Written by Edwin Francisco • Staff Writer
When Torchlight 3 or as it was originally called “Torchlight Frontiers” was announced, I was excited. I really wanted to see what the original developers of Diablo, Echtra Games, would turn up with. I loved the original two games. Will the new game be the same as before, or will it be something refreshing?
Torchlight 1 and 2 really were good alternatives to playing Diablo 3. The games were made by the core designers of the original Diablo games. Diablo 3 was a major departure from what we are used to in Action Role Playing Games (ARPG). Diablo 3 offered that the skills were all accessible once you unlocked them and you can switch to any skill whenever you wanted. Diablo 3 offered something new and it did alienate some core fans of the Diablo series. Torchlight on the other hand, went back to the basics and reminded you why Diablo 1 and 2 were in a class of their own.
Torchlight made itself different from Diablo by the look and feel. Diablo’s art style is very dark, it has a feeling of being on a journey going down to hell. Even if you look at most ARPGs today, they are in general, adapting a dark, realistic, highly detailed look (like Path of Exile, Titan Quest). Torchlight instead made it look more like a 3D cartoon. It’s drastically different, and it did define itself that it has its own style. I usually have no issues with the style of the art, my issue with the game is that it barely has any improvements visually. There are a few, like the depth of field when doing a character check, and there are more details in the environment that pop out, metallic objects now shine, but that’s it. Even when using the ingame graphics for some minor cut-scenes, the draw distance is pretty short. I know the game is designed as a top-down action game, but their cut-scenes really puts the camera really close to the characters and you can see a bit of the background. It was just sad to see that there is almost nothing to see in the background. It’s not bad, it’s just underwhelming.
The music in the game has that same feeling from the iconic Diablo 1 and 2. Since it’s the same composer, Matt Uelman who also made the music for the original StarCraft and World of Warcraft. However, even though it was from the same composer, the impact is not the same. While Diablo, StarCraft and World of Warcraft had this appeal that it really makes it shout out from the visuals, the music in Torchlight 3 really put itself at the back. It just doesn’t make itself interesting. You can take the time to listen to Torchlight 2, and somehow that still sounds better than Torchlight 3.
The general gameplay of Torchlight is very similar to most ARPGs. If you have played Diablo, Titan Quest, Minecraft Dungeons, Path of Exile; you will be at home playing this one. Diablo stands out with extreme customization and higher unique weapons on higher levels. Minecraft has simplified mechanics but with fun graphics that is welcoming for new young players. Path of Exile was designed with Diablo 2 fans in mind with extreme depth of their skill tree. Even Magic the Gathering has their own upcoming ARPG called Legends, which introduces a Collectable Card system that randomizes your skills.With so many games out there, Torchlight 3 has a lot to prove on what makes them stand out from the rest.
Making a character will make you choose from a Sharpshooter (long range), Dusk Mage (magic), Forged (melee and ranged), to a Railmaster (melee, explosive). Each character will have 3 sets of skills. 2 of the skill sets are provided by default, and you have to choose 1 relic skill set out of the 5 relic skills provided. This actually provides you with 24 skills that you can unlock throughout a single characters playthrough. You can only equip up to 9 skills. Personally, I wasn’t able to fill up the 9 slots, but that is just my playstyle I suppose. There are a lot of reasons to experiment with the characters and with the combined relics. Just because of this, it did get me interested in going for another playthrough to experience something new.
The skill system is not that different from Torchlight 2, so if you have played it before, it’s not too different of a change. You still level up skills by points. Placing points is critical because it won’t be easy to change it back, unless you earn a “respectacle” point to reset one skill point. Respectacles are only earned through quests and boss kills. In my entire gameplay, I think I got only a few. I was able to earn 57 skill points but got 6-8 respectacles through the first playthrough. So, you really have to be careful when to use them.
There is another addition called the Legendarium, wherein all the special items you get that have this special passive skill is gained automatically. At the start of the game, you are only able to use one, but you can change this at any time. You can have a maximum of 3 Legendarium skills that are not being used by an equipped weapon. If you are familiar with Kanai’s Cube in Diablo 3, it is practically the same concept. The difference here is that you can switch at any time anywhere in the game, while in Diablo 3, you can only do it in town.
The pet system is also back. In Torchlight, this is one aspect that made it unique. I haven’t seen any game do the same thing. In previous games, the pet helps you out by doing basic attacks and bringing your items. You give them equipment to help you as they are your companion. What’s new is that they have special skills by default, and you can add more skills the higher your level goes. You can only unlock skills by getting more pets. My only issue here is that you can’t make beds in your fort for all of them. I know the beds don’t do anything, it’s just for visual appeal.
Talking about forts, this is I think the biggest addition to the game. You can customize this to your liking. By default, it’s already pre-decorated. The more you play, the more you get additional decorations. This is not just for show though. It does have a few things that really matters to the player. There are objects there that you can give all your characters a bit of a permanent boost. Like one decor is designed to make you have more luck with items that you get, or another decor that can give you more resistance to poison. This is also the only place you can enhance slotted weapons. You can also make statues here to hold a set of armor which you can switch up for you to use at any time. Also, once you finish the main game, this will be your main base since it is the only place for you to access the higher level challenges. My problem with Forts is that it’s mostly for show, this only matters if you play a lot of the multiplayer game feature. The multiplayer set-up, you can share to everyone you’re playing with what your Fort looks like. As a focused single player myself, all the decorations that are just for show were just clutter to me.
It might be just my gameplay style, but the game was a bit dragging for the first few levels. The game only picked up when I got to level 20. Despite the fact that I thought it was just me, another person I talked to also had the same feeling. After reaching that point, the game got really interesting. The problem is that it took its time before getting to that moment. I even told my wife during the first few days that I was playing this that the game was feeling to be a bit of a chore. It’s possible that it’s the time when I was able to max out a few of my skills, where I was already hitting hard on my enemies.
After finishing the main game. I did wonder what the game can still offer. Most ARPGs have so much more to do after the main game. If you want to keep on using your character, you will unlock enchantments, in which you can make a small upgrade to your slotted items. Note that I never saw a slotted item throughout my game until I got the end of the game. You’ll also unlock challenges, in which you have to choose 1 challenge out of 3 that are shown to you. After choosing, you’ll enter a randomly generated area. This gives a little more variety than just making the levels harder. In the challenge missions, you must try not to die though, or else it will reset your progress in the challenge.
The game has bugs, although not overwhelming. One bug that I found is that your pet goes missing once you enter an area. There is a simple solution though: just go back to your fort and switch pets. It’s just frustrating that you might forget that you don’t have your pet and you’re in the middle of a fight. Another bug that I saw was when looking at the items you have gotten, somehow the 3D image keeps shaking for no reason. Moving around from one item to another fixes it though. Another bug was the audio and animation, where the game just stutters like crazy. So far, I only encountered that when I got Quick Resume to work. The sound only stutters when the game is overwhelmed with a lot of audio sources and the game pauses for a few seconds. This can be corrected by closing the game and forcing a restart.
The development of the game was a bit rocky. The main team was split early on when Perfect World Entertainment bought Runic Games. Some of the main leads left and started their own game company called Double Damage Games (Rebel Galaxy, Rebel Galaxy Outlaw). Runic was dissolved at this point and the remaining team renamed themselves as Echtra Games. The new Torchlight game was originally planned as a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game entitled “Torchlight Frontiers” in 2018, possibly similar to what Path of Exile was doing. It was only in January 2020 when they changed the title to Torchlight 3 and removed the MMO component.
I do hear that game developers are constantly communicating with the community which is a good thing. Actually, I think they made the game with the community in mind in the hopes of making the ultimate Torchlight game. In general, I don’t have any issues with this, but at the same time, it just resulted in a mixed bag from concept to execution. I wanted to experience something new in Torchlight 3, but I have to say that there was nothing really special with it. I suppose they were trying to satisfy so many people, it was pleasing to the core fans, but then again, it didn’t offer anything new that I haven’t seen before.
Torchlight 3 by Echtra Games Is A Bit Undercooked
Overall, the game feels undercooked. I really wanted to like the game, but I felt underwhelmed by it. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my time with it, and I think I can squeeze a little more from it. Maybe I was spoiled by playing Diablo 3, or it is because of my high expectation from the original developers of Diablo 1 and 2. I also think the development was spread thin since they originally envisioned it as a Massively Multiplayer Online game instead of the single player experience. Because they were trying to satisfy the community too much, it pulled its reins back and prevented it from becoming a great game it had the potential to be. I do have hopes for this one though, since it might improve over time and the developers are still working on improving it.
Rating of 3 out of 5
Game released on June 13, 2020
Developed by Echtra Games
Published by Perfect World