Torchlight 3 Review: An Innovative Sequel That (Mostly) Sticks The Landing

Torchlight 3 has arrived, bringing big changes from the previous two games. After going through a roller-coaster of development and game design, Torchlight 3 attempts to compromise between innovation in gameplay while also staying true to what fans loved about the older games.

The Relic System Is A Big Win For Players

The best innovation in Torchlight 3 comes in the form of Relics. Each class has two skills trees, and when creating a character, you are asked to choose one of five Relics that will provide access to a third skill tree. Your options are Bane, Blood Drinker, Coldheart, Electrode, and Flaming Destroyer.

Each Relic works great for leveling and is capable of clearing endgame content, though there will always be a meta for a few “best” builds. A Bane Railmaster, known as “The Bane Train” on Discord, excels as a minion-summoning build, whereas a Blood Drinker Railmaster inflicts bleeds and uses their hammer to slam opponents to a pulp with a ton of self-healing.

The result is four classes that feel closer to 20 because each Relic builds around a theme. While it would have been great to have the full three skill trees from previous games in addition to the Relic, this is still a great bit of innovation for the series, though the inability to change a Relic once chosen does feel a bit harsh, because the only way to know if you will like either of those Railmasters in the endgame is to level two characters, and that is asking a lot.

Maps Might Feel Too Linear

Torchlight 2 often featured open maps to explore and locate an objective, often requiring backtracking for several quests. Torchlight 3 does away with this completely, and instead each map and quest feel like a straightforward path through enemies until you arrive at an objective.

Once you finish an area, you simply move forward to find a Waypoint for fast travel and then move onto the next part of the map, but there is a minimalist approach to backtracking in this game and not once have I ever had to revisit an area. In the image below, you begin at the top from Trevail point, find the Waypoint, and then head to the end at Trevail passage. There are a few spaces to check around, but it is mainly a direct route with most maps repeating this design.

So, is this change good, or is it bad? It ultimately depends on your own playstyle. For those who enjoyed exploring the sprawling desert in Torchlight 2, this will feel like an awful downgrade that requires no exploration at all. However, I loved the simplicity of the map design because I could listen to an audiobook while playing.

If you are a multitasker and enjoy the ability to listen to other content while playing, Torchlight 3 offers gameplay that joins the ranks of Eurotruck Simulator 2 and Diablo 3 for the lack of focused attention needed at all times. Simply load in, start moving forward, and punch every Goblin that gets in the way in its adorable little face.

Forgettable Loot And Maximizing DPS

For better or for worse, gear has seen a shift in design that prioritizes high-damage weapons over everything else. During the main story, you could be decked out in the best armor for your level, but if you have not recently picked up a new weapon, your damage is going to feel underwhelming. The upside to this is that finding a good weapon is the only thing you really need to worry about, trivializing the rest of your gear in the process, especially if you use a Scroll of Lifebound to empower it further.

This extends to the endgame as well, where Legendary gear that grants set and skill bonuses are desired, on top of a high-damage weapon. Physical and elemental defense, damage evasion, and other similar types of defensive stats are mostly an afterthought, and the best strategy in the endgame is to be constantly moving to avoid damage outright.

Endless Dungeons As Endgame Content

Defeating the main story opens up Farzeer’s Dun-djinn, which is an “endless” gauntlet of maps with positive and negative modifiers. This is the main endgame content and source of bragging rights, as visiting a player hub will reveal the highest level cleared and its difficulty above each character’s head. There are also Contracts to complete, but this is a relatively quick process.

Whether or not this is a good design for endgame is yet to be seen, because on the surface it looks like players will reach a maximum level range with a few meta builds and that will be it. Diablo 3 continues to attract players eight years after its release because of its Seasonal Ladder resets that bring temporary modifiers, new set gear, changes to older Legendary gear, and more.

If Torchlight 3 can offer players similar changes to keep things fresh, the game could offer challenges for years to come. The keyword here is “if”, however, and nothing of the sort has been officially announced. One solution to this problem in Torchlight 2 was custom maps through mods, but Torchlight 3 does not allow mods at the moment, nor are their official plans to add the ability in later on.

Enchantments Are Locked Until The End

Enchantments are back in Torchlight 3, but unfortunately, they are locked away until you complete the main story, which should take you between 12-15 hours or so depending on playstyle and difficulty. Whatever the developer’s motivations for keeping this locked away, not allowing a character to enchant their gear is a missed opportunity, especially since the higher levels of difficulty up the health pools of enemies. One of the best feelings in Torchlight 2 was finding a new weapon and getting lucky on the first enchantment roll, but that is not possible here.

I Love Forts, But Not Everyone Agrees

Torchlight 3 adds the ability to decorate your own Fort, combining a mix of functional items useful for changing skills, accessing the shared stash, swapping out pets, enchanting your gear, upgrading your monuments for passive, account-wide bonuses, and diving into the endgame dungeon grind.

The rest is purely cosmetic, and if you are a fan of customizing your own space, this is a blast. If you do not care for decorating at all, it only takes a few moments to slap the essential items down and move on. In the image below, everything on the right is needed for class skill changes to classes, while everything on the left is the Dun-Djinns and enchanting.

A Good Sequel, But Not Great

Torchlight 3 took big risks with the addition of Relics, Forts, and its gear and map design, and these are mostly for the better depending on your gameplay preferences. With that said, the story and endgame currently feel a little barebones for a game that has released eight years after Torchlight 2. Expectations are always high after a solid sequel, and Torchlight 2 was an outstanding, but tough act to follow.

The result is that Torchlight 3 is a perfectly fun experience with some replay value, but even in writing this review, I have reached level 33 of the Dun-Djinn with a level-capped Blood Drinker Railermaster and it already feels too repetitive to keep my interest for long. I suppose I could level new characters, but the drive for that is diminished knowing there is not much to do once that journey is complete.

A PC copy of Torchlight 3 was provided for this review. Torchlight 3 is available now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, with a Nintendo Switch release date set for October 22.

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The Fantastic, Science-Fiction, and Horror are Patricio’s go-to genres for literature, film, and gaming. Dead by Daylight is his daily bread and butter as he writes for TheGamer. He teaches Spanish at McGill by day and writes next to his Staffy x Boxer rescue from the SPCA by night.

Patricio graduated from the University of Alberta in 2006, 2012, and will have one more degree in hand by 2020. Innovation in game development, the economics of making games profitable, and the downward, decadent spiral of former great gaming companies fuels his soul to write daily. Will Blizzard Entertainment do something controversial often enough to keep this reference relevant? Patrick certainly believes they will.

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