Torchlight III knows what it is and takes on that identity. It’s not the biggest action / RPG out there. It doesn’t have the darkest or most mature setting, nor the most complicated fictional setting. Instead, Echtra has created a lively adventure that has players happily bouncing from one environment to the next without the need for a ton of story or quest tracking. The monsters are plentiful, the powers you use are bombastic, and the battles that unfold fill the screen with colorful explosions and thunderous noise. The seamless nature of the action and level is barely complex enough to grab your attention. This makes it a welcome opportunity for lazy nights of escape, whether alone or with up to four friends working together.
Even as a gaming narrative enthusiast, I skipped the easy storytelling of Torchlight III like a rock over water and vaguely captured the essence of a story set 100 years after the last game. Some villains from another dimension hoped to take over the world. The visual world building is more robust and captures a fun aesthetic that blends classic fantasy with clockwork / steampunk aesthetics. The result is a colorful environment full of flashing elemental collisions and endless gears. The playful tone and art direction are a pleasant departure from the dark and bloody norms of the genre, even if some rooms feel too similar. I was also often frustrated with large surrounding objects obscuring the view, which can sometimes just be annoying, but occasionally brings your hero to a vulnerable place.
In a mostly smooth game, the one field Echtra carved into the depths is a worthwhile character upgrade system. Four amusing classes each offer something enticing, from the dark and light balance of the twilight mage to the goofy border master who literally builds a railroad and hauls a train behind him for the entire adventure. Each class is further enhanced by choosing a relic subclass – a special element object that adds an additional tree of skills. Hence, your Sharpshooter class will play very differently depending on whether you’ve decided to freeze your enemies with the Relic of Coldheart or set the world on fire with the Flaming Destroyer.
Regardless of your choices, it only takes a few levels to transform into a walking engine of destruction that fosters the pleasurable flow created by decimating dozens of enemies per minute in increasingly cathartic area effect explosions and smashing gun strikes. Several adjustable levels of difficulty allow an efficient scaling to your experience or level of attention. Players who want a more dangerous adventure certainly have this option, although the game feels best when moving at high speed rather than facing a challenge that your character isn’t ready for. No matter how hard you make it, you quickly get into a mostly senseless rhythm of power rotation and satisfying prey thrusts.
Inventory management is a breeze thanks to a pet that loves to fly off to sell your gear, and I loved the variety of cosmetic and functional features that are reflected in the many weapons and armor pieces I have collected. Players looking for a particularly comprehensive attribute optimization system will likely be disappointed. As with most things in the game, the focus is on getting you back into combat quickly, rather than endlessly wrestling your hand over which gloves to put on.
After the campaign was over, Echtra planted a number of folds to keep your interest going, including an enchantment system, an increased focus on crafting, and the ability to further customize your fort. I’ve never warmed myself to advancement, which takes place in a tight space, and the changes I’ve made rarely affected gameplay enough to be satisfactory.
I enjoyed the post-game dungeon system where an enterprising Djinn sets up his shop to create endless “dun’djinns” (got it?) For you to explore, each with increasingly challenging modifiers and bigger and bigger rewards. For players who fall in love with continuous character development, there is no shortage of additional battles on the horizon, though personally I was ready to try a new hero a few hours after the game. This endgame option is especially welcome when playing with friends. Torchlight III supports online collaboration options for up to four players, and it is limitlessly ridiculous to watch even more chaos, even when the visual clutter on the screen is particularly difficult to follow.
Torchlight III is accepted by clever class design and does not offer huge innovations or nuances in its systems or gameplay. The free destruction is often great fun, up to the top of the hour when it isn’t, and everything feels a bit boring. Fortunately, there is always a new magical sword to collect, an answer to try out, a new character class to discover or a dungeon to dive into. Torchlight III is an approachable action / role-playing game that is especially welcoming to newbies or just gamers who don’t want to focus too much on the entertainment of their evening. Repeated conquerors of Heaven and Hell might want to look elsewhere, but when your fantasy destruction desires are more about high-octane action, Torchlight III rarely disappoints.