The original Torchlight from way back in 2009 made a splash as a great little ARPG with a competitive price point. It felt very much like an Xbox Live arcade title but, luckily, one of the best. Torchlight II only stepped this up with more competent gameplay and a bigger, bolder world. Torchlight III has a lot to live up to, but maybe the game is not worth the candle.
Taking place after the events of Torchlight II, the world of Novastria is under attack by an ancient evil and only you (and three friends) can deal with it. That is pretty much the entirety of the story in Torchlight III. Whilst the narrative does twist somewhat throughout your time, you probably shouldn’t expect a story that will shock you. Luckily, Torchlight has never really been that kind of game. After the minute or so of introduction, you are allowed to pick one of four classes and three companions, from the Dusk Mage, the Forged, the Railmaster or the Sharpshooter. They all favour in different styles, with the Forged being a mechanical being adept in both short and long range combat, the Dusk Mage being of the magical type with a mid-range attack, the Sharpshooter holding a rifle and range abilities, and the Railmaster with a train companion. The train companion is one of my favourite parts of Torchlight III; having a small battle train following you, fully equipped with a tiny gun, is always a pleasure.
As well as picking your class, you have a choice of companion that can be upgraded with auras, buffs and combat abilities. These can be an owl, a dog, or multiple extra unlockables. They don’t do too much but they do add a slight bit more to general customization. This is a needed addition as your class tends to feel a little rigid. After picking your class and relic, and extra little skill tree, you feel like you’re on the main path for most of the game. Unlike other ARPGs, end game characters in Torchlight feel very similar, almost closer to a MOBA in their strict hero setup. This is changed somewhat with items, but even they don’t offer drastic differences.
This leaves the basic gameplay loop to be a little bit dull. You won’t care majorly about missions and will most likely continue on just to upgrade your character and see where they end up. Most items offer a basic stat difference but won’t majorly change your build. This is apparent from the first moments of Torchlight III. After getting off a boat and picking your character, you wander forward until meeting a boss. You pummel the boss with little effort and move onwards. From here, you move to the next area, move back to the first, move back again, clear out a mine and repeat. You constantly feel like you are chasing a quest marker and not the quest itself. They rarely offer incentives other than pummeling bad guys until the next batch decide to show up. It can be fun initially but the lack of challenge and diverse missions leaves everything feeling rather stale.
It does implement a town creation tool that gives you the option to respec your character and things of that nature, but it fails to be interesting rather quickly. This town system sees each character have their own little fort where they can use in-game items to build stalls, decorations and important crafting stations. It’s a nice way of making progression feel a little more organic but doesn’t feel quite personal enough, with a lot of useless stuff and not much room. Aesthetic decorations don’t click together very well either, meaning you spread them apart awkwardly or have them clip over each other.
The multiplayer works to change this somewhat due to the presence of a friend. You are placed in the same world with the same objectives and character except, this time, a buddy is with you. Moves rarely synergize with your teammates and most are just used to kill what’s in front of you. Unfortunately, the same characters are not usable across and through the multiplayer and single-player elements, utilising different saves, meaning you need one character for one and one for the other. Torchlight III doesn’t ever warn you of this which means you could spend some time testing multiplayer only to have to retake those same steps with your single-player character right afterwards. This seems to have been implemented due to concerns of DRM way back on early access launch, but it has replaced one issue with another.
Both the audio and visuals to Torchlight serve their purpose but don’t do much else. The cartoony graphics and background noise sort of tell you who Torchlight III is designed for. Most aspects of this nature feel very middle of the road and arcadey, and whilst you likely won’t be offended by its artistic choices, they certainly won’t stand out to you.
Torchlight III on Xbox One is by no means a bad game. It functions fine and gives the same satisfaction that your traditional ARPG will. That being said, it feels just a bit lazy. The gameplay, story, visuals and mechanics are fine but that’s about it. It is rather fun with friends and doesn’t have any major issues, but it fails to live up to the light set before it.