The Torchlight series has been around for quite some time now. Torchlight 1 released all the way back in 2009 and it is the game that introduced me to the action RPG genre. Torchlight 2 was a massive improvement in the series and it cemented Torchlight in the ARPG genre. There was plenty of skepticism surrounding the initial announcement and subsequent Steam Early Access release of Torchlight 3. It was announced to be shared world, free-to-play game in the same world as the previous two games, a model that is clearly present in Torchlight 3. The game feels at odds with itself and while hits on some fronts, it ultimately falls flat.
Story – Ancient Evil Reborn
Following on from Torchlight 2, the ancient evil of the Netherim that was sealed has been let loose once again. Wreaking havoc on Novastraia, you must choose one of 4 heroes to journey across the land and put a stop to the Netherim.
For me, ARPGs are at their best when the story, dialogue, and cutscenes are kept to a minimum and this game does just that. The intro lasts a mere 5 minutes before you can hack and slash your way through endless waves of enemies. For people interested in the lore of Torchlight, there is a fair bit of dialogue when given quests and you can find audio logs that conveniently play as you travel around the world.
Gameplay – A Step Back In Time
Similar to other giants in the genre, Torchlight 3 is presented in an isometric, attacking and moving with your mouse and using the number keys to unleash your skills on the unfortunate enemies around you. You start by picking 1 of 4 classes, all of which are some form of an arch-type. The Railmaster is a damage focused melee class but the twist here is that his pet is a train. The Forged is your typical melee-focused tank with a gun attached to his chest. The Duskmage uses the power of light and dark magic to disintegrate their foes. The Sharpshooter (my choice for this review) is a hunter class that can wield all sorts of ranged weapons.
Each class has its own ‘mana bar’. Let’s take the Sharpshooter for example; you have ammo that is used with any ranged skill. One thing about the level progression that I really enjoyed was the rune system. When choosing your character, you can choose 1 of 5 runes that are skill trees with some really unique options. I chose Coldheart, granting me a slew of ice-related abilities that helped me slow down the enemies so I could keep my distance and volley arrows towards them. Each one of these ruins can be used in really interesting ways to synergize with your class’ skills. However, Echtra Games dumbed the progression down slightly. Torchlight 2 had attribute points to allocate towards the usual, vitality, strength, etc. Torchlight 3 removes this and it takes away some complexity with character builds.
Combat is standard fare for ARPGs. You’re given a tonne of abilities to mow down as many enemies as the game can throw at you, and once you have few skill points allocated, you can have some fun here. I focused on single target damage with my ranged weapon, ice abilities for slowing down targets and summoning all sorts of creatures to tank some of the damage for me. When the combat is in full swing, I was having some fun and I could see myself enjoying the game with friends but there were too many issues with how the game was laid out and it ultimately ruined my experience.
The pet system synonymous with the Torchlight series is back and is as good as ever. At the start, you pick between 3 pets, a dog, owl, and llama. While these seem like some plain pets, you find some unique pets as you explore more of Novastraia. By the end of my playthrough, I had a little dragon pet called Rocky and he was a fantastic companion….when he wasn’t standing still. The problem here is that my pet and summons would randomly stop targeting enemies and could stand still for the whole battle. On top of this, my ice golem (which admittedly is massive) would oftentimes cover up loot on the ground meaning I had to walk away for him to follow me, then go back to pick up the loot. It’s the little things like this that slowly increased my frustration with Torchlight 3.
Bugs and Strange Design
Traveling across Novastraia came with plenty of issues. The areas on show here all look very nice but that’s where the positives end. Each level feels like a rectangle with little to no reason to explore. You can find treasure chests with loot and at the start, I did just that. I explored every single inch of the areas until I noticed one major flaw. Every single time I left an area, that I spent 15 or 20 minutes exploring every inch of, the map would reset. This was not only very frustrating, but it was also quite disorientating. At one stage, the textures failed to load for an area so I had to use the map and outlines of enemies to navigate.
Now the strangest part of the game; its free-to-play roots. There’s a fort-building system, which had me quite intrigued in the beginning. However, you’re very quickly smelting ores, which takes x amount of time per bar and donating gear to a fountain that gives you incremental bonuses to gear luck and elemental defense. Now, this isn’t inherently a bad system; Borderlands 2 has a similar system with its Badass Tokens, the difference here is that in Borderlands 2 you could access this through the menus meaning it wasn’t too tedious. Every time your inventory is full you have to travel back to your fort to donate the gear, rather than doing it in the menu. The free-to-play design rears its ugly head once again with the fame system, a progress bar akin to a battle pass seen in every multiplayer game right now. For me, it feels out of place in the game.
Graphics and Audio – A Job Well Done
The visuals on show here are the best thing about the game. Texture work, enemy, and character models all stand out from the levels. The levels themselves are all diverse. One minute you’re in a bright forest fighting goblins, the next you’re in a crystal-covered cave fighting against poisonous bugs. Animations are all well done, with each enemy having their own subtle animations. One thing that’s quite strange with the animations is that as the Sharpshooter any skill I use has a bow animation, even if I have a hand cannon equipped. It didn’t stand out too much but once I noticed it, I couldn’t unsee it.
Much like the rest of the game, the audio in Torchlight 3 is just fine. The title screen music is quite iffy, but once you get past that, the ambient music while you explore is really nice and boss themes are brilliant too. The sound design of weapons and abilities is pretty good too. The hammer of the Railmaster really packs a punch but certain abilities for the Sharpshooter feel drab in comparison.
Endgame – No Incentives
When I finally finished this game I wanted to check out the endgame before I gave a final verdict. Endgame is handled with a structure that you build in your fort called Fazeer’s Dun’djinn. You randomly choose a card that determines the dungeon’s special attributes. For example, a card could mean that all bosses and special enemies drop more fame.
The first go around, you must go through 2 randomly chosen dungeons, each time picking a new card with different conditions, and the dungeons becoming progressively more difficult. Then you must fight one of the bosses that you have fought before. Once again, the dungeons here are very bland. They seem to be chosen from the dungeons you explored previously and some of them are just straight corridors filled with enemies. The endgame system isn’t very appealing and this combined with an already lackluster game led to me rapidly losing interest in the end game.
Torchlight 3 was reviewed on the PC. A code was provided by fortyseven communications.