Words that I had never thought I would hear after the development team behind Torchlight and Torchlight II said that they were moving on from the genre. Hack & Slashes are a dime a dozen, but good Hack & Slashes are hard to come by. With the original two Torchlight entries being “homages” to Diablo and Diablo II respectively, I personally think they were better which is a polarizing statement to be sure. So when Torchlight Frontiers was announced I did get excited but also had to wonder if it could live up to its predecessors especially after being renamed Torchlight III.
I’ll get one of the biggest things out of the way. Is Torchlight III worth picking up? Yes. It offers a decent Hack & Slash experience with four classes and five sub skill subsets to mix and match your characters with during creation. It even works really well on the console which is a good thing especially after Torchlight II made its console debut earlier this year. Is Torchlight III as good or better than its predecessors? No. I felt like a lot of aspects just weren’t there in terms of the magic that Torchlight and Torchlight II brought about. It’s not that it isn’t good, but I felt like it played it a bit too safe.
Torchlight III starts off with our four possible heroes on a boat to a continent rife with danger and hordes of Goblins this time around instead of Ratlin. Picking from either a Sharpshooter, a Dusk Mage, a Forged automaton or a Railmaster, you then get to select from one of the following Relics to supplement your character / class. Flaming Destroyer (Fire), Coldheart (Ice), Electrode (Electricity), Bane (Poison) or Blood Drinker (Bleeding) skill trees are available adding some degree of customization so that not exactly two Railmasters would be the same based off of their Relics.
Sure there are probably going to be tons of guides for the “best spec”, but honestly? Never been one to follow those so with my Forged on Normal and my Railmaster on Hard, I set out on my adventure! I also made a Sharpshooter and a Dusk Mage to see which class I really wanted to play but then settled on a second Railmaster on normal after a hefty patch that added some stuff in and fixed some issues that I had been having.
From a gameplay perspective, Torchlight III offers a pretty standard experience. You accept quests, head out of town, beat up a bunch of enemies, level up, rinse and repeat. It’s a Hack & Slash, that’s what you do. While you’re doing this though, you are treated to various environments that are nice to look at while you travel through them. Littered with sub-domains that can either be explored at your leisure (Blue Gates) or locked off until you have the appropriate quests (Red Gates) there’s no shortage of action.
Making a return are your animal companions (pets) that follow you around, help attack enemies and carry extra loot saving you from constantly having to go back to town or your fort every couple minutes. A little different from before though, your companions no longer have a behaviour loadout to prioritize attack, defense, or staying back and out of harm’s way. While not leveling up per say, falling a little more in line with The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing which used the beefed up idea of the original Torchlight’s animal companions, and your companions can now be loaded out with skills that are unlocked as you find other companions. Starting off with a Dog, Owl or Llama, you’ll soon have a variety of cats, birds, lizards or Fae depending on whoever was captured in those nasty cages often found by a boss’ loot chests. They don’t level up like Katarina, but having skills is nice.
In an interesting approach, instead of having all of the main features residing inside of the main town that you visit, some of these such as re-allocating skill points or making lumber, ingots or stone bricks are done within your fort that is yours to fully customize. Shared loot stash, animal housing and certain elements to give you an edge on the adventure as time moves on such as bonuses to loot and fire resistances can be had. What was neat about the fort is that it falls along the world map “journey line” that you follow from one main zone to the other.
Otherwise, the gameplay is rather smooth. You can allocate skills to A, B, X, Y as well as those four while holding down the Left Trigger. Adding a ninth through the right trigger and most abilities are at your fingertips including potions, town portals to town or your fort, or sending your animal companion back to town to sell off some gear if you don’t plan on sacrificing it for upgrades. In an interesting change though, your characters no longer have access to a mana bar or sphere. Instead, certain abilities rely on runic energy that can be filled by normally attacking enemies. Other abilities use charges instead allowing for a fair variety in terms of combat strategy if you mix and match them well enough.
Now probably one of my bigger problems with Torchlight III is that the story feels lackluster and hidden behind a more generic MMORPG approach that is more about taking quests, ignoring NPCs and getting loot. Lots and lots of loot. There are some cutscenes, but you don’t really get the sense of “story” from those back in town that give you your quests. It just didn’t feel as involved as the others did, and to make sure, I reloaded my console version of the first and re-re-bought Torchlight II but for my XB1. Both of these were heavy on the story, had plenty of random people with dialog while Torchlight III gives you a bare minimum in order to point you on your merry Hacking & Slashing way.
The other issue, and this will hopefully be patched, is the response time on certain things. Switching between tabs, especially your fame tab, can lock the game making you wonder if it crashed or not. Otherwise, sometimes looking at your loot you won’t see any images or stats of your gear for several seconds making the management a bit tough. Compounding that, for some odd reason, there’s only one weapon set while most Hack & Slashes offer you two in order to be more adaptable to your situation. Finally, I found it odd that you actually didn’t have the ability to compare gear stats from what was equipped versus what you had in your inventory. You had to either math or equip it and see how much it affected it.