Analysis of Character Creation in Torchlight 1

With Torchlight 2 closer on the horizon, I wanted to take a good look at the character creation systems in Torchlight 1, so I can compare the two later. Your character’s power (how well they kill monsters) is made up of 3 main components: attributes, skills, and equipment. While these same systems are in Diablo 2, there are quite a few differences. It’s worth looking at them to see exactly how the designers intended the game to be played.

Skill Trees

The skills make up all of your character’s attacks (or spells) as well a number of passive bonuses to everything your character does. By looking at the active skills in a tree you can tell what the general role is for a character that specializes in it. That is, you will know which attributes you want to be raising and which item types you want to use (melee vs ranged weapons, Strength vs Dexterity vs Magic heavy).

Destroyer
Berserker – With the exception of Stampede, all the skills are pretty short range. Stampede even puts you back into melee range, so this tree is all about melee and physical damage. Everything scales with weapon DPS, so you want the best weapons you can get at all times. All of the skills require a melee weapon equipped.
Titan – With the exception of Soul Rend, all the skills are medium to long range. Most skills scale with weapon DPS, but a few also scale with Strength and Magic. For a Destroyer, Magic would always be inferior to Strength. However, the skills themselves give your Destroyer a little more of a caster feel. It’s just a Strength-based caster. Soul Rend requires a melee weapon equipped, but the rest can be used with any weapons.
Spectral – With two aura buffs and two summon buffs, this seems like a support tree. The summons act like a magical shield over the Destroyer that give him buffs and also damage enemies in melee or at range. The skills scale with Strength and Defense, but there are no damage skills. I can’t see any viable builds that would focus on this tree without at least a few damage skills from the other trees.

Vanquisher
Marksman – All of the skills are based on attacking at range, so this is the typical archer tree. Everything scales with weapon damage or Dexterity. Hail of Arrows is more of a spellcaster skill, but all the rest are bow/gun skills.
Rogue – The skills in this tree are pretty close range, but don’t actually require using a melee weapon. While many skills scale with Strength or Magic, every skill scales with Dexterity. A bow or gun with high Dexterity seems to be the best route for this tree.
Arbiter – The Vanquisher’s caster tree focuses on trap skills. The traps don’t scale with any attributes or weapon damage, so you have a lot of freedom here with builds. A high Defense build would be a good choice since your damage is independent of your weapons and armor. Magic find items would also work well.

Alchemist
Arcane – This is the spellcaster tree. All the skills do elemental damage of some sort. Most of the high level ones do fire damage, so you may have trouble with elemental resists in the final floors. The skills are a mix of some scaling with weapon damage and others with Magic, so Magic is clearly the attribute of choice with this tree.
Lore – This is the summoner tree. Just like the Vanquisher’s Arbiter tree, the skills don’t scale with your attributes or weapon damage. That means you can use any attributes or weapons you want, so fittingly, this tree would be good for a magic find character.
Battle – All of the skills have a weapon damage component, so this tree is for the Alchemist that focuses on weapons. Since all the skills scale with the Magic stat, I would stick to Staffs and Wands depending on if you want to go melee or ranged.

Equipment Attribute Requirements

Knowing which attribute you are favoring and which item types you want, it’s then very easy to go through this list and pick out items that fit with your skill tree choice.

Each item can be classified by breaking down its attribute requirements into a simple ratio. For example, a sword that requires 100 Strength and 33 Dexterity can be broken down to a 3 Strength, 1 Dexterity ratio or 3:1.

Note: These are based on requirements of unique items only. Set items have slightly different requirements, but the chance of collecting a full set is low. Only build a character around a set if you have already collected the items ahead of time.

Swords, Axes, Maces
5 Strength
3 Strength, 1 Dexterity or Magic
3 Strength, 1 Dexterity or Magic, 1 Defense (Mace only)

Polearms
5 Strength

Bows
5 Dexterity

Rifles
5 Dexterity
3 Dexterity, 1 Strength or Magic

Pistols
5 Dexterity
3 Dexterity, 1 Magic or Strength

Wands
5 Magic
3 Magic, 1 Strength or Dexterity

Staffs
5 Magic

Shields
5 Defense
4 Defense, 1 Strength
1 Defense, 1 Strength

Helmets
5 Strength, 1 Defense
5 Dexterity, 1 Defense
5 Magic, 1 Defense
1 Strength, 3 Defense
1 Dexterity, 3 Defense
1 Magic, 3 Defense

Boots
5 Strength, 1 Defense
5 Dexterity, 1 Defense
5 Magic, 1 Defense
1 Strength, 5 Defense
1 Dexterity, 5 Defense
1 Magic, 5 Defense
1 Strength, 1 Defense (rare)
1 Dexterity, 1 Defense (rare)
1 Magic, 1 Defense (rare)

Gloves
5 Strength, 1 Defense
5 Dexterity, 1 Defense
5 Magic, 1 Defense
1 Strength, 5 Defense
1 Dexterity, 5 Defense
1 Magic, 5 Defense
4 Strength, 3 Defense (rare)
4 Dexterity, 3 Defense (rare)
4 Magic, 3 Defense (rare)

Shoulder
5 Strength, 1 Defense
5 Dexterity, 1 Defense
5 Magic, 1 Defense
1 Strength, 5 Defense
1 Dexterity, 5 Defense
1 Magic, 5 Defense
1 Strength, 1 Defense (rare)
1 Dexterity, 1 Defense (rare)
1 Magic, 1 Defense (rare)

Chest
3 Strength, 1 Defense
3 Dexterity, 1 Defense
3 Magic, 1 Defense
1 Strength, 5 Defense
1 Dexterity, 5 Defense
1 Magic, 5 Defense
3 Strength, 2 Defense (rare)
3 Dexterity, 2 Defense (rare)
3 Magic, 2 Defense (rare)

Belts
4 Strength, 1 Defense
4 Dexterity, 1 Defense
4 Magic, 1 Defense
1 Strength, 4 Defense
1 Dexterity, 4 Defense
1 Magic, 4 Defense
1 Strength, 1 Defense (rare)
1 Dexterity, 1 Defense (rare)
1 Magic, 1 Defense (rare)

Swords, Axes, Maces, and Polearms are mostly Destroyer-only. Since a few of them require Dexterity or Magic, there might be some oddball Vanquisher or Alchemist builds that will work with them.

Bows, Rifles, and Pistols are mostly Vanquisher-only. A few Pistols have Strength or Magic requirements, so there could be oddball Destroyer or Alchemist builds that work with them.

Staffs and Wands are mostly Alchemist-only. Like the other weapons, you need some Strength or Dexterity for a few of them. Destroyers and Vanquishers might find some use for them, but it would be hard.

Shields mainly require Defense and sometimes a little Strength. They can be used by all classes equally, but mainly Defense-based builds where survivability is wanted over damage.

Armor varies between 5:1, 4:1, and 3:1 required attributes for Strength/Dexterity/Magic heavy versions and 1:5, 1:4, and 1:3 for Defense heavy versions. This allows for both Strength/Dexterity/Magic-based and Defense-based builds. So Defense-based Vanquishers and Alchemists would work okay especially with the Rogue and Battle trees.

Attribute Distribution

With your skill tree and desired equipment decided on, you just have to choose how to spend your attributes. Based on the type of equipment you choose above, you know what the desired attribute distribution is.

Going back to the sword example: If you choose to use 3:1 Strength:Defense swords, you will want your attribute distribution to be roughly equal to that. So the question becomes how to distribute 5 points into 2 Attributes.

Sometimes it’s easy to follow. For instance, 4:1 you just put 4 points in your main class attribute and 1 in Defense, but what about 3:1 which is only 4 points? In that case, you have to distribute your points a little differently each level. The list below has the proper distribution per level to fit the ratios I recommend.

4:1
It’s possible to put all 5 points into your Damage Attribute for 5:0 or even 5:1. However, all armor requires at least a little Defense, so 4:1 is the max I would do. Even if you don’t care about your defenses, armor items can have really good damage stats on them.

3:1
You can meet this ratio simply by alternating between 4:1 and 3:2 each level. This is a little more conservative than 4:1, but still mainly focused on damage.

3:2
This is a slightly damage focused distribution and the one I recommend for the first time you try a new class. Monster killing is fast until around level 50 and defense is good enough to survive mistakes.

1:1
You can meet this ratio simply by alternating between 3:2 and 2:3 each level. This is the perfectly balanced distribution where your Strength/Dexterity/Magic and Defense attributes are both equal every level. Good if you want to go a little bit more into Defense, but still want to do some damage.

2:3
This is the tank distribution. You should only use this for a Defense-based build. Even though the Destroyer is the most likely to use this, there are items with appropriate required attributes for all 3 classes to use this ratio. Killing will be pretty slow not far into the game, so you have to be patient.

I would not recommend going any more than 2:3 for Defense-based builds even though some items have 1:4 and higher ratios. 2:3 already demands good patience, but 1:4 would take hours just to clear one floor.

For the most part, you should choose one of these at the beginning of the game for your character and stick with it throughout the game. Based on the ratio you chose, you have a good idea what item types fit.

Putting It All Together

You can see that Torchlight and probably all hack and slash games are about the skills. That’s what you play the game for, and so that’s what you plan your character around. It’s somewhat counterintuitive, but you have to look at your character’s skills first. The skill tree determines what attribute you focus on, either Strength, Dexterity, or Magic (for most builds). That, in turn, determines the item types your character will use. Finally, you choose an attribute distribution that aligns with the desired skill tree and item types.

One thing I glossed over here is hybrid builds. In Torchlight 1, skills only have a level requirement; they don’t need points spent in prerequisite skills to unlock them. This means you have a lot of freedom over the skills you want to use in your build.

You can easily adapt the process I used here for your own set of skills. Just make a list of the skills to want to use. Those skills will determine your desired attributes and item types just like if you chose all skills from a single tree. Then, you can go on from there same as before.

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