Torchlight III Review – Your Own Personal Hell
Torchlight IIIOctober 13th, 2020
Diablo III is one of the most beloved multiplayer games of all time. You'll be questing through a huge variety of stages and levels, fighting against demonic offspring and smashing through their dungeons with your friends, whether you're sat on the sofa next to one another, or online. Diablo III even manages to deliver this high standard on Nintendo Switch, with four players on a single system running at 60FPS. But this isn't Diablo III. This is Torchlight III, a Diablo-like, with almost none of the redeeming qualities. Maybe it is acceptable to launch this game on PC and not have any semblance of local multiplayer, but when you're launching on PS4, all you're doing is marking yourself as the lesser version of a game which already exists. Before it had even begun, Torchlight III marked itself for death.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Torchlight III is the latest Diablo-like from Echtra Games, a studio founded from the ashes of Runic Games, the developer of the first two Torchlight titles. In Torchlight III you'll be exploring a long, mostly linear path with dungeons that spring up on the sides. You'll move forward, defeat swathes of enemies, delve into a dungeon, defeat swathes of enemies, head back to town, equip your salvaged gear, sell the surplus, head back into the wilds, and repeat endlessly. It's no surprise from that description that the experience grinds very, very quickly.
You start out at Trevail Point, a small port settlement, which is under attack by enemy forces. You move in, mow them down, and then this becomes a central base for you to return to regularly to sell your gear and grab quests for the future. I played the part of a steampunk-style machine, one which builds up hot coals in an internal furnace, and then unleashes them to do massive damage to crowds of enemies. Blasting enemies from a distance with a heat-powered gun and then devastating a wave with very immediately satisfying, and that satisfaction didn't wear off until I had at least taken down two or three dungeons while performing the same actions over, and over, and over again.
Torchlight III was originally announced as Torchlight Frontiers, and you can tell why. The whole story and setting is that of traveling to a brand new world, one which hasn't been settled by modern colonizers, and then part of your task is taming that world for the colonizers, of course. I suppose the fact that the character classes you choose at the beginning of the game have a darker skin tone - and one of them is a robot - is meant to assuage the doubts surrounding being a violent colonizer that charges in and utterly mercilessly destroys the native wildlife. You even set up small forts along the path to the end of the game, home bases which are there so you can easily stock up on materials and put away gear before you move onward
Of course, there are skill points and skill trees to keep combat "fresh" but all it actually amounts to is another button to press as the hoard of enemies crowds around you. The attacks often feel disjointed and lack any real weight or impact. A heat vent attack shoots out a wave of flames from my mechanized warrior and hits multiple enemies at a time, but they don't even flinch for a second. The heat gun you start with is much better at feeling impactful, but as you progress through the game you realize that, even with many upgrades and new gear, enemies can tank dozens of hits before being taken down. And you'll be using these attacks over, and over, and over. Did I mention repetition? It gets repetitive.
This is tough to distinguish, so bare with me, but Torchlight III feels like a game that knows what it is and aims to be exactly that, a Diablo-like. Diablo, meanwhile, lures you in with what seems to be a grand quest to save a dark and depressing world, before getting you caught up in the min-maxing of pieces of gear and weaponry. Torchlight III feels like it dumps you straight into the gear and weaponry side of things - I'd barely managed to look through all of the menus before the game had my inventory filled with mostly useless equipment. Players that know what they're getting into and want a Diablo-like won't find this to be a problem at all, but I need a reason to want to play the game. I need a reason to want to progress. And Torchlight III gives me nothing. I don't care about killing these apparently innocent boss monsters, I don't care about the story of colonizers, I don't care about doing more damage than I did five minutes ago. The world isn't interesting to explore, the combat grinds on you very quickly, and I don't even have the option of suffering through it with a friend in local multiplayer. This is a bit of a joke, honestly.
All of these complaints suck for me to type out, honestly, as Torchlight III isn't a terrible game. It's just terribly uninspired. The team has done what they needed to do to make a Diablo-like. It's decently polished, there are lots of enemies to fight, pieces of gear to collect, and the world is large. But I don't care. Unless you already have a group of friends chomping at the bit to purchase and play a game like this together, I don't see why you should care. Torchlight III will find no new fans for the franchise, it'll cater solely to the people that have been keeping an eye on it throughout early access, and it'll fall into the background very quickly. And you know what? It could've all been absolutely forgivable if only I could've played local multiplayer with a friend.
That alone is one of the most monumental mistakes I've seen while reviewing a video game in recent memory. Ridiculous. Please - do not, ever, release a Diablo-like on consoles without local multiplayer. That is somehow worse than the fact I cannot take my singleplayer character into the multiplayer mode - another entirely baffling decision.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (code provided by the publisher).
Everything Torchlight III does, it does worse than one of its contemporaries. Primarily Diablo. While what is here looks good and plays fine, it's repetitive and lacks the magic of games it shares a genre with. But all of that could've been forgiven if it had at least allowed me to suffer through it with a friend in local multiplayer, but it couldn't even do that. If you get the urge to play Torchlight III, just play Diablo III instead.
- Lots of gear and weaponry to collect
- Plenty of content to get through
- It's so boring
- It's so, so boring
- If I have to perform the same combo to kill the same enemies again, I'm going to throw my PS4 out of the window