Torchlight III has endured a rather rocky journey to its initial release. The project originally began as a free-to-play title called Torchlight Frontiers, which was all set to finally deliver on the grandiose MMO plans that Runic Games has been building towards since the first Torchlight. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as early reception to Frontiers was lukewarm and the game design wasn’t coming together quite how the team wanted it to. After nearly two years of development, Frontiers went through a big shift in January of this year, in which it was officially rebranded as Torchlight III and changed into an experience more in line with the previous two entries. The final product, then, proves to be worthy of the Torchlight name, but it also highlights that the series is in desperate need of a refresh.
The story picks up a few centuries after the events of Torchlight II, in a world where the empire is in decline. The Netherim are trying to take advantage of this weakness by attempting a take-over of Novastraia, so it’s up to you and your friends to repel the threat and save the day. As is typical for an ARPG, the story proves to be virtually nonexistent for most of Torchlight III, merely serving as a light means of giving context to your endless dungeon crawls. While it would be nice to see a little more effort put into telling a compelling narrative, the lack of emphasis on storytelling here actually proves to be a move in the game’s favour. Torchlight III is all about balancing stats, comparing gearsets, and offing goblins by the truckload, and frequent stops of exposition or cutscenes would only serve to get in the way of the main draw of gameplay.
Those of you familiar with the ARPG genre will find yourselves right at home with Torchlight III, as this release adds almost nothing new to the tried and tested formula. You begin by picking one of four classes of warriors who will then embark on a long journey through dungeons and environments packed with enemies and precious loot to improve the character. Cutting through the masses of monsters is sure to see some choice pieces drop which passively raise your character’s stats, and every now and then, you’ll level up and get an upgrade point to invest somewhere in your skill tree to deepen your build. It’s the sort of thing that’s almost mind-numbingly simple on a moment-to-moment basis, but the long-term planning that goes into picking skill progression and equipment loadouts is a huge part of the draw. There is an overwhelming amount of ways to spec out a build, and plenty of satisfaction is gleaned from teasing out an effective build and seeing how well it holds up against swarms of enemies.
Through this, the gameplay is less focused on player dexterity or skill than it is on overall resource management. You have a basic main attack which you can use indefinitely, but the majority of your combat effectiveness is pulled from how well you manage the cool-downs and limitations of the various skills you can fire off. For example, the archer class has an ‘ammo’ mechanic wherein arrows can be either picked up from the environment or slowly regenerated. Many of the archer’s skills will expend a certain amount of arrows in the quiver, so you must constantly balance your needs in battle against how many arrows you can reasonably use. In practice, this gameplay system works quite well, as you slowly come to better understand your build and how to best ramp up damage in a typical combat encounter.
This is all well and good, but one area in which Torchlight III notably drops the ball is in the disproportionate amount of importance it places on the very beginning of the new player experience. Those first few minutes in which you’re tasked with picking a class and subclass can be enormously overwhelming as you’re expected to read through all the densely-written class and skill descriptions to best figure out which are to your liking. Whatever you choose, you’re permanently locked into that decision, which can lead to scenarios where a few hours of play are wasted when you realize that the class you picked just isn’t your thing.
Matters are made worse by the fact that your only means of taking back spent points in the skill tree are governed by an extremely scarce consumable resource, which punishes experimentation. It’s all too easy for a new player to learn that they’ve created a build ‘wrong’, but the options for fixing it late in the game are unfortunately hard to come by. We would’ve better appreciated a more flexible system that allows for new players to freely try out several build types, as the current system only proves to be frustrating in the long term.
One new feature (which seems to be a holdover from the free-to-play days) is the ‘fort’ mechanic, in which your character has a small castle you can decorate to your liking with materials you find out in the wilds. It’s a neat diversion, but one which feels awkwardly inserted into the main quest without much justification. Aside from some decorations which grant you passive stat boosts, the fort just feels like an aspect that’s sort of undercooked, as there isn’t much reason to spend time there other than for the sake of it. You can build some decorations which offer passive stat buffs, so there is some incentive to come back here every now and then, but there’s a lingering sense that the fort was meant to be a much larger part of Torchlight III than it actually is. Still, the developers deserve some credit for attempting to include something that breaks up the traditional ARPG game loop, and though the fort is disappointing, those of you who enjoy decorating a personal space like this will likely find some mild enjoyment in it.
As far as replayability goes, Torchlight III fortunately doesn’t disappoint. The main quest should take you about twenty hours to clear, and then there’s the virtually endless endgame to take your character to the absolute limit. Here, you’re presented with a series of cards which will modify existing dungeons in both positive and negative ways. If you can clear the modified dungeon, you’ll then be treated to some shiny new gear, which enables you to take on further modified dungeons. Beyond that, you can always start over with new characters to try out different classes or different skill builds within your chosen class. As you’ve likely surmised, all of this revolves around that same central conceit of grinding enemies and dungeons to get gear that lets you grind harder enemies and dungeons. Your mileage may vary, then, depending on how hooked you are by the ARPG gameplay loop, but rest assured that Torchlight III clearly demonstrates it understands its genre well.
That being said, the flipside is that Torchlight III introduces almost nothing new to notably iterate on its predecessor or the genre at large. Those of you that have played the previous Torchlights, Diablo, Path of Exile, or any other stalwarts in the genre will know exactly what to expect here, as the gameplay in Torchlight III does nothing to carve out a unique identity for itself. Whether this is a good or bad thing is ultimately a matter of opinion. Those of you who enjoy just putting on a podcast or Netflix show while grinding through this sort of game will find that Torchlight III nicely fills that role. Those of you looking for something that builds upon what came before, something that brings in some exciting new innovations, will be left wanting. In short, Torchlight III can be best defined as a ‘more of the same’ release. Make of that what you will.
In terms of its presentation, Torchlight III manages to satisfy, even if it doesn’t impress all that much. The Blizzard-esque art style with exaggerated proportions and bright colours works well in the game’s favour, although it feels a little bit uninspired as a result. Still, the various dank caves and hostile locales you trawl through are nicely detailed and feel well put-together, even if this is muddled a bit by performance hitches. Whether docked or handheld, the framerate stays consistent for most of the experience, but notably hits some snags when a lot of enemies pour onto the screen at once. These drops were never bad enough that it affected gameplay too significantly, but they still showed up enough to be a frustrating nuisance.
Torchlight III is the sort of game that we can only describe as genre filler. It does absolutely everything that you would expect of an ARPG, and it often does these things extremely well, but it also doesn’t do anything particularly interesting or revelatory. Those of you that love a good ARPG will find plenty to love here, then, just don’t come into it expecting to be blown away by anything on offer. And while we’d sooner recommend that interested newcomers jump on Diablo III for their first experience, it’s pretty tough to go wrong with Torchlight III. Despite some of its shortcomings, Torchlight III is a rewarding experience that we’d say is certainly worth your time.
“Plays it a little too safe,”
“Still burning strong,”
What is that supposed to mean?
@TG16_IS_BAE It's almost like we're intended to read the article to really find out. Crazy, right?
@TG16_IS_BAE To me it sounds that it might be too similar to the formula of previous entries or games of the same genre while still being enjoyable and fun. It can also mean that it might be enjoyable but too linear. Keep in mind that I haven't read the review yet.
I wonder if the people who gave this a hugely bad rap weren't aware of it's rebranding and throwing away of the free to play model completely. I take it that what has happened, right?
Anyway, thanks for the review, it has beem quite helpful. I will probably get this discounted and / or will take on Diablo III as well (backlog, for shame)
The second one was great
I think for this one I will wait for it to come down price
It's a shame they did not do this on cartridge.
7/10 but "certainly worth your time." I would of expected an 8/10, but I also didn't read the whole review XD
Nonetheless, I may have to check this out.
I really want to like these type of games, but they seem too simple. I played a good amount of TL2 and I think I was just mashing buttons. Most of my attention was on managing my health and mana meters. This was on the highest difficulty with permadeath. I never finished the game, but I haven't died yet either.
I really liked TL2 but I tried this at launch and I did not like how movement felt. Things felt a lot slower. I might go back and try to make my way through.
I believe so. I read a couple reviews stating you can still see or feel the F2P design mentality of the game despite the last minute change of direction the development took.
Oh well, I still haven't played my copy of Torchlight 2, so I'm good for a while. I'll pick this up on a deep discount later.
I've enjoyed it a lot. It has flaws, but it's perfect for listening to a podcast and forgetting the world.
@Kang81 it was different devs as well.
@LEGEND_MARIOID Stick to Diablo 3 it is a much better game.
Yeah, didnt the original devs go under after releasing Hob?
I do love Diablo 3, but I've played it too much. I haven't really touched Torchlight 2 yet.
I also need to start or finish Titan Quest and Victor Vran.
Finish torchlight 2 and wait for a sale...
I'm fine sticking with Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 for now.
Not the train wreck I expected it to be based on what others have said. I played D3 and T2 to death pretty much, so I'll get this one once it's on sale.
@Swagonite I read the article, thanks for the silly assumption though.
@roy130390 That makes sense. I guess it’s the writers way of saying they had mixed feelings.
Even the biggest titles in this genre rarely hold my interest for long - Diablo 3 kept me invested long enough to finish the story, and not a millisecond longer - so it sounds like it's safe to pass on this one.
I'l get it on sale
I’ve played D3 to death, and I want to try this, but I feel like I’d be better off breaking from D3, and playing it next season instead of buying this.
@Kang81 Victor Vran is great!
I thoroughly enjoyed what I had played of it so far. Havent played it since the first month it released on Switch though.
I'll have to check if it has co-op, it'll be perfect for my brother and I.
If memory serves me right, I was probably a few hours into it. The last I recall, I made it to what seemed like a small Gothic city with an introduction to vampire enemies.
What I liked about this area was that it introduce a bit of verticality to the game. Wall hopping to higher ledges was fun, albeit it underused. Just another reason why I enjoy the isometric Tomb Raider games so much.
Its something I really want to see utilized more in Diablo style games.
>>In short, Torchlight III can be best defined as a ‘more of the same’ release.
As a big fan of these series I'd say that Torchlight II was also "more of the same release". I mean T2 basically was T1 + added multiplayer support.
Was there something new? Not really. T2 tried really hard to be something what was Diablo 2 to Diablo 1, but IMO fell short in that regard. It never reached that luring potential. And at the same time with T2 they lost all precious atmosphere and cosiness of being a small scale world they had with T1.
Isometric ARPG genre today is all about small iteration steps. Innovation comes through details. Same goes for Torchlight 3, it is smaller things that matter.
@TG16_IS_BAE I was just poking fun, sorry if it came off as mean or anything. I'm sure you're a swell person and didn't really intend to assume anything about you.
@Swagonite Thank you.
@Kang81 Victor Vran has Coop. Local and online with mixed team or private. Everything you need. I don't think there are much people online tbh because it's out for switch for a long time and it's not as known as other games of the genre.
It's a great game. Not as polished as others maybe but I sunk a lot of time in it and minmaxed nearly everything.
Motörhead DLC alone makes it a must have for fans but I'd recommend it really for everyone who likes ARPGs.
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