STAFF REVIEW of Torchlight III (Xbox One)

Friday, October 23, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Torchlight III Box art It’s crazy to think that it’s been just a little under a decade since Torchlight II was released. A lot of games in the action RPG (ARPG) genre have released since then, with some able to hold their own against the undeniable king of ARPGs, Diablo. While I never got into the Torchlight series before for the most part, Torchlight III kind of took me by surprise, as even after a dozen hours I still wanted to play continuously with my friends online to grind and improve my character. Even though the gameplay is repetitive by design, that carrot on the stick dangling in front of you with new abilities and gear is what makes you keep playing, even after maxing out your level and finishing the campaign.

While there’s a narrative to Torchlight III, it’s told in small tidbits, cutscenes at the end of each of the three chapters. Novastraia is in danger, as a looming threat and invasion is on the horizon, so you must save the world. Yes, it’s a tired trope, and while I would have enjoyed having a deep story with in-game cutscenes, at least there’s some semblance of a story, even if it’s not very original or gripping. Thankfully in ARPG’s like this, most enjoy them for its gameplay rather than a strong narrative, and Torchlight III is no different, as the excellent gameplay will be your primary focus throughout.

Like most ARPG’s, you’ll be exploring the world, grinding away, leveling up, gathering gear, crafting, defeating massive bosses and repeating it over and over. There’s no shortage of activities to do, not even including grinding for new gear after reaching the max level of sixty. Oddly enough, there’s only four tiers of loot; grey, green, blue and orange. Even after maxing level and grinding, it feels like there should be one higher tier of ultimate loot, but alas, there is none. Thankfully there is an endgame and a hardcore mode for those that want a bigger challenge later on.

To begin your adventure you first choose one of four classes and a choice of five relics, which is essentially an element, all of which have their own skills, abilities and bonuses. With a bunch of combinations, you can spend your skill points freely as you level up to improve and customize your class in any way you wish, but be aware that you’re caped at 70 skill points by the time you reach max level, so you won’t be able to max and utilize every skill at once.

While the four classes fall into the typical roles of dps or tank, they are quite unique in their playstyles and abilities. The Dusk Mage is your ranged magician, acting like a glass cannon. The Forged is an adorable robot that uses his heat meter to unleash attacks and can become quite a beefy tank. The sharpshooter is your typical ranger and can destroy enemies from quite a distance. Lastly, and my personal favorite that I stuck with throughout, was the Railmaster. This is your dps class that can utilize a massive two-hander for big hits, but also has a train that follows you around, allowing you to outfit it with different cars like mortars, shields, turrets, or flamethrowers.

Each class plays quite differently, and while I had my favorite with the Railmaster, there’s reasons you’ll want to try and level them all, aside from the achievements of course. Interestingly, each class has two different skill trees you can spec into, choosing to become a powerhouse with one and focusing on one playstyle, or spreading out your abilities across both to be more rounded. For example, on my Railmaster, one tree allows me to focus on my train and its bonuses and abilities, while the other is more based on two handed hammer skills. What I really liked was focusing on just a few abilities that I made really strong rather than a handful of different ones in a rotation.

To further customize your character, you’ll also choose one of five relics, unable to be changed though, so choose wisely and determine what would best suit your class and playstyle. These relics add not only another skill tree full of bonuses and abilities, but can drastically change how you play as well. Choose between Bane (Poison), Blood Drinker, Coldheart, Electrode, and Flaming Destroyer. These essentially act like a subclass, and since I focused my Railmaster on his train abilities, almost like a pet, I chose Bane so that I could summon more spiders and minions to fight alongside me, almost turning it into a Necromancer-like class. Even playing the same class with a different relic and make for a completely different experience, so make sure to try them all out, as they are quite unique and have some really interesting abilities that pair well with certain classes. Should you spend points into your class or relic skills and simply don’t enjoy it or want to swap them, you can refund points with Respectacles, which you’ll earn throughout your adventure in a variety of different ways. This allows you to try out even more abilities or combinations to see what works best for your playstyle without having to save a bunch of points and spend hours researching beforehand.

Returning from Torchlight II is the fame system, though it’s been altered this time. Now you’re given three different categories you’d like to work towards. Some give cosmetics, fort items, loot and other bonus items. Fame is basically a specialized experience you get for defeating the harder and more unique monsters you’ll find throughout your adventure. These fame bonuses are nothing really substantial, but at least give another layer of progression you can focus on in endgame.

An ARPG just wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t focus on its gear flow and progression, and Torchlight does this fantastically. You’ll find a variety of different armor and weapons basically nonstop as you play, almost always upgrading, even if minor at times. Not only will each item change the look of your character, but there’s a ton of variety in the stats and bonuses, so you’ll be looking quite some time for that perfect set of gear.

Pets also return to Torchlight III, fighting alongside you and can be used to hold your extra gear pickups or even be sent back to town to sell your items for you. You’ll earn new pets as random as you defeat certain bosses, ranging from Alpacas, Cats, Dogs, Birds and more. These range in rarity as well and can equip a few pet only items to improve their abilities and stats.

Early on you’ll unlock your Fort, your home away from home. This Fort, which is account based, can be fully customized with items you earn from your Fame levels, allowing you to decorate it however you wish. You’re able to access your account stash here to swap gear with your other characters and sacrifice items to increase your gold percentage drops and more. While I didn’t really spend much time in the decoration side of the Forts, my friends did and they had some really cool looking homes that I was able to visit and see for myself.

Once I completed the campaign, I was around level 45 or so. With a max of 60, I was unsure how I was going to grind until then. Thankfully, once you complete the game, the real endgame begins with challenges. You’ll get a genie you can place in your Fort that allows you to challenge yourself with progressively harder levels, allowing you to grind for experience, gold and items. The catch though is that each rank of challenge has you choosing from three different randomized cards, each with a positive and negative to that outcome. Maybe one card will give you bonus loot change or fame, but it’ll probably also have a serious negative like double monster health and speed. There’s some variety and will keep you playing long after you reach level sixty. Also a post-game addition is the ability to improve your gear that has enchantment slots, which is a whole other grind and money sink as well.

For how much I loved playing Torchlight III, there’s a laundry list of bugs and issues with it as well. Firstly, I’ve lost count how many bugs and crashes I’ve encountered. I’ve been stuck in areas unable to move, my train wouldn’t spawn or follow me, I’ve had the game freeze for 30 seconds at a time, and numerous crashes to the Xbox dashboard. It got to a point where my friends and I were simply expecting one of us to crash or get kicked sooner rather than later. There’s so many issues and bugs that I’m sure will be fixed in time with updates and patches, and I could forgive the odd crash or issue here and there, but it was a substantial issue we had to constantly deal with from beginning to end, even on an Xbox One X. Truth be told, I've actually held off playing until a substantial patch fixes these issues.

Even after a dozen hours and more, I still want to log on every night with my friends and grind some genie challenges out to try and get a new piece of gear and upgrades. Best enjoyed with friends, visually it can become quite chaotic when four players are all casting their spells and abilities, filling the screen with particles, explosions and damage numbers. I don’t normally get hooked on ARPG’s like this, but Torchlight III is addictive, beautiful to look at and sounds great, it’s just a shame that there’s so many issues and crashes that are a constant frustration. With a patch or two that fixes its main problems Torchlight III could easily hang with the bigger names in the genre, but until then it’s still an entertaining game to enjoy, but you’ll constantly have to battle against the game itself.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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