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Video Game / Torchlight

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The playable classes from left to right: Vanquisher, Destroyer, and Alchemist.
"There is power beyond imagining, but the price is so very high..."
The Alchemist

Torchlight (2009) is an Action RPG developed and published by Runic Games (composed of staff of the defunct Flagship Studios, who created Hellgate: London, themselves having worked at Blizzard North, who created Diablo), with help from the guy who created Fate. As such, gameplay is a mishmash of all those franchises: you move and select targets for Hack and Slash treatment with a mouse while the keyboard simply serves as shortcuts to various menus and abilities. You have a pet; there's a separate level tree for "Fame"; there's artifact equipment and sockets galore; you can retire your character and come back again as an offspring of said; and there's a bonus dungeon, with (theoretically) infinite randomly-generated levels, for you to mess around in if you'd rather keep playing after you handle the Final Boss.


You can play as one of three different characters as they explore Torchlight, a mining town built near an "Ember" mine plagued by monsters. The playable character classes are:

  • The Destroyer: A heroic fighter who came from his home in the wilderness to Torchlight, after hearing tales of it being plagued by evil. A pure melee fighter.
  • The Vanquisher: A female city guard who was sent to Torchlight to investigate. Mainly uses ranged weapons and traps.
  • The Alchemist: A spellcaster who uses Ember to gain power. He was lured to Torchlight by the promise of power and risks being overcome by it. Uses spells and summoned minions.

Torchlight was the launch title for the Mac OS version of Steam, which may be part of why it's managed to sell over a million copies—a lot more than Runic expected. (It's also been pirated more than 5 million times in China, with Runic shrugging their shoulders and figuring there's No Such Thing as Bad Publicity.) A direct sequel, Torchlight II, was released, and a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game was planned, but abandoned after Runic realized how complicated it would be to create. Their next project was more of a Zelda-style action puzzler, Hob, which was was their last before their owners, Perfect World, closed the studio.


In a surprise announcement on August 9th, 2018, it was revealed that in 2016 Runic Games founder Max Schaefer had founded a new studio, Echtra Games, during the development of Hob. It was also announced that this studio was opened with the intention of reviving the Torchlight MMO idea with Torchlight Frontiers, a new MMO entry in the series with much of the original staff on board set to release in 2019. Later however, the MMO aspect of Torchlight Frontiers was retooled into the traditional Torchlight experience now under the name Torchlight III.

This game provides examples of:

  • Action Bomb: Enemies with the "Explosive" trait will also blow up on death.
  • Action Girl: The Vanquisher
  • Angrish: You will never forget your first, or indeed thirty-seventh, disenchant wipe.
  • An Adventurer Is You
  • Anti-Frustration Feature: The game is packed full of these, which rectifies some annoyances from Diablo while also expanding on some features FATE already had.
    • The ability to destroy an item to recover the gems in it, reducing the annoyance of finally socketing up an item immediately before finding a better one. Or to destroy the gems to free up the sockets.
    • A shared loot storage system, meaning that finding a valuable item for the wrong class or build isn't wasted.
    • Making most spells work via percentages or ability scores, reducing the likelihood of spells that become useless as you advance in level.
    • A pet that can take all your loot back to town to sell for you, instead of having to make the trip back yourself. (There's a Penny Arcade comic on the subject.)
    • The removal of the Grid Inventory. Now, your backpack(s) just have a set number of slots, and each item takes up a single slot, whether it's an entire breastplate or a single gemstone. (Healing and magic consumables can stack.)
    • Gold is looted automatically just by walking over it, reducing the amount of clicking needed to loot.
    • You can order your pet to pick up items.
    • You can hold the Shift key (the default setting) to stand in place and fire your weapon/spells. Great for ranged or magic-based characters, as they can just stand back and snipe away!
    • Items have a background color that matches their quality level making shopping far more easier.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The lower you get into the main dungeon, the more unhinged and malevolent Alric's journal entries become.
  • Airplane Arms: The Vanquisher's hamstring skill is this trope, with dirks at the end of each arm. And it looks awesome!
  • Artificial Stupidity: Player summons are extremely responsive to threats but their questionable pathfinding often leaves them stuck in narrow curved passages. This is a particular problem for the high level Lore Alchemist as he will often lose about half of his huge construct army while running through a series of such passages.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Syl wears light clothing and exposes her belly.
  • The Beastmaster: All characters get a pet Dog or Cat (or Ferret in the retail version of the game) to help them in combat or to carry off loot.
  • Big Bad: Ordrak.
  • Bizarchitecture: A major complaint towards Fate was that its randomly-assembled maps consisted mostly of tunnels that went nowhere. Torchlight averts this by randomly assembling pre-existing setpieces. The downside there is that you'll inevitably start seeing the same chunk-of-rooms again, but at least you'll know where all the hidden treasures are.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Identify and Town Portal spells. Unlike most other spells, they don't come in different ranks and don't evolve from any of the spell mastery passives but work under all circumstances that their scroll counterparts do, saving money and inventory space in the long run.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Some of the monsters are only ever encountered as Champions, and most of those are very. Freaking. Tough. What immediately springs to mind are Liches, smaller versions of the Overseer who have his Flunky Boss ability and powerful magic besides.
  • Bonus Dungeon: The Shadow Vault, an endless dungeon available after defeating the Final Boss once with any character.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: The Strange Land, aka. "the horse level", accessible only via a scroll obtained by transmuting a set of items that can only be found through fishing. In a likely Shout-Out to the Secret Cow Level from Diablo II, this area is filled with a few hostile horses, all typically well over level 1000 with millions of HP and high elemental resistances, and capable of dealing hundreds of thousands of damage per hit. However, each horse provides several levels of XP per kill and killing one champion will max out your Fame.
  • Canon Name: Torchlight II establishes the Vanquisher's name as Commander Vale.
  • Chest Monster: Aside from the standard Mimic, feeding your pet a pocketfish will turn it into one. In addition to a normal Mimic being a dangerous monster in close quarters, a Mimic is one of the most powerful monsters you can transform your pet into.
  • Convection Schmonvection
  • The Corruption: Ember is known for accruing the mystic properties of whatever place it's in. Unfortunately for Torchlight, Ordrak's presence has slowly been imbuing the local Ember with this. And it can also conduct that corruption, as you and Syl find out when Alric forcibly transfigures Brink, and catches you in the nimbus.
  • City of Adventure: Could arguably be a subversion of this. The town of Torchlight is both the namesake of the game, as well as the only overworld location. However, it is actually a very small and cozy town. The only real action in the game takes place in it's infinitely huge dungeon, or other similar dungeons accessible through portals.
  • Critical Existence Failure
  • Damage-Sponge Boss: The Big Bad is definitely not a Puzzle Boss. He has a metric assload of HP, and the only way to kill him is by whittling down said HP. Oh, and if you leave the level he's in for a long-enough period of time—say, for some Level Grinding—the whole final level will reset. That includes the Big Bad's HP, which will be restored to full upon your return.
    • The developers also had the gall to make him summon legions of Dragonkin (see below) and poisonous skeletons to soak up magic and ranged damage for him. Only a Squishy Wizard needs a meatshield, Runic!
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The name generator for champions and equipment may end up doing this from time to time. Special mention goes to "Cleave's Cloven Cleaver of Cleaving".
  • Development Hell: The MMO is assumed to be on indefinite hiatus, because no one's heard from it in some time.
    • Vapor Ware: At the release of the sequel, Runic admitted that their MMORPG plans have been abandoned.
    • The idea of a Torchlight MMO was taken up again with the announcement of Torchlight Frontiers, but that too was abandoned and retooled into Torchlight III.
  • Difficulty Spike: The Black Palace, the final area of the main quest: not only is it filled with Demonic Spiders, but enemies spawn in much greater densities. (Sometimes you'll run into rooms with like five Dragonkin and five Dark Zealots. Just one of those ten is totally enough to kill you, if you're not careful.) The whole point of the area seems to be adding as many deaths to your record as possible before you beat the game.
  • Dual Wielding: Any character can dual-wield one-handed weapons. Since firearms are available, this includes Guns Akimbo. And since wands are available...
  • Dueling Games: Gaming press often called the original game "Diablo III before Diablo III" and many Diablo fans were worried that its release would affect Blizzard's work.
  • Dungeon Crawling
  • Dynamic Difficulty: Averted in the main storyline, where each floor of enemies is 1 level stronger than the previous. This means you'll start to open a lead as you encounter empty Boss Battle maps, which don't count towards progressing mob levels. Played straight in any side maps that you can buy as well as the Shadow Vault, where the enemies will scale to the player's level.
  • Edwardian Adventuress: The Vanquisher has that look about her.
  • Fallen Hero: The first boss you fight is a heroic NPC who has just accompanied you through the dungeon and been transformed before your very eyes.
    • The Alchemist falls from grace in the second game.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted entirely, since anyone can use a pistols and rifles.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: Destroyer, Alchemist, Vanquisher.
  • Final Death Mode: Hardcore mode. This was one of the first aspects to be altered by Game Mods but older players still hold that doing so invalidates a HC run.
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning and poison.
  • Fetch Quest: Optional, thankfully.
  • Flunky Boss: Practically all of them EXCEPT for Brink.
  • Foreshadowing: Upon entering Torchlight, the Alchemist mentions that he is consumed by the evil that has gathered in the dungeons below. His purpose for visiting Torchlight also bears a strong resemblance to Alric's: both men came because they were tempted by the massive cache of Ember there. Brink's corruption at Alric's hands more or less tells us what this made Alric into, so guess what happens to the Alchemist in Torchlight II.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Owing to its cartoony look, all characters have four-fingered hands.
  • Game Mod: Plenty are available, as they were for Fate. (In fact, there's a Steam Achievement for having 10 mods running at once.)
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: If you start a New Game+ using the descendent of a previous character, they deal with the same NPCs you did. (Including ones who died over the course of the game.)
  • Gatling Good: The mechanical constructs (piloted by an undead dwarf) fire at the player with gatling guns.
  • Geo Effects: With range attacks, you can snipe monsters below without having to worry about them retaliating.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: But they sure look cool on the Alchemist.
    • Averted with the Alchemist's Headband models, which are also goggles, but with an armor bonus.
    • If the Vanquisher equips goggles as armour, she wears them as some sort of combination hair tie/headband (with the front holding up her fringe and the strap typing her hair in a ponytail at the back). I can confirm this is possible (although not very comfortable without a lot of padding on the side of the head).
    • The ferret pet (Available with the retail version of the game, or a mod downloadable from Runic for Steam users) is wearing a WWI-style aviator cap, complete with goggles. They do nothing but look AWESOME.
  • Green Rocks: Ember
  • He Was Right There All Along: The Ember Colossus, the Tu'Tara Ruins boss, who jumps down from a stalagmite after its introduction.
  • Hot Wind: Vanquisher, in the title screen art. See above.
  • Impossible Item Drop: Because gear Randomly Drops too, you'll occasionally have moments where a mushroom's corpse yields up, say, a Whirling Geargun.
  • Incendiary Exponent: The Vanquisher's Explosive Shot ability, a projectile that explodes when on contact with enemies.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: One can make such an item either through enchanting or passing down an heirloom enough times. (Be wary when enchanting, sometimes it'll strip the weapon's existing buffs instead.)
  • King Mook: Some of the enemies in the dungeons act as Minibosses, known as "Champions". They are essentially a larger, much stronger version of a regular enemy (which usually appears in a group with them). They also tend to have names like "[Body Part]-[verb]er The [Adjective]."
    • Taken literally with the Champion version of the Spectre enemy- it wears a crown on its head!
  • Kneel Before Zod: Invoked by Alric to the player.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The Goblin prison takes place in a lava-filled cavern.
  • Losing the Team Spirit: There are some mob in the game who will break and flee if a member of their species dies in their presence. It's a cute detail, but it ends up being a form of Fake Difficulty because it then takes you that much longer to hunt them down and extinguish their miserable little lives for the sake of your EXP total. (Plus, only weak enemies do this; the ones that are actually dangerous will just keep fighting.)
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Hit an enemy hard enough with the killing blow and it explodes into a pool of blood. Elemental weapons and spells cause other fun effects, like shattering.
    • If your weapon has a +Knockback effect, you can push them off ledges and into bottomless pits!
  • Magic Wand: The ranged magical weapons.
  • Magitek: The Alchemical and Beam Golems (they're more like robots, actually) summoned by the Alchemist are powered by magical Ember.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Two enemies in the game are mechanical: the mechanical constructs piloted by an undead dwarf, and a little spider-like sentry bot.
  • Mega Dungeon:
    • The story-driven dungeon, which is 35 floors deep, is a reconstruction of this trope. It is created from many different civilisations settling at the exact same location, each ultimately failing and falling into ruin due to The Corruption of Ordrak that spread through the ember veins, then being buried by the passage of time and lost to history before another civilisation settles at the exact same spot and suffers the same fate. Torchlight is the latest civilisation to settle on that spot and was beginning to experience the same fate as all the past civilisations.
    • The post-game dungeon, known as the Shadow Vault, plays this trope straight, having an infinite number of levels, with each level's architecture being completely randomised.
  • Megaton Punch: The Alchemist's Ember Strike attack, hitting everything standing near your punching target. While your enemies do not go soaring into the sky, they tend to disappear anyway.
  • Metal Slime: Phase Beasts are cowardly ghost-like imps that, upon death, explode into a portal that takes you to a bonus level.
  • The Minion Master: If you focus on Charm.
  • Money Multiplier: One of the possible enchantments.
  • Mook Maker: A number of standard enemies, such as Watcher Geists and Dark Zealots, either spawn or resurrect other foes. This isn't even considering bosses.
    • One particularly nasty early foe- the Wraith- can turn zombies into others of itself. Any zombies. Including the ones that you summon.
    • If you shatter or splatter an enemy, the resurrecting Mook Maker variant can't resurrect it.
  • New Game+: Pass an item and a fame level to your next character.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: The catacombs area has your character fight nothing but the undead (except for spiders). The dwarven fortress area also contains pretty much nothing but undead dwarves (the only non-undead enemy is a little Spider Tank)
  • No Fair Cheating: Successfully entering any command in the console that gives the player a speed boost, maximum Critical Hit rate, extra items/money or God Mode will cause the game to append "the Cheat" to the player character's name and permanently disable the Shared Stash inventory for that particular game.
  • Non-Indicative Name: the "Goblin Stabber" enemies, which are armed with maces and axes, which historically do not do well in the "stabbing" department. Occasionally one will be armed with a pickaxe.
  • "Noun Verber The Butcher": This game re-uses the randomized boss naming conventions from Fate. While this can lead to some pretty cool names, like "Throatchewer The Fierce," it also yields up such Double Take gems as "Facethrower" (faces probably throw about as well as an unfolded sheet of paper, if you think about it) or "Axekicker" (oww!). Given the frequency with which this occurs for bosses and weapons and the gag nature of many of the non-randomized weapons, this may well be deliberate. The ones that spring to mind are the Galactic Battlestar, and the Sword of Adam which improves many stats that don't exist in the game (like "Thinking with Logic Resistance") and randomly says "Wizzzaaaards!" Oh, and, it can also assemble names from a list of vaguely-fantastical syllables and a dash of Punctuation Shaker. This can result in things like Al'az or Ran'dum.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: The Vanquisher.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Averted, for once: all the dwarves you run into in this game are undead zombies.
    • Some of them are also huge.
  • Pinball Projectile: The Vanquisher's "Ricochet" and "Flechette Trap" abilities.
  • Power Equals Rarity: The "Artifact Equipment" idea from Fate shows up here. See also [Set Bonus] below.
  • Power Crystal: Ember; the lowest levels of the main dungeon are also crystal themed.
  • Quest Giver: Several NPCs will assign Side Quests to you: Vasman the wizard wants samples of Ember, Trill the bard has a list of Mini Bosses he wants killed (so he can write heroic songs about you), and an antique collector named Hatch sends you to side instances for more Fetch Questing. (He's actually the best Level Grinding option in the game because the mobs in his instances scale to your level, which is not true in the main dungeon. If his quest chain runs dry, there are Maps that can be bought from vendors which accomplish the same.)
  • Rainbow Speak: When quest givers ask you to slay a specific monster or find an particular item, the monster/item's will always be marked in orange.
  • Randomly Drops
  • Randomly Generated Loot: Much like Diablo, equipment has random stats and enchantments.
  • Real-Time Weapon Change
  • Run, Don't Walk
  • Sanity Slippage: Alric's journal entries become increasingly more unhinged as they go on, comments on his surroundings and musings on his condition gradually giving way to megalomania and fanatical veneration of Ordrak. Given that each one is presented to you as you reach deeper floors of the mountain, it's perhaps one of the most literal interpretations of "descent into madness" ever.
  • Schrödinger's Player Character
  • Scratch Damage: An attack that deals less damage than the target's armor absorbs results in a "glancing blow" that still does 1 point of damage.
  • Set Bonus: Some bits of EQ are mentioned as being part of a set, and you get extra bonuses if you have two or more items from the set equipped. There's 22 sets, though, so finding matching pieces before you hit the final boss is pretty unlikely. (Fortunately, some EQ comes with boosts to "Likelihood of Finding Magical EQ". With enough of them, sets become more feasible. And the Bonus Dungeon can up your playtime enormously...)
    • Also, Torchlight has a shared inventory chest, so you can keep the pieces in a box for as long and through as many characters as you like if that's what it takes to get a full set.
  • Shockwave Stomp: The Destroyer's Titan and Doomquake skills. The former comes with Knockback; the latter comes with fissures.
  • Shoot the Medic First:
    • Rotted Chanters re-raise fallen Skeletons, Pygmy Shamans re-raise Stabber Pygmies from the dead, Tu'Tara Oathmasters can heal their fellow lizardmen, Goblin Chanters revive dead Goblins, Watcher Geists resurrect defeated Dwarven Wights, and Dark Zealots spawn those accursed Enslaved. Unsurprisingly, these guys need to be taken out first whenever they appear.
    • The boss of the Goblin-infested prison, Krag, a huge goblin king, would not have been that much of a fight. Trouble is, he came with five or so giant mooks that constantly healed him AND buffed him with a damage-absorbing shield, all the while firing homing poison balls at the player. Guess what had to die first?
      • The player.
  • Shout-Out: Plenty of references in the game, like a Unique Mace called the Galactic Battlestar. Seriously.
  • Socketed Equipment: Natch; Diablolike, remember?
  • Steampunk: Shades of this, occasionally mixed with Magitek. The Vanquisher can use guns, dwarf enemies often use robots and vehicles, the Alchemist's golems move and look like robots with smokestacks, and many of the Alchemist's higher-level gear options look like steampunk power-armor. The Engineer of the sequel is essentially a Steampunk Knight.
  • Stripperiffic: Almost anything worn by the Vanquisher, although some visual themes such as the "Gunslinger" and the "Assassin" avoid this entirely. Consider, for example, the "Leather Vest" (beginner armor): on the Destroyer (male barbarian hero), it's a vest and leggings, and on the Alchemist (male steampunk mad scientist), it's a tunic and leggings. On the Vanquisher, it's a corset and miniskirt.
    • This was lampshaded in video about the sequel: "Torchlight II: Now with 100% more pants!"
  • Summon Magic: Half of the Alchemist's arsenal. Some of the all-class magical spells do this as well.
    • Most of the skills for the modded Demonologist class are Summon Magic. It's currently a little overpowered.
  • Sword and Gun: And there's a good reason to go that route as well. Melee weapons tend to hit a little harder than guns and hit a lot faster, and you automatically switch between them based on whether you can hit with the melee weapon.
    • Sword and Wand is also possible.
  • Teleport Spam
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The player can pull this with the non-class spell scrolls (which can be taught to the pet). Considering the summons have a very respectable damage output, your dog or cat could raise their own little undead army and start clearing dungeons by themselves.
  • Tragic Monster:
    • Brink, an NPC who joins the player near the start of the game. He gets turned into the first boss by the antagonist via The Corruption and the player is forced to kill him. Somewhat averted as the player character only knows him for a rather short amount of time.
    • Also, Alric. Based on Syl's dialogue, he was a genuinely kind and caring man before The Corruption warped him into Ordrak's dragon. Made worse when you realize that the writings shown at the beginning of each new area are actually excrepts from Alric's journal that show him falling more and more under Ordrak's control.
    • Narrowly averted with Syl. After you reach and start using the Ember Forge, Alric waltzes in and kidnaps her, stating he plans to turn her to Ordrak's side. The next boss you face, Medea, is a female demon with a similar build to Syl, and even uses a very similar looking polearm. All signs point to it being Syl. Then a few floors later, you find her still intact, albeit in a magical cage under the watch of one of Alric's henchmen. After you free her, she indicates that she was in the process of being brainwashed, and that you got to her in the nick of time.
  • Underboobs: Some of the Vanquisher armor displays this prominently.
  • Universal Poison: Notable as even zombies, skeletons, specters and the alchemist's Mechanical Golems can be poisoned.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: The Destroyer starts out with little more than a tattered pair of trousers. How quickly he covers up depends on his player's luck.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: A side effect of using too much Ember and the constant fear of the Alchemist as the page quote shows. This happens most prominently to Master Alric, as demonstrated through his journal entries. The Alchemist ultimately falls to this between games.