Runic Games has announced that Torchlight is going to be released for the Xbox 360 later this year, and will be playable via Xbox Live Arcade. What’s interesting about this is that Torchlight began as a PC game with a control scheme identical very similar to that of Diablo… which makes it interesting to see how they’re changing the game to make it work on the Xbox? As their FAQ explains, there are quite a few control changes, as well as some gameplay alterations.

    Q: What has been changed to make the game work on the 360?

    A: The UI is COMPLETELY overhauled from the ground up. Nothing works the same. All new art and navigation. The concept of item ’slots’ is done away with – you just have a number of items you can hold ( 50 – ignores stack counts ). Potions and scrolls stack up to 99. Potions ‘auto pick’ the best potion to heal you or regen mana. You don’t have to think about it or map it.

    We iterated on the UI a ridiculous amount. You can have 4 active mapped skills at a time, and a secondary set that you can swap between (using the dpad) for 8 mapped skills. Most of us actually find it easier to use a variety of skills on the console vs. PC, oddly enough. Force feedback is in for quakes, strikes, low health heartbeats, and tugs on the fishing line Feels nice.

    Q: How are controls different?

    A: Control is direct – no virtual cursors ever. Combat is a little different – you move forward slightly with melee attacks and all the attack animations are redone to support this. You don’t ‘target’ enemies – you’ll get a red highlight for a ‘primary’ target that is in range, but for melee attacks you hit everything in your damage cone (secondary targets get secondary damage ). Feels natural and does what you expect.

    Ranged combat is actually in many ways easier – kiting and dodging are significantly more viable with a controller and the autotargeting for ranged attacks works pretty well. ‘lobbed’ skills mapped to the triggers have a default distance, but you can finesse them for longer or shorter throws by holding the trigger at a given depth. Combat pace feels ‘faster’ and more maneuverable. If you’ve played classics like Dark Alliance or Champions of Norrath, you have the general idea ( but no jumping ). Movement speed is analog – you can move slower by easing on the stick, something you can’t do at all on PC.

    For years we’ve been making semi-serious jokes about Diablo III’s controls (limited hot keys, no weapon switch hotkey, etc) being dumbed down in order to more easily support the eventual DiabloWikiconsole port. They’re still “jokes,” I guess, but now that we know Blizzard is planning a Diablo III console version, and we see what sort of features changes Torchlight had to endure (removal of the DiabloWikiweapon switch hotkey, for instance), is anyone laughing? Playing an isometric RPG without a cursor seems very weird to me, but given how many WoW fans have looked at Diablo III and been confused by the lack of WASD movement controls, perhaps the D3 Team should have stuck with that control scheme right from the start?

    One key point to consider is that Blizzard has talked about aiming their games for the next generation of consoles, which are expected to include inherent support for mouse/keyboard controls. That’s obviously not the case for Torchlight’s Xbox port, but if it’s 2013 and the Xbox 720 and the PS4 offer native support for a mouse and keyboard via USB jacks, then you’d think a game like Diablo III could be ported over without any big changes at all. (Whether or not Diablo III was designed from the ground up for that eventuality.)

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