Torchlight has always been one of the most underrated gems in the genre of dungeon exploration and clicking on a dread abomination until its banished back to the hell. If there’s an elevator pitch to be thrown at someone interested in the series, it’d be “Diablo but with rainbows and quirky adventures instead of nightmare fuel and despair.”
Torchlight 3 doesn’t stray too far from that established formula. It’s still flashy, it’s still wonderfully weird and I’m currently running around as a literal barrel-chested robot who unleashes burning hell on his enemies with a coal-powered gatling gun. At the same time, you can’t help but feel that there’s something missing from the game.
Some unidentifiable spark, a certain uniqueness that I’m just not feeling. Which is weird, because there’s a lot that Torchlight 3 gets right. For starters, your initial choice of classes are as varied as can be. There’s the aforementioned golem that I’ve been using to bonk goblins on the head with a great big sword, a Dusk Mage who embodies the idea of yin yang magic, the Railmaster who can steamroll through enemies by summoning a train, and the Sharpshooter who has an arsenal of guns that can only be described as utterly American.
Even better, Torchlight 3 adds pets to the mix and yes I decided to go with a chocolate Labrador who I named Jackson (after the family pooch). He’s a handy pack mule, he fights alongside me, and he’s a REALLY good boy as well! There are other options and builds, such as a ferocious feline who drops poison bombs.
Class design is where it’s at though, and each one of the warriors on offer has a meaty selection of skills with which to plug experience points into and go from a weak magician who can barely hurl a bolt of energy into a zombie all the way into a living god who commands the powers of light and darkness. The added wrinkle here is a resource meter that essentially replaces ye olde mana bar, although this functions more as a stamina bar.
For example my Forged character could unleash devastating shotgun blasts from his chest, but once his engine overheated it was back to trusty melee action with a pointed stick until he cooled down enough. Some classes can get around this stamina issue with the right build and focus, such as the Sharpshooter’s reload skill which removes that barrier almost instantly.
Relics are also another interesting addition, which gives your adventurer a mighty ultimate ability that requires a lengthy cooldown when cast. What’s neat here, is that these Relics can be slotted into any class and make for some wild combinations. Between the Coldheart Relic that can create a zone of absolute zero around you, the Electrode Relic’s ability to summon lighting storms to your location, or the Blood Drinker Relic healing you as you feast on the blood of fallen enemies, there’s a whole lot of mayhem to unleash with these sacred death-dealers and your character powers.
The point to all of this though, is that you might find yourself turned on or away by Torchlight 3’s execution of its character builds. Unlike the previous game and its deeper skill trees, Torchlight 3 is a more streamlined and accessible dungeon-crawler. It’s about quickly finding a playstyle that suits your needs and sticking with it, seldom exploring other options unless you feel the urge to do so.
Personally I prefer that system as it doesn’t waste my time and I’m purely here for digital junk food relaxation, but players expecting more complex builds and a subtle evolution of their abilities will most likely be left wanting. If more Relics are added in the weeks and months to come, that acknowledgement about the lack of complexity could change overnight though, as those class-agnostic items shake the game up terrifically.
The Legendarium is the final major piece in this puzzle, which provides up to three bonus passive skills once you’ve broken down a few Legendary items at an Enchanter’s Altar. Sacrifice gear that’s gathering dust, roll the dice, and see if you can improve your luck in combat. You can also personalise your character further with some grand fort designs, but other than a quick reconnaissance and a few upgrades for the bare necessities, I was more than happy to catch forty winks in a hovel between missions.
I’m also a fan of Torchlight 3’s environments, which check all the marks on a list of required fantasy and steampunk settings. Spooky graveyards filled with the rotting undead, military encampments, and goblin bases are all par for the course, but at least they look lovely to spill blood inside of. You’re able to do so with friends as well, and once the game is properly live (or I’ve rebuilt my favourite character on PC), I’ll be doing more of that.
That being said, I’ve tested the game on both PC and Xbox One X, and the PC has been by far my preferred platform for Torchlight 3. This isn’t an issue of control at either, as Torchlight 3’s console setup is brilliant and intuitive stuff. Combat functions like a dream, but micro-management and menu scrolling is an absolute chore thanks to a clunky design that bombards you with pop-ups and clumsy navigation. It’s a user interface that was clearly made for PC, and feels like an afterthought on console.
And yet I cannot shake the feeling of absolute okayness that permeates the structure of Torchlight 3. Make no mistake, it’s a good game and it has its fair share of fun moments, but it’s not a great game.Maybe it’s the fact that elements of its original free to play nature before it shifted gears can still be felt in the deepest strands of its DNA, but Torchlight 3 isn’t the time-sink I thought it’d be.
Holding my attention for a good 10-15 hours is no small feat, but pushing through to 20 hours just so that I could jot down a review of it revealed that it has more style than substance. And that style isn’t exactly loot couture right now.
Last Updated: October 13, 2020