I’ve been playing “Torchlight”, and I think I might be in love.

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REALLY having a good time. A little back story:

Runic Games, the makers of Torchlight, is made up of a bunch of old Blizzard folk, many of whom worked on the Diablo franchise. It will surprise none of you that Torchlight is a Diablo inspired game, and unabashedly so. Runic has made no secret about the fact that this is a love letter to those of us who love action RPG’s, loved Diablo, but might want just a little bit more.

Enter Torchlight. I’ve been lucky enough to be playing a early press build over the last few days, and I’ve sunk quite a bit of time into it already. Here’s a list of things that jump out at me at the moment:

VERY much a Diablo lovers game. While the art-style is a definite departure, and things are very 3D and pretty here, the overall experience feels very much like the big D. Music, sound design, various effects..all wonderful nods to Diablo.

This game sheds much of what made Diablo feel, especially in later years, more like a chore. A great multiple choice death penalty system, the pet system, saving and continuing mechanic, etc…all of these things are big improvements to this now familiar genre. Did I mention the pet system? More on that later.

In Diablo, it took a considerable amount of time to ramp up and feel like a bad ass. Torchlight lets you hit the ground running with a full dose of badassery right off the bat. When people hear there are only three classes to choose from, they need to hold their tongue till they play. As it turns out, you have incredible creative freedom regarding how your character progresses, and most importantly, fights. Picture a level 10 magic user, duel-wielding, with a high powered pistol in one hand, an devastating ice throwing wand in the other, firing on all cylinders, all while you are throwing fireballs down the hallway with an Imp & and mechanical golem at your side. Did I mention the pets? It’s coming.

I love how the inventory space is not based on the “Tetris Method” that Diablo incorporated in past games. Have a big axe? Fits in a single slot. Have 20 health potions? One slot. Letting you focus more on fighting and progressing rather than swapping junk around every three feet is a huge improvement.

Which brings me to pets. Turns out, your dog or cat (i have a dog named Henry) has additional inventory. Plus usable slots for fighting bonuses. More on that later. But let’s say that you’ve filled up your inventory, and don’t feel like porting back to town to sell crap…you just load up your dog, and send him to town. He leaves for a time, which can be reduced with skills, and comes back with the cash, all while you kept fighting and having fun. Awesome. Your bags are full, but he’s empty? You can use modifier key while clicking on loot that will send the dog around gathering it up for you, using his open inventory slots.

The pet also has the ability to eat different fish you catch in fishing holes in the world, that give it special powers, transformations, abilities, etc. Comes in handy big time with certain bosses and mob types. Need a spider to fight with? Feed him the right fish! BAM! Henry’s a spider for 3 minutes.

On top of all that, your pet constantly fights by your side, providing measurable damage all the while. Plus now, if you’re smart, he’s wearing two rings you found in a fight that improve his damage output, magic finding ability, etc.

Tack onto all of this a much improved UI, an incredibility fun set of skills, spells, and upgrades, and the constant “just one more kill, just one more quest” factor, you have a game that totally scratches my action RPG itch.

The best part is that you can get it on Steam today for $17 bucks! Total steal at that price. They have a free editor coming very soon as well, and some cool plans for a free MMO followup down the road, but as it stands, it’s awesome. (Wish there was multiplayer, but not really. I always preferred Diablo alone anyway.)