After two noteworthy chapters, the Diablo-inspired series returns with Torchlight 3, but it pays for complicated development and poorly implemented ideas.
The story of Torchlight is strongly linked to that of the Runic Games studio, born from the ashes of Blizzard North, the same team that when it was still called Condor Games had given life to the father of isometric action RPGs: Diablo. The brothers Erich and Max Schaefer were the founders of Runic, while David Brevik, the other key figure in the birth of Diablo, had separated from his two colleagues. Torchlight came out in 2009, and in addition to being a decent action RPG, it anticipated the release of Diablo 3 by a few years, the development of which, at the time, was known to all, was stuck in a big quagmire. The second Torchlight arrived a few months after Diablo 3, in September 2012, even in that case the response was positive (recover the Torchlight 2 review). It must be said that the Torchlight series has never been a herald of action RPGs, but the experience of Runic and the two Schaefers had nevertheless produced some you play with some good ideas and that they got along within a genre then already tired.
The genesis of Torchlight 3
To get to talk about the genesis of Torchlight 3 we need to take a leap of about six years: in fact, the announcement of Torchlight Frontiers dates back to 2018, a project that was supposed to bring the universe conceived by Runic in a mass multiplayer context. . In the meantime, however, many things had changed: Runic Games no longer existed, in its place was born Echtra Games, in which only one of the two Schaefer brothers worked: Erich. Very soon the ambitions of creating an MMO collapsed: we don’t really know what happened, but we can guess it.
The months of testing on Torchlight Forontiers have probably highlighted problems that are too clear to be solved with agility, so Echtra decided to get back on a path already beaten by announcing the rebranding of Frontiers in Torchlight 3 and transforming the project (which originally had to be marketed as free to play) in an action RPG more in line with traditions. Torchlight 3 is therefore the result of a turbulent creative process and probably undecided about its main goals. Because although there is no doubt that skilled and competent people work in Echtra, the game bears on the skin all the signs of indecision and missteps that it was not possible to erase with so little time available.
Classes and skills
At least initially, however, Torchlight 3 hides its shortcomings behind it a pleasant and colorful style. The game universe has always been at odds with the darker and more gothic one of Diablo, especially the first two: Torchlight’s characters have curious proportions, monsters that evoke sympathy rather than repugnance.
Saturated and bright colors brush everything, from pieces of equipment to game maps, building an atmosphere, although not completely original, at least beautiful to look at. Game classes follow this over-the-top style thanks to rather interesting archetypes: in addition to the more standard Sharpshooter and Twilight Wizard, which do not need to be explored, there are the much more curious Forgiato and Mastrorotaia. The first is a nice steam robot that can use a cannon on his chest to fire machine gun salvos or hot cannon shots. The Mastrorotaia is instead a robust warrior accompanied by a fully armed train. Each of the classes has two separate skill branches and a third, associated with an elemental relic, which can be chosen just before starting the game. The skills are of fluctuating quality, at least for the Forged, the class we have had the most experience with.
In fact, the little robot has very useful and effective talents, while others we found uninspired or even redundant: at least two or three skills have very similar animations and effects, despite consuming a different number of resources. This spurred us to follow a very conservative approach to points management, which we preferred to spend on skills we used more often while neglecting everything else. By the end of the game, only half, or slightly more, of the available skill slots had been occupied.
This kind of approach doesn’t produce underdeveloped or inefficient characters at all. The possibility of upgrade a single skill up to ten times averting this, although, at some point, it may be necessary to select another talent to use immediately after the first, to regenerate resources. The ability to finish the game with two or three talents is certainly something positive, when viewed from the perspective of the freedoms guaranteed by the progression system and equipment.
It is not possible to act directly on the parameters of the character, but no one prevents us from transforming our Forged into a walking machine gun, completely neglecting the whole branch of melee weapons. Similarly, a character equipped with melee tools can transform into a gunslinger or a musketeer, and vice versa. In conclusion, Torchlight’s classic malleability remained intact and classes, while full of distinctive features, can even be twisted, readjusted and transformed into something different.
The problem you can run into following this approach, however, is to create highly specialized but not very varied characters, limited to a couple of moves to be performed cyclically. In the long run this weighs a lot, given the repetitiveness that characterizes the genre and, even more specifically, Torchlight 3. The loot system doesn’t help either: most of the objects found are of low quality and are limited to enhancing some statistics, while the legendaries are too rare and in turn not exactly exceptional. In short, it will not be long before you feel the progression system that gets stuck and stops giving a feeling of growth and empowerment.
Maps and enemies
Repetitiveness is a specter that hovers all too often during games of Torchlight 3. But it is in conjunction with the final part of the first act that we have begun to bear it badly, despite our good experience with other exponents of the genre. Echtra’s game runs out of fuel too soon and it no longer manages to create interest either in a crippled progression system or in an imaginary that proves more and more trivial as one approaches the end.
The beautiful and colorful fantasy of the beginning becomes unpleasant when you realize that maps exploit recycled assets more than they should, that the enemies are almost all the same (perhaps with different sizes and shades), that bosses have no personalities. Even the story that accompanies the events advances so hidden that it disappears completely, and in the end it goes on by inertia, curious to understand if there is something else that is worth continuing to play for. Nevertheless the developers have created a three-act game, which can last up to twenty hours in total, despite having just enough material for a third of the time.
The maps, managed by a procedural algorithm, are devoid of any point of interest and too vast for what they have to offer. And it is impossible to see even some pleasant glimpses, some passages built with skill, since the environments are so sparse and recycled that it is almost hard to understand that you have passed into a new area. There are different biomes, sure, but the number of times they vary is tremendously low and certainly inadequate for a game of this length.
But it is when you get close to the end or get in the presence of what the endgame should be, that we are witnessing the most glaring weaknesses. Gold, for example, can be collected in small quantities (set at twenty thousand coins): a limit that we struggle to understand and justify (if not as a legacy of the free-to-play soul), especially considering that coins are not needed. practically nothing.
There are no merchants, paid services, only a “gambler”, a crafty salesman who, upon payment, guarantees us completely random pieces of equipment.
The multiplayerTorchlight 3 multiplayer works in fits and starts. During our tests we had more than one difficulty getting into the game with a partner and there was no lack of disconnections or strange behavior of the servers. Playing multiplayer, however, helps to smooth out the feeling of repetition and allows you to find more often (thanks to a 15% luck bonus) rare equipment. Strangely, however, it is not possible to exchange collected items with your friends.
Needless to say, it’s not worth throwing money away by paying for his services. Also, enchanting weapons or armor is not possible until the main adventure is completed, but once we get to the end the game gives us this possibility. Not that this system is finished properly, but why make it available only at the end instead of introducing it in the middle of the adventure, guaranteeing at least a bit of panache and novelty, we just can’t say. Also during the endgame the possibility to explore others is unlocked dungeons with environmental modifiers (e.g. shortened life) to get some rewards. However, the system is so thin, so banal and repetitive that it does not deserve any attention.
The newest element of Torchlight 3 in relation to its legacy concerns the presence of a fort owned by the player, which serves as the basis of operations and which can be customized at will. Altars can be built to reassign skill points, displays for the most eye-catching armor or decorations to enhance the environment. Your fort then has the possibility of appearing in the games of other players, but only while they are crossing areas of connection between the main maps that maintain, even if only partially, the original MMO structure.
Taking care of the fort can give some satisfaction and is, on paper, a nice idea. However, it was not very thorough, forced into a game that could gladly do without it. And sorry, because the opportunities to make better use of it appear obvious. Gold, for example, would have been a great currency for buying items or simply for enlarging the area to build on, which becomes claustrophobic and limiting after a while. To get new items, you need to fill a fame bar, which advances when you take down rare and unique enemies. A necessity that tires quickly. Not even what could have been an element of originality and distinction, in short, has received the due attention.
Torchlight 3PC Analyzed VersionDespite being part of a series that has always stood out positively in the microcosm of isometric action RPGs, Torchlight 3 proved to be a mediocre, confused and incomplete game. Despite this, something is saved: the idea of the fort, if it had been better integrated and more cared for, would have had its reason. The malleability of skills and equipment, then, are a pleasant divergence from titles with a more guided and rigid structure. Too bad it’s the base that works badly. The maps are repetitive and uninteresting, the enemies all similar, the bosses lean, and the loot system inadequate. In short, Torchlight 3 is a game that shows the consequences of a stormy development path, of which it still bears the scars in the final version.