Thursday, May 20, 2010

Torchlight: additional observations

The story in Torchlight

The story in Torchlight is pretty bare-bones -- this is not a game you play for the story -- but it goes like this: There are 3 continuing quest lines attached to the main dungeon. One is the main quest, which has you chasing a mage named Alric deeper and deeper into its depths, revealing the remains of older and older civilisations as you go. The other two are a "find this item" questline, and a "kill this mob" questline, which you'll basically accomplish as you continue along the main quest, so there's no reason not to pick these up.

There's one quest unconnected to the main dungeon, and that's given by an NPC who has a magic wand that can open portals to other dungeons to which no tunnels lead. I generally go through a few levels of the main dungeon, and then alternate to this other set of dungeons. One of the other NPCs (the wizard-looking one) also gives map scrolls as a reward, which open portals to separate, standalone dungeons. You can also buy such scrolls from the vendors, but I believe I read that these reward scrolls lead to specific, specially-designed dungeons.

Suddenly rising difficulty

Around level 24 or 25, a few levels into the lava prisons, I started dying a lot. Attacks by many mobs started killing me faster than I could hit the hotkey to quaff a health potion. (I'm playing at "hard" difficulty, because I had read that "normal" was too easy, and I'm generally glad I made this choice.) And it didn't help that as an alchemist with many summoned minions (permanent golem and nether imps, with temporary skeleton archers, flaming sword, and zombies, in addition to my non-summoned dog), I was having trouble telling friend from foe in the crowd. At least your AOE attacks can't hurt your allies.

For the first few deaths (which kept occurring within seconds of the Alric's second boss fight, every time I arrived at his room) I took the option of paying a monetary penalty for the convenience of resurrecting in the current level of the dungeon, instead of paying nothing to resurrect back in town, but as this happened numerous times, it became too much of a drain on my gold. It wasn't even the boss that was killing me, but all the trash mobs ganging up on me.

Exploring town services for a while

My rapidly diminishing gold, and my increasing frustration, prompted me to leave the main dungeon alone for a little while, and go buy some maps to teleport me to a random lower-level dungeon so I could level up a little more and acquire some defensive spells and talents. While I was at it, I decided to gamble on the enchanter's services to upgrade my gear. Enchanting is a great opportunity to upgrade gear, as you can enchant a piece of gear many times, unlike other games which only allow a single enchantment on an item. The downsides are the high cost of an enchantment, and a small risk of losing all enchantments, which increases as you apply more and more enchantments to it. There are also special enchantment fountains to be found in the dungeons which allow you to get one free enchantment, though with the same risks as above. Enchantments are random, and can apply stat bonuses, increased weapon damage, faster recovery of health or mana, and even extra sockets for stat gems! There is a very wide range of effects that enchantment offers, and even though I did end up ruining a few good pieces of gear this way, I generally consider it worth the risk. I've read that it used to be much cheaper and less risky to enchant items before the current patch, but I think it's at a fair level now, to keep things challenging.

Another service I explored at this time was the transmutation NPC, which I had neglected before. This NPC allows you to convert any two gems of the same sort into a higher-quality version of the same gem, with higher stats that you can apply to a socketed piece of gear. You can also transmute three health or mana potions into 1 higher-level health or mana potion, a service I use a lot now. But the service that I started using the most was to transmute any four pieces of unneeded gear from one of my loot runs into a gem. This way, I was able to obtain enough gems to transmute into much higher level gems to maximise my stat bonuses. However, gems don't stack in the storage chest, and since there are several different grades for each type of gem, my storage chest is almost completely dominated by gems.

Returning to the fight with a nuclear bomb

In addition to the gear upgrades, after I had gained a couple of levels, I obtained some spells/talents that helped me enormously. First I invested a point into the "ember shield" talent in the Battle tree. This just absorbs some damage and prevents knockback, and it's not very strong (only absorbs 230 points at rank 1), and occupies one of the precious few slots in the quick bar, so I'm not sure it was very useful in the long run.

The second, more useful talent was the "beam golem" from the Lore tree. This gave me a second permanent summoned minion to join the other golem, except this one shoots lasers too. Having more minions to distract attackers away from me is good enough reason to use this, but he actually does a lot of damage as well.

Next, I obtained the "ember sentry" talent from the Battle tree. This is another temporary summon, but 6 minutes is quite long enough for my purposes, and I can immediately cast it again whenever it goes away. This is a crystal that floats around you, automatically shooting laser beams at any nearby enemy. This is especially useful in overcoming my earlier problem of getting confused about friend and foe in battles involving large numbers of mobs, which has been happening more and more often. Now I can just see where the laser is shooting, and cast my spells in that direction.

Finally, the giant bomb. At the bottom of the Arcane tree is the "ember strike", which is a spammable AOE attack that shoots a rather wide beam of energy from the sky at any location on the screen where you put your mouse cursor. Aim this at any grouping of normal mobs, and you can take them all out in 3 or 4 hits. Although it might seem like a cheap sort of weapon to use, it's pretty necessary to use this kind of AOE when you're facing against an army of enemies.

At any rate, when I finally returned to the fight that had been giving me trouble, it had fully respawned, but I had no trouble hacking my way through it, and the final boss battle went smoothly. I expect as the enemies get stronger, these weapons will not be quite as overpowered.

Coming up next

By now, I'm at level 31, and I continue to enjoy the game. However, I've become distracted by yet another game, and it definitely needs to be discussed. The Dark Mod, a Thief-like total conversion, which I had been anticipating since its announcement about 6 years ago. Expect a general overview and some reviews of individual missions for it coming up.

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