional ARPG in pretty much every possible respect. I could describe to you its gameplay or its story, but honestly whatever you’re picturing in your mind is probably accurate.

This is both Torchlight’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness.

On the one hand, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Torchlight works — it plays well, and it has no major design flaws.

However, it does feel incredibly samey. There’s very little here you haven’t seen in any number of other ARPGs. Torchlight doesn’t even do much to shake up its formula relative to itself. Boss mechanics aren’t really a thing, and if you’ve played one level of Torchlight, you’ve played them all.

I found this sense of repetition grew increasingly oppressive as the game went on. The early levels feel plenty fun, but after a while it just turns into pure grinding. The story is too paper thin to add any texture to the later levels.

Combat in TorchlightThere are a few little things about this game I appreciated. The most notable is that Torchlight is the first game I’ve ever played that offers a choice of death penalties. When you die, you can resurrect at your body for a loss of XP, at the start of the current floor for a small fee of gold, or in town for free. Clever — I like it.

Torchlight’s one nod towards setting itself from the pack seems to be that every class gets a pet that can help it fight, carry loot, and go back to town to sell stuff. Truthfully I found this impacted my experience of the game very little, but I do feel the need to point out that the pet I chose was a ferret with steampunk goggles, and that is definitely The Best.

I also did like how my class — vanquisher — played with positioning. A lot of her abilities can pierce enemies and ricochet off walls, which raises some interesting tactical options. It’s hard to aim, but being able to get the perfect ricochet off and tear through a whole cohort of enemies is pretty satisfying.

Torchlight was a decent ride early on, but by the end I was glad to be done with it. I’m still kind of curious to check out the sequel at some point, but I hope it improves on the first.

Overall rating: 6/10

A return to Antium:

A sign of things to come...In other news, the beginning of Cataclysm pre-events has caused me to start playing Anthem again, albeit on a pretty casual basis.

I’m glad I took a break to prevent burnout, but I’m also glad to be back. This game remains as fun as I remember it, and while the new content is very minimal right now, the lead up to Cataclysm does nonetheless provide some extra spice.

The main feature right now is a number of new free play events, but alongside those are subtler changes to the world. Strange crystal formations have begun to appear all over, and sometimes you can literally see a storm forming on the horizon.

As much as the game definitely needs a big new content update, I kind of like this slow rollout. It makes the world feel very alive. There’s some special about flying around free play and suddenly bumping into new enemy types without any fanfare at all.

The howls those new lightning wolves make are horrifying.

This also gave me the opportunity to check out the new stronghold, The Sunken Cell.

The bad news is I had a hell of a time trying to get a group for it. I did some reading and discovered Sunken Cell is considered an inefficient place to farm due to its puzzles, so I’ll try not to assume anything dire about the game’s population based on this (free play, for the record, is still hopping).

The Sunken Cell stronghold in AnthemThe good news is Sunken Cell is my favourite stronghold so far. It has a very twisted ambiance that I really like, the final boss arena is spectacular, and the story is intriguing, if inconclusive.

Here’s hoping Cataclysm proper keeps up this momentum.

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