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Review: Torchlight III Has Great Combat, but With Caveats

Screenshot: Torchlight III

I spent a lot of my younger years playing platformers, and then first person shooters. I wasn’t much of a role-playing game fan until I was introduced to Diablo—and from there, I was forever hooked on the action role-playing game (ARPG) subgenre. While developer Blizzard is arguably still the king of ARPGS, there have been some pretty fierce competitors—games like Path of Exile, Titan Quest, and the Torchlight series.

I played a good amount of action role-playing game Torchlight III for our preview. I managed to try each of the four available classes, but for the review, I mostly focused on the Forged class—since I only had time to dedicate to one, and that’s the class I enjoyed the most in the Early Access period. In Torchlight III you play as a adventurer who is tasked with stopping the Netherim invasion. Basically, the Netherim are purple enemies with purple magic that are evil and are destroying the world, and for an ARPG, that’s really all the motivation you need to go out and get to questing and looting.

Screenshot: Torchlight III

Anyone who has followed Torchlight III at all knows that it isn’t developed by the studio that did the first two. Developer Echtra Games has taken the reigns, and they seem to have figured out how to make a smooth, fast ARPG experience. Torchlight III is fun to play. It has fast action that is satisfying and addictive, and can almost match itself with the intensity of Diablo III’s larger encounters. As expected in an ARPG there is lots of loot that drops, and returning to the series is the pet system which allows you to send your pet back to town to sell unwanted weapons and armor so your adventuring doesn’t have to stop. Pets are more useful than just carriers of items and gear though. They can attack enemies, and provide debuffs to your enemies, or buffs to your character.

Torchlight III has four classes to choose from. The ranged Sharpshooter uses guns and bows to deal massive damage, and is the non-magical ranged class. The Dusk Mage is a ranged magic caster that specializes in either light or dark magic. The Forged is an automaton that uses its chest cannon to deal damage at a distance—but it can stand toe-to-toe in melee. The Railmaster is perhaps one of the most unique ARPG classes, as he lays down a train track that has an armed, fully automotive locomotive to assist him. Each class has two skill trees they can put points into. Two major branches doesn’t leave much for diverse builds, but the Relic system helps alleviate the lack of diversity a bit.

Screenshot: Torchlight III

Relics add a subclass to your class, and they have their own skill tree. Each of the five different relics bestows different active and passive abilities to your character. The Blood Drinker relic, for instance, causes bleed damage while healing your character. Coldheart is good for crowd control as it freezes and slows enemies. Choosing a relic that synergizes with your character class is satisfying. Relics also tend to focus on specific weapons, giving you a chance to get the maximum amount of utility or DPS out of your build.

As with most ARPGs, levels are randomly arranged. In some games, this can mean labyrinthine corridors that change every time you play. For Torchlight III, it really just means rearranging large rectangular rooms. The level randomization in Torchlight III just isn’t that great, and makes for mostly uninteresting playing. Exploration feels like a chore, and there were a few times I wished I could just know how to exit a specific area so I could just move on.

Screenshot: Torchlight III

What make the lackluster world worse are the enemies, which are mostly uninteresting, and seem to follow an ARPG formula. For good and for bad they could have been taken directly from Diablo III—but I would have liked to see something in the way of innovation, instead of hordes of enemies with casters at the outskirts. Bosses don’t offer up too much in way of unique encounters either. It’s a shame, because the combat hits the right notes for me.

Like any other ARPG, Torchlight III has tiered loot of various rarities. Set items, if you have enough pieces, bestow bonuses to your character. You can also find new pets at different tiers, and even different items that you can use to decorate your Fort.

Screenshot: Torchlight III

The Fort is a new addition to the Torchlight series, and if you’ve played an MMO in the last half decade or so, you’ve probably come across a similar system. You can use your fort to store items, pets, and upgrade gear. But you can also decorate it with items that you find in your journeys, or earn through making rank through the contract system. As you explore, you can also harvest crafting materials that you can use back at your base to craft various items. Forts are also account wide—all contributions to your fort are the same for all of your characters. You don’t have to start over if you reroll a character, or if your hardcore character dies.

Torchlight III takes place in three acts, each in its own unique area. Once you’re done with the main game, you will unlock Shah’s Dun’Djinn—an endless dungeon that serves a bit as Torchlight III’s endgame. Each dungeon you enter is a unique experience, with several challenges presented to the player in the form of cards. As your progress through the dungeon, its difficulties increase—but so do the rewards.

Torchlight III translates well over to consoles. If you don’t have a PC, playing Torchlight III is just as fun with console. Unlike Diablo III, Torchlight III doesn’t get a dodge button. The PC version has full controller support, too, if that’s a control method you prefer. If you want to cast certain spells or see a specific enemy’s health, it might be a bit cumbersome, but Torchlight III feels great with a controller.

I really liked my time with Torchlight III, but it’s not perfect. It may have gotten a bad rap, but not all of that is undeserved. I wish there were more skill trees per character, and exploration could use a little work to make it less of a chore. But the combat is great, and the character classes are all fun to play. If you’re looking for something to scratch that ARPG itch before Diablo IV, and you’ve played everything else, Torchlight III is a good bet.

 

Torchlight III is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and coming soon to Nintendo Switch.

 

 

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