Hack ‘N Snooze
HIGH Getting reintroduced to the colorful world of Torchlight.
LOW Realizing (in the first hour) that there’s little to it.
WTF I have no use for all that money I’ve spent hours grinding.
I remember when the first Torchlight came out in 2009. Back then, the hack ’n slash RPG genre was basically dormant, with Diablo 3 still a long way from being released. Runic Games, the studio founded by Erich and Max Schaefer along with other former Blizzard North employees, stepped in and delivered a surprise hit. Torchlight 2 was a solid sequel, offering the expected ‘bigger and better’ formula that improved things where necessary.
Torchlight 3 is developed by Echtra games, a company founded by one of the Schaefer brothers after Runic imploded. It was announced as a retooled version of Torchlight Frontiers, a free-to-play MMO in development since 2018. The project showed signs of turbulent management and creative indecisiveness from the get-go, and unfortunately, those signs were correct.
My first impressions of Torchlight 3 were pleasant. The isometric, third-person graphics are colorful, the new classes seemed interesting, and it ran smoothly. The skill system also has the flexibility that’s been a trademark of the series since the start — it’s possible to level up one ability over and over to make it a trademark of the player’s character, but points can also be reassigned should one decide to change strategy. Still present is the pet system where a familiar accompanies the player and ‘helps’ in combat, although I find they’re most useful for carrying extra stuff.
Along with finding the usual gold and weapons dropped by enemies, the player can also grind for wood and stone. The point in that grinding escaped me until I got the opportunity to build my fort. This is basically a homebase for the character where they can build furniture and decorate. There doesn’t seem to be much purpose to it otherwise, so perhaps forts are just a leftover idea from the MMO days of Torchlight 3?
In addition to the typical classes of Mage and Archer (called “Sharpshooter” here) are the Forged (a walking robot tank) and the Railmaster, a mustachioed bloke with a big hammer and a train (!) for a pet. While these classes are each peculiar enough to warrant a try, their diversity doesn’t add much to the longevity of play.
Naturally, hack ’n slash RPGs are a genre that rely on action, but Torchlight 3 would have benefited from more careful balance and design — the combat isn’t engaging, nor challenging. All enemies (and bosses, as well) can be killed by sticking to one or two upgraded skills and performing the same special moves over and over. Grinding for hours — a common pursuit in games like this — yields little satisfaction since the enemies pose no real challenge.
There’s little point in going back to town or talking to characters, and beyond the rich color, the world design offers only generic forests and icy areas.
Money is capped to 20k — a weird decision, especially since there’s no real need to sell or buy stuff from merchants, potions abound, and all weapons lying around are automatically scaled to the character’s level.
Everything in Torchlight 3 feels like it was tailor-made for casual players who don’t want to spend much time on thinking about strategy or builds, and don’t care to scour the lands for rare and powerful weapons. Instead, it delivers loads of low-calorie action that feels best suited for short sessions between other games, and the flavor of its F2P roots remains.
Matt Uelmen, Diablo and Torchlight’s original composer, is back for the third time, but I’d be hard-pressed to remember even one of the tracks here. It does have the same acoustic guitar sound carried over from the previous entries (Diablo fans would call it “Tristram sound”) but that’s all I can say about it.
Multiplayer, usually a saving grace for this genre, wasn’t much help. I’ve tried joining multiplayer matches but had little to no luck finding someone to play with, and when I did, the connection was slow and laggy — a big problem for a quick action game like this.
For all intents and purposes, Torchlight 3 seems like it’s an action RPG struggling to find its identity. It feels generic, repetitive and boring, and comparing it to earlier, superior Torchlight titles does it no favors. Pretty colors aren’t enough to save this one from oblivion, especially with so much quality competition out there.
— Damiano Gerli
Disclosures: This game is developed by Echtra Games and published by Perfect World Entertainment. It is currently available on PC, Switch, PS4 and XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PS4. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are multiplayer modes
Parents: The game is rated T by the ESRB for Blood, Violence and Users Interact. This one is pretty safe overall as the violence isn’t particularly graphic and the world is colorful and bright. Nothing to really be concerned about as long as parents are fine with Diablo-like action.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue is subtitled but there are no options to resize the subtitles. (See examples above) There are no audio cues needed for play. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are not remappable. There is no control diagram. On PS4 the player moves the character with the L stick and aims with the R stick, each button on the Dualshock 4 can be mapped to a player’s ability. The R1 and L1 buttons are used to browse the menu.
Years later, he got the idea that he was the most Sega-knowledgeable person in the world, so he opened a website in 1997, The Genesis Temple.
He's a sucker for great stories in gaming, he loves adventure and indie titles, but he never shies away from action and triple-A RPGs.
Damiano's been writing about videogames for 20 years, with no plans to stop. Say hi to him on Twitter at @damgentemp, or on his blog https://genesistemple.com (now dedicated to the history of video game design).