If Torchlight has solidified anything in my design preferences, then it’s my distaste for huge amounts of loot. I like Torchlight, I really do. It’s a fun isometric Action/RPG experience, with very precise, responsive and polished controls, good enemy variety, a nice skill system, and pets. When I first opened up the game and saw that you can have a dog or a cat I instantly went ‘OH MY GOD THIS IS SO COOL’, I didn’t even know what their purpose was at that point.
But by Odin’s beard does the loot system just annoy me. It’s actually the very reason why I become bored with Torchlight after playing it for a while. Though the next day I want to come back to it, because the core gameplay is fun and addicting in a way (and although I guess this is contrary to the general opinion, but in my case loot doesn’t contribute to the addiction). But there’s just too many items with too little differences, that the joy of finding something is not there at all. For example, on one dungeon run I have found five rare chest pieces of the same type with little differences in bonuses they give. I couldn’t choose, it was really hard to make an informed decision based on minuscule distinction, so I decided just to sell them all, and try to enchant my current armor instead. And put a gem into the socket to give it additional stats I needed.
And, you know what… This should have been the focus of the loot mechanic, of the whole equipment system. Enchantments and gems. In the game, whenever you visit an enchanter, you have a chance to add a random bonus stat to an item, or a socket for a gem (on another hand, there’s a chance that all your bonuses are going to be removed completely, and it increases with every enchantment of the item). You use different kind of ember gems to put into sockets, which give the items more stat bonuses. You can also combine (transmute) different tiers of ember gems to create more powerful gems.
I haven’t played Diablo-like games in a while, so I don’t think the idea is new to Torchlight. However, it’s a very cool concept that increases the longevity of the item that you use. In fact, you kinda become attached to it, especially after a number of successful enchantments. But the loot system – the amount of all the stuff you find and how similar they are, it hinders the enchantment/gem system, because you are not quite sure which part of your equipment to focus on when there’s such a huge turn-over rate of the items in your inventory.
Decrease the randomness of the items (and the loot frequency), increase the amount of ember gems that you find, and tweak it so every new piece of equipment you find would be (or become) a meaningful addition (and would make the choice between staying with current upgraded equipment or refocusing on new one more prominent). I would’ve had so much more fun with that. You can say, “Well, why don’t you go make your own Torchlight then (with blackjack and hookers)?” And hey, Runic Games allows us to do just that – they have released an editor for Torchlight which allows to edit… well, pretty much everything. So I might as well try to change how the loot system works. Modding scene is definitely one of Torchlight‘s strongest points, and they embrace it fully – there are even Steam achievements for using mods.
Overall, Torchlight is a very good game. I really don’t agree with the loot mechanics, and the random dungeon generator sometimes creates exact same huge chunks of levels in supposedly different locations (so it’s somewhat jarring), but it has got fun hacky-slashy core mechanics, and everybody can tweak it to his or her liking thanks to the modding capabilities.