When the original Torchlight launched in 2009, a friend and I checked it out as it resembled Diablo II in a lot of ways, and Diablo II was my favorite PC game for many years. Since at the time a Diablo III seemed farfetched, Torchlight was a great alternative and I enjoyed it a lot more than I originally though I would. The same went for its sequel, Torchlight II. I put quite a few hours into both games and when I saw that Torchlight III was coming out of Early Access, I was eager to check it out for review. Will my eagerness to take on the Netherim persist throughout my time with the game, or are we getting to the point where the series is basically using a copy-and-paste formula? Let’s take a look at Torchlight III on the Xbox One. (For the record, I did not play the Early Access version.)
In Torchlight III the Netherim are once again wreaking havoc throughout Novastraia and it’s up to you to traverse Novastraia and defeat the Netherim. You begin by choosing which class you’d like to play. Your choices this time around are Sharpshooter, Dusk Mage, Forged, and Railmaster. As per typical RPGs of this nature, each class has their own skills they can use and weapons they specialize in, though Torchlight III does something a little different. Each class has two skill “trees” they can put skill points into as they level up, but after choosing your class you will now choose one of five relics: Bane, Blood Drinker, Coldheart, Electrode, and Flaming Destroyer. Each relic has its own set of skills that you can spec into but once you choose a relic, you can’t change your mind. Choose carefully.
Relic skills require energy to use if they’re not passive abilities, though your energy meter will recharge over time as you deal damage to enemies. There is a catch to the relics, though, as some skills do require certain weapons to use. To my knowledge any weapon can be used with any class, but like similar games, certain weapons can benefit specific classes, usually through a bonus to a skill they can learn. Torchlight III is no different and the relic skills might require certain weapons to use. For instance, the Flame Destroyer relic has a skill called Giant Swings that requires the character to be using either a Great Weapon or a Digitus. Thankfully I went through the game as a Dusk Mage who typically uses a Digitus so I’m good there. But this also means you might end up with a skill that will force you to use a weapon you might not otherwise want to.
I also wrote skill “trees” in quotes for a reason as they’re not really trees this time around. For each skill page—one for each of your two main skill types and one for the relic—you have several tiers of skills, each with a skill or two to learn. As you level up, the higher tiers will become available to learn and the skills can be leveled up themselves with more skill points. However, you don’t have to learn the skills in any particular order. As long as a tier is available you can learn a skill from it. For instance, my Dusk Mage’s Light skill page only had a couple of points spent on the tier one skills. I tend to spend my points in the Dark skill page. However, if they’re open I can spec into skills at tiers three, four, or even five without spending anything in tier two. That’s fine in a sense as you don’t have to spec into skills you might not otherwise want or need, but it also takes away a bit of the sense of your character growing and learning the smaller skills before building up to the higher ones.
You also have little chances to respec your skill points. Throughout the game you can find Respectacles which refunds you a skill point, but these don’t seem to pop up very often, so you really don’t get a chance to experiment with different builds. Also not present is actually spending points into stats such as attack and defense. This is all done through your gear, which is nice as it minimizes what you have to worry about when leveling up. However, once again it kind of takes away what’s nice about this style of RPG which is actually seeing your character grow stronger as they level up. Your character still gets stronger but now it’s basically tied to your gear and not completely by your decision on what stats to build up. On the upside I never really felt like I had to do a bunch of grinding to level up. Any time I was overwhelmed with enemies outside of a boss fight I had enough room to back up and reassess the situation before diving back into the fray.
The pet system has returned from the previous entries and serves pretty much the same purpose. While you choose your pet from a few different types at the start of the game, you can obtain new pets along your journey and can switch them out after a while. Your pet can help attack enemies and can even be equipped by a couple of pieces of gear, namely a collar and two tags. If your pet takes too much damage they’ll retreat for a couple of minutes. As your own inventory fills up you can move some of it over to your pet, then send your pet to town to sell off the gear and bring back the gold you make by doing so. This will also leave you without your pet for a couple of minutes. It’s worth noting, however, that if your pet retreats due to taking too much damage, they won’t actually return to town, so they won’t sell anything you moved over to their inventory. Pets can also no longer purchase potions while in town, though I didn’t have too many instances, if at all, where I was incredibly low on potions, and even if I was after a difficult battle (or if I needed to stock up beforehand), I’d just create a portal back to town and buy some.
Beyond relics and skill pages, each class also has a unique ability that ties into their skills. For the Dusk Mage they have two small meters next to their mana orb, one for dark and one for light. Deal damage with each skill type will fill those meters. Once both are full, they have unlimited mana for a short period of time. With a good amount of points invested into Unholy Bolt as my primary attack and my gear upping my mana, I was rarely short on running out of Unholy Bolts. Other skills I invested into included slowing enemies and dealing some damage over time, along with sending out a trail of spikes to deal damage to those slowed enemies. Each of those skills have a four-second cooldown and fill my dark meter rather quickly. Combine that with a couple of light skills and I made my Dusk Mage a force to be reckoned with. Each class has their own skills and unique abilities so it’s worth it to explore each class to see what works for you.
A couple of other additions to the game include Forts and Fazeer Shah’s Dun’djinn. Forts allow you a place to rest and kind of leave your mark in the world. You can decorate your fort with various trophies you’ve earned throughout your travels as well as give it some functionality in the forms of a chest to store loot you don’t want to get rid of, a place to swap out pets, and take care of some resource management such as turning lumber into logs. You’ll occasionally stumble upon your fort between areas as you travel and you can also create a portal to transport you to your fort, as well as the main town if you wish. However, beyond swapping out my pet and putting a few high-rarity items in my chest, I rarely visited my fort. Fazeer Shah’s Dun’djinn is available once you clear Act 3 and is an endless dungeon that’s filled with a series of challenge levels for the player to undertake. The challenges increase in difficulty the further you go, but so do the rewards. Like the main game you can take on this challenge with friends in multiplayer.
Torchlight III overall has a bit of a different feel to it than the previous two games, which may turn off some fans of the series. In some ways it feels and looks simpler, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On the one hand, it feels like it’s a bit easier for newer players to get into which in turn may make them want to check out the previous entries. On the other hand, fans of the previous games may find things a bit too simplified with skill trees that don’t flow as they previously did and a lack of being able to fully control your characters’ stats beyond their skills and gear. I can see both aspects and while I do prefer the previous entries, I still enjoyed Torchlight III and plan to go back through at some point with the other classes. Torchlight III is enjoyable but doesn’t bring a lot new to the series while removing some things that fans enjoyed from the previous games. Fans of the series will likely see it as a downgrade.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.