When we sat down and watched the PC Gaming show this year, we were ready for the surprise “it’s out now!” announcements, but we weren’t quite ready for Torchlight III. I guess we were the only ones blindsided, since Torchlight III has had rumors swirling around it for a while, but it was a surprise to see it release in Early Access on Steam only for it to be met with a wave of negative reviews. Could it really be that bad, or are people piling on because of the server issues and always online the Early Access title forces you into.
Now, I should preface this preview with this: I am absolutely sick of action roleplaying games, or ARPGS. I’ve played ARPGs since their inception with the original Diablo, put thousands of hours into Diablo II, and have played every major ARPG since—from Titan Quest, to Path of Exile—I’ve played them all. Why? Because my friends do, and ARPGs put you in command of a powerful hero who can take out large groups of enemies while you’re collecting all sorts of shiny loot to bolster your attacks, abilities, and defenses. They’re cathartic, and Torchlight III checks all of the boxes for a satisfying ARPG.
So what’s the problem? It seems like the mixed reviews on Steam are for a number of issues: server problems, and the fact that the game is online only—but there is going to be a single player mode come full release. Some complaints were of the simplistic skill system, of which I have to agree: each character only has two skill trees, and that seems a little light, but you can also look at it like this: it really cuts the fat. Even with complicated skill trees like Path of Exile¸or even simpler ones like Diablo III, min-max metas emerge that end up pigeon-holing you towards one “best” build or another. Torchlight III’s skill trees would presumably be easier to balance to make whatever playstyle you like viable.
And playstyle is where Torchlight III is really strong. Each of the five classes are unique, and in fact, have some of the most unique playstyles/skills I’ve seen in an ARPG. Even if they’re unique, they’re really just flavored variations on the familiar. The Railmaster’s following train is akin to a combat pet, and the Forged’s overheat mechanic has been knocking around in the annals of game mechanics since pen and paper days. But the flavor added to make the five classes unique kind of works, even if you have to squint a little to see the ideas as “fresh.”
But the classes are all fun to play. I had most fun with the mechanical Forged and its loop of building up and then violently blasting out its heat, but the Sharpshooter turned into a pretty formidable ranged combatant. The Dusk Mage has a similar mechanic to the Forged, where you have to build up one type of magic while balancing another.
Recently, the third act has been added to the Early Access release, bringing the whole Torchlight III experience from beginning to end—but it’s not without its issues. Finding my way in randomly generated ARPG levels hasn’t always been easy, but Torchlight III’s maps felt like they never actually exited where I needed them to. I feel like I spent most of my playthroughs looking for where to go, instead of enjoying the mechanics—something that I haven’t really encountered in an ARPG before.
If you get tired of burning down goblins and other baddies, you can knock back at your fort. This is where you can enchant items, and even build items that can give you buffs, like finding better rarities of items. There are also cosmetic items to make the plot of land that’s your fort more personalized to you. I wish forts had a traditional vendor in them because as it is, you’re forced to go to town, too, if you want to actually sell your items—that is, unless your pet does it.
Torchlight III brings back pets, and they help in combat, though not much. Not only can they sell items for you, but you can equip your pets with different abilities. You unlock new abilities by finding new pets—the more “rare” the pet, the better the pet ability is. You can also keep your menagerie at your fort, so you’re not forced to abandon a faithful pet because you got another one that also looks cool.
I’ve been enjoying my time with Torchlight III, but it needs lots of tightening up before release. But even as it is, Torchlight III afforded me a few hours of amusement. I love the new takes on tried-and-true classes, and was having the most fun playing as the Forged. It’s not as bad as the reviewers may lead you to believe, but it’s certainly an Early Access title, and it needs a little more time in the oven before it’s really ready to go. Hopefully that happens—because Torchlight III has the potential to be great.
Torchlight III is available now on Steam Early access, and is being constantly updated.
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