The Torchlight series is a string of hack and slash RPGs in the vein of Diablo, Titan Quest, Sacred, and the like. The original Torchlight and its sequel were made by developers who had worked on titles such as Fate and Diablo, giving them a lot of experience with the hack and slash RPG genre. Torchlight III, originally meant to be a Torchlight free to play MMO, was rebranded to be the third installment of the series and finally released last month. So is Torchlight III worth venturing through the frontier, or is this a torch whose light has gone out? Let’s find out.
The story of Torchlight III is told through quests, audio logs, and the occasional cutscene, though the story itself is pretty standard fare since the gameplay is typically the focus of hack and slash RPGs and this game is no exception to that statement. The primary focus is on selecting your character class, determining where you want to put your skill points as you level up, how well loot you find synergizes with your character’s abilities, and all of the extra passives you can apply while exploring and looting your way through Torchlight III’s world.
Torchlight III plays about how you’d expect for a game in similar vein as Diablo, Path of Exile, and the like: You select a character class and then build your character around the particular niche you want them to fill. Torchlight III features four classes with two skill trees, with a third skill tree (effectively) being provided by one of five relics you can select during character creation. It is important to note that skill points can be respec’ed using an item called Respectacles, but when you pick a relic you are stuck with it until you start a new character. Some relics start off immediately impacting how you play, while others get gradually better over the course of the game.
The Sharpshooter class excels at ranged combat, has some crowd control capabilities that can debuff or pierce multiple enemies, and can call the spirits of various animals who can also provide benefits like knocking back enemies and making foes more vulnerable to damage. The Dusk Mage is the caster class of Torchlight III, with a variety of useful abilities stretched across its light and dark magic trees- light can be useful to pierce multiple enemies and buff your character, while dark can deal AOE damage and debuff targets. The Forged class puts you in command of a robot that can shoot a gun out of its chest or burn enemies at close range, even allowing you to become a whirling dervish of blades that cuts through swaths of enemies like hot robot through butter. The Railmaster is a unique take on a pet class, as you can crush enemies with your hammer or build up the train that follows you to deal damage or provide a variety of bonuses as you venture through dungeons.
The relics, which function as sub classes, offer bonuses to your character no matter which class you are. These level with you using skill points just like other things in the game, and some benefits from a relic may benefit one character type over another but can provide a nice dimension to your character while you’re leveling or completing maps at end game. Your pets can also have skills attached to them, like an eagle that can screech and stun enemies, or a dog that can give bonus critical damage, and this is on top of them being extremely useful for selling items when you don’t want to waste time doing so manually. Gear has a colored grading system like what you would expect from a title in this genre, so you’ll know when you find a rare item versus a legendary one by color indicator alone- which is extremely useful, because there is a ton of loot in Torchlight III that provide a bevy of useful abilities, and there are loads of materials for you to pick up that can be used to craft items or manage your fort.
The fort is a nifty little place where you have complete control over how you personalize the space- each rock, bush, and structure can be placed, moved, rotated, etc., within your fort. There is a high variety of items you can craft and place around your fort and things you find while adventuring can be placed on walls in prominent locations as proof you did a specific task or beat a particular baddie. Your fort is also where you craft items and store your items, with things like the sawmill and stonemason being useful for creating new items to place around your fort for maximum customization, but you also get an enchanter’s altar and various monuments that can dramatically make you more powerful.
The user interface on the PlayStation 4 version of the game takes a little getting used to, but once you develop a memory for where everything is, it becomes far less of an issue, though either there is no way to filter loot, or that option was missed while playing for this review. A loot filter would dramatically improve overall game pace and flow, but as of this writing there doesn’t seem to be a way to do that in the PS4 version. That’s a missing feature that expedited flow of the game in other hack and slashes that, while not a dealbreaker, is missed in Torchlight III.
After completing the campaign, you’ll be able to access the end game content of various challenge levels with different modifiers you can influence- effectively “picking your poison,” so to speak. You’ll be shown a grouping of cards with each showing you a positive and negative modifier- so one card may give you higher luck on getting better gear, but one in every five monsters is invisible, that sort of thing. After selecting the modifiers you’re comfortable with, you can run through a familiar location combating familiar enemies with a higher chance of receiving great loot the further you go without dying, and new modifiers will be placed on you as you progress. You may also be tasked with acquiring a certain number of items from killing enemies before you can continue to the next map, which presented its own set of challenges when the game seemingly didn’t spawn enough random mobs to give enough items to progress to the next map (though, thankfully, this issue has not come up since the last update. Hopefully, this has been fixed and it’s not that my luck improved).
The graphics of Torchlight III are bright and colorful, opting for a more cartoon-esque appearance than the grimdark footage of Diablo IV, for example. This does make the game inviting, though visually Torchlight III can be kind of bland at times.
There is always legendary loot to find, pets to release, and things to unlock that can even be used across alt characters. The shared stash returns where you can stow away items for other characters, but the unlocks you get from high fame and anything for your fort can be used across all of your characters. The encounters can be quite interesting, especially when you begin to find more gear that synergize well with your chosen skills. There also were few frame drops, if any, while playing Torchlight III on a base PS4- it feels weird that this warrants a mention but performance issues are so commonplace nowadays that it needed to be said.
There is more content on the way to Torchlight III, eventually, but right now the game stands in a pretty decent place. There’s fun to be had and it’s a great experience through the campaign even though it’s mostly just checking things off the, “Hack and slash RPG checklist” for the most part. There’s nothing particularly spectacular if you weren’t looking for an above average action RPG experience, and while the beginning of the game seemed droll, Torchlight III became much more entertaining and addictive after the halfway point of the game as the Sharpshooter’s kit really started to come together with the ice abilities afforded by the chosen relic.
If there’s any one complaint about Torchlight III, it’s that it seems to take a good amount of investment before your selected character really feels powerful because a lot of legendaries don’t seem like they bring a lot to the table in making your character feel more unique, which is what a lot of games in this genre offer- in fact, rare equipment in other hack and slash RPGs can completely revolutionize a character and change how they play from a fundamental perspective. While it’s very true that Torchlight III is in its infancy and I am not an expert on RPGs in the slightest, I simply didn’t find many that offered additional complexity to a character (though this might be due to the Legendarium, which lets you equip legendary skills based on legendary items you break down via the enchanter’s altar). This is a pretty big difference from various items and set bonuses completely changing how characters work in Diablo III, where three witch doctors could be built in ways that are almost entirely unique to one another (though viability becomes an issue at greater rift 100+, obviously).
Overall, Torchlight III is a very easy to pick up and enjoy hack and slash RPG- if Path of Exile, Diablo II, Titan Quest, and Grim Dawn are the four course meals of the hack and slash world, then Torchlight III is the diner with delicious food off the highway exit- you know the one. You can sit down without needing to look into what is on the menu beforehand and still enjoy yourself. By the end of the meal, you may find things a little lacking since the after-final-boss content is playing through the same maps but with modifiers attached. There’s really nothing wrong with Torchlight III- it’s a competently put together game that actually became more entertaining as progress was made; just don’t expect the same staying power of the juggernauts of the genre, though that could be improved by the development team post launch, and it will be interesting to see what kind of improvements are made to the game long term to increase its longevity.