Torchlight 3 review: A light but shallow ARPG unlikely to find a new audience

Bugs and a lack of plot keep the game from being really satisfying.

Torchlight 3 Fort
(Image: © Windows Central)

Torchlight 3 Mossrat

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The Torchlight series started in 2009 with a team of Blizzard Entertainment veterans creating an ARPG series in the Diablo mold. It had a zany sense of humor that landed somewhere between Fable and the quirkier aspects of World of Warcraft, so it's no surprise the Torchlight games became cult hits with fans who enjoyed fast-paced fights and exploring a big, colorful world.

It's been eight years since the release of Torchlight 2, and the path to Torchlight 3 has been a troubled one. The game was originally imagined as an MMO dubbed Torchlight Frontiers, then was delayed and rebranded as Torchlight 3. The newest entry in the series exits its four months of Steam early access and hits consoles today. While diehard fans will find some of the same fun as Torchlight 2, the experience isn't deep or smooth enough to satisfy anyone else.

Torchlight III

Torchlight III

$40 at Steam Bottom line: Torchlight 3 is a lighthearted, simple co-op ARPG that might provide some fun to casual ARPG players or serious fans of the series, but doesn't do much else to justify its existence.

Saving the world in Torchlight 3 is a pretty basic affair

Torchlight 3 Map

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Torchlight 3 feels very similar to Torchlight 2, for better and worse. They're both pretty cheerful games where your blank slate hero is trying to save the world from the Netherim, cosmic horrors that have emerged from the heart of the world and teamed up with all manner of monsters and ne'er-do-wells to cause havoc.

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TitleTorchlight 3
DeveloperEchtra Inc.
PublisherPerfect World Entertainment
PlayersSingle-player, multi-player co-op
PlatformsSteam, Xbox One, and PS4
Launch Price$40

The gameplay is extremely linear, with players starting by fighting off a goblin invasion and then being sent on a series of quests to figure out what's going on and to stop the bad guys by killing everything in sight. Gameplay is divided between an overworld and many small dungeons, and in both areas players will encounter a mix of basic enemies that can usually be dispatched with a single blow, elite foes who have a few tricks and often work as a team, and bosses that need to be taken more seriously because of their minions and powerful environmental effects.

Combat can get pretty repetitive, with each zone having a limited selection of enemies and obstacles. The monotony is broken by the creative animations for both your character and your opponents, but there's only so many times you can murder your way through a goblin village before it starts getting tedious.

There's a wide spectrum of difficulty levels if you want to challenge yourself, with the harder modes dropping better loot. Normal is still easy outside of boss fights, provided you have quick reflexes and don't fall into any traps while building your character.

Multiplayer is fairly seamless, upping the difficulty of fights a bit and rewarding all the participants with their own loot. I'd like to see more synergies between the various builds and classes, but the game's hack 'n slash basics means that level of coordination isn't necessary. All the classes work together with little effort.

The biggest challenge in Torchlight 3 is what to play

Torchlight 3 Skills

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Torchlight 3 has some of the oddest classes you'll find, with options including the Forged, a little robot that gears up by swapping out parts, and the Railmaster, who lays tracks as they go for a train companion that shoots at their enemies while they slam them with a giant hammer. The Dusk Mage and Sharpshooter are more standard caster and ranged fighter archetypes and best reserved for when you're playing multiplayer (they're so fragile it's hard for them to survive alone).

Like its predecessor, Torchlight 3 has a fairly robust skill system. Players need to choose as they level between investing in active skills that can knockback or slow enemies in an area, for example, and passive effects like gaining a chance to cause debuffs when you attack. Each skill also has numerous levels that can increase the base function or add kicker effects when you take them.

Adding to the complexity, each character chooses a relic that has its own skill set, allowing you to create builds that complement your powers like adding more damage or giving you the chance to shore up weaknesses by providing the ability to heal or create shields. Experimentation would be a lot more fun if you weren't fairly locked into your choices. You earn points that can be respecced slowly, which usually means it's best to be conservative and pick a few skills you really like to invest in rather than a broad spectrum of ones you might not use regularly.

Some features of Torchlight 3 could really use more work

There are some elements from Torchlight 2 that are strangely missing in Torchlight III, like the ability to quickly tab between weapon sets and to send your pet back to town with a shopping list of consumables to pick up. Pets fight on your behalf and provide you with a buff when nearby, but their mediocre AI means they often run into battle and die just when you need them most.

The biggest new component of Torchlight 3, your fort, isn't as complex as I'd like it to be. The fort serves as your home base, where you build a few functional structures that give you permanent buffs and enable crafting. You can also decorate it with a bunch of cosmetic items and show it off when you're playing multiplayer. Unfortunately, that latter feature gets in the way as you'll go to the fort of your party leader rather than being able to choose to go to your own base if you need something there. You'll need to drop your group if you want to go to your own fort.

I encountered issues multiple times where I deposited items in the storage chest in my fort, which is meant to allow you to pass gear between characters, and couldn't withdraw them. Other bugs included having skill points that I was unable to spend until they disappeared following restart and having a map overlay stick around on my screen. That later one occurred repeatedly in boss fights, making it almost impossible to take heed of the visual queues alerting you when to avoid attacks. At one point that bug cost me the fight, forcing me to slog back through a whole dungeon because waypoints are so rare and the game only saves automatically. Hopefully these will get fixed in upcoming patches.

Bottom line: Torchlight 3 wasn't really worth the wait

Torchlight 3 Goblin Village

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Torchlight 2 is an extremely charming game and will still feel new to players who didn't get to experience it until it hit consoles last year. Torchlight 3 offers a lot of the same charm, but if you're looking for something with richer combat, story, and voice-acting with the same feel, you're likely better off going with Darksiders Genesis or holding out for Diablo 4.

There certainly is some fun to be had in Torchlight 3's goofy classes and skills, but the gameplay is too repetitive and the story is too thin. If you're just looking for something casual to play with some friends in co-op, Torchlight 3 will deliver. Just don't expect this title to really kindle any new love for the franchise or genre.

Samantha Nelson