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Despite a few bugs and design issues, Torchlight 3 manages to capture the addictive quality of dungeon-crawling and chaotic fights.
Torchlight 3 is the next entry in a long-running series of action role-playing games that started some 11 years ago. Developed by Echtra Games and published by Perfect World, this latest title looks to give players more of what was offered in Torchlight 2. As far as ARPGs go, Torchlight 3 might not break the mold or innovate in some spectacular fashion, but it is a charming experience. Despite its flaws, it’s nice and familiar, and it’s certainly easy to lose track of time as you crush through your umpteenth dungeon with a friend (or three).
Pass the torch
The story in Torchlight 3 kicks off with a township under siege. As the hero of this narrative, it’s up to the player to reclaim the land, one dungeon and boss fight at a time. After a few areas have been cleared of goblins, it becomes clear that the various monsters of the world have been roused by an ancient evil. Enter: the Netherim.
Fans of Torchlight 2 will remember the Netherim fondly, and now the purple-skinned and toothy monsters are back at it again, sewing chaos throughout the land. The creatures have been banded together by an ancient evil of three sisters, led by their mother.
There’s also some corruption at play that is infecting the ember, but really, the story in Torchlight 3 is rather… well… light. The purpose of it is more like a backdrop, a reason for why you’re going on all these dungeon-clearing raids. It never really manages to get too deep, instead, keeping the player focused on the action.
A new flame
Being an ARPG, Torchlight 3 is all about picking a character and diving headlong into that champion’s skills, abilities, and losing yourself in creating the perfect build.
There are four characters to choose from, and all of them feature some type of trick or internal synergy that makes them pop. Part of building a class is working out which of these abilities you want to lean into.
The Dusk Mage is all about balancing light and dark spells to build harmony, resulting in a surge of power. The Railmaster focuses on close-range combat but is supplemented by a “battle train”, an on-track turret that follows you around. The Sharpshooter is an iconic archer class that uses precision skills and animal summons to buff attacks. Forge is a super-heated robot that generates heat on attacks, which is then vented using other abilities.
Beyond the four classes, Torchlight 3 also offers the player one of five relics to choose from. This permanent choice grants an additional skill tree, which will drastically change the feeling of a character.
Bane focuses on summoning spiders and lashing out with poison, Blood Drinker is all about lifesteal and blades, Coldheart is your classic crowd control choice with ice-based abilities, Electrode relishes in the chaos of storms, and Flaming Destroyer is about cleansing the world with fire.
Burn bright, burn strong
If there’s one thing the game gets right, it’s that Torchlight 3 makes you feel unstoppable. As you increase in power, waves of enemies crumble before your might as you balance your class’ skills. There’s something within my monkey brain that loves seeing big numbers, hundreds of numbers, popping up on the screen as I spin, cleave, and blast my way through hordes of goblins, spiders, and mechanical beasts.
Then there’s the loot. Bosses pop with a burst of gear and gold, chests spew forth rewards, and you’re never far from diving into your inventory to inspect a new item and tinker with your build. Torchlight 3 is incredibly addictive. It’s very easy to be playing until the sun comes up.
There are also some great quality of life mechanics that make Torchlight 3 feel more instantaneous, as if you’re never far from the next screen full of enemies. Players can instantly teleport to one another as opposed to running to catch up. Items are scrapped or sold without long waits or holding of buttons. Practically every element is focused on being fast, snappy, and getting the player straight back to the action.
But Torchlight 3 is also zen-like thanks to a rather simple feature: the Fort. Part way through the first Act, players are given a fort. This open area on the side of a trail is theirs to own and customize as they see fit.
New features and decorations are unlocked for the fort as the story progresses or the player completes Contracts (a sort of battle pass that offers rewards like gold, Legendary gear, resource bundles and respec points). There’s a meditative quality to setting up your fort, but, it’s not just cosmetic. The fort also features a few statues that are used to increase loot drops and the gold earned. It’s also here where players will be participating in the end-game: Fazeer’s Dun’djinn.
This tricky play-on-words is how players will be increasing their level and farming gear at the end of the game. These dungeons are randomly generated, with players choosing the modifiers (both negative and positive) by selecting a card. As dungeons are cleared, more difficult cards and modifiers are unlocked, which in turn grant greater rewards. It’s a great end-game option that gives the player more control over their loot farming.
All of this is packaged in charming visuals with a soundtrack that transports you to the fantasy world. Even the voice acting of the many characters and NPCs lifts the experience. Of special note is the narrator, who is ever-helpful with his voice lines when you’re low on health or when an ally requires reviving. There’s a bubbly and cheerful nature to Torchlight 3, even if you are blasting away at hordes of vomiting zombies, poisonous spiders, and electrified robot birds.
While Torchlight 3 as a whole is an enjoyable experience, it does have a myriad of problems that prevent it from being a truly great title. From desync problems and connection issues to simplistic boss fight mechanics, audio and visual glitches, and instances of loot not dropping, the game lacks that final polish.
The desync between players can be a crippling problem. When one player goes down, the other can revive them by standing in a circle for a few seconds. When the two games fall out of sync, the location of this circle can be in two different places, which results in the player not getting revived. On lower difficulties this can be easy to overcome, but as the difficulty ramps up, this can spell disaster to a dungeon run.
I also experienced a series of connectivity issues and game glitches. Torchlight 3 would crash, audio would stop playing, and attacks would fail to activate. Parts of the environment wouldn’t load for several seconds, leaving me standing around waiting for the game to catch up.
Outside of technical problems, there are also some design choices that create a rougher experience. The character pathing is rather simplistic. For keyboard and mouse users, clicking a part of the environment – such as a platform at the top of a ramp – doesn’t translate to the character finding a route up, but instead has the hero walking into the wall.
While much of the interactions with NPCs have dialogue boxes, there are no subtitles for the many audio logs that can be found in-game nor a way to listen to them again. If you click a lore node in the midst of a loud battle, chances are you’ll miss everything that is said.
The designs of the many boss fights are also rather simplistic. All bosses tend to have a knockback ability, a skill that calls down rocks or meteors in an area, and various diving moves. The most complex boss fights are those where the boss goes through different phases, becoming protected by crystals or creating hazards in the environment, but these are few and far between. Aside from being visually quite unique, most of the actual boss fights blend together.
While Torchlight 3 encourages replaying to try out new classes, the amount of time it takes to get one class to a place where the end of a skill tree can be unlocked takes far too long. It would have been nice to have a catch-up mechanic, whereby subsequent characters receive an XP or leveling bonus based on the progress of your other classes.
This slow progress to explore new heroes and their skill trees is further compounded by the lack of a total respec option. Players can earn single respec points to undo a single spent skill point. This is a baffling design choice. By the end of my 30-odd hour playthrough, I had amassed 16 of these “Respectacles” but had nearly 60 skill points already assigned. I have no way of fully recreating my build unless I grind out bosses for a chance at a respec point or spend another 20-odd hours playing a new character.
Can hold a candle
Though the experience is hampered by bugs, glitches, and a few design issues, the snappy and moreish combat, the treasure trove of stats and skills, and the delightfully chaotic co-op play make Torchlight 3 a must-have for anyone looking for more ARPG goodness.
This review is based on a Steam code provided by the publisher. Torchlight 3 is available on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on October 13, 2020, and later this year on Nintendo Switch.
- Addictive co-op gameplay Audio design is atmospheric Visuals are simple yet charming Creative character designs and build options
- No easy way to try new builds or level new characters Frequent connectivity issues, glitches, and bugs Boss fights are simplistic and light on mechanics No subtitles for audio logs