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Simple Torchlight 3 Builds Mean Mindless Fun With Friends

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Playing Torchlight 3 on the PS4 with a friend was a very enjoyable experience. I also enjoyed playing the game with a friend before the release date, though that experience was rife with glitches, rather than loot. There’s a nearly identical single-player mode, too, but players can’t use it to level-up their multiplayer character. Playing in that way was, at best, a way to pass some time. I guess what I’m saying is Torchlight 3 is a bit like a drinking game for me; it’s relatively simple and far less joyous on single-player. Which means the value of the game, as a whole, can vary depending on your preferred method of play.

The game entered Early Access back in June 2020 and, admittedly, four months isn’t a whole lot of time to respond to player feedback. Those who found the game’s systems too straightforward back then might be disappointed to discover that the optimal builds from Early Access are largely the clear-cut winners today too. It’s rare to find a well-balanced challenge in Torchlight 3, which might be off-putting to challenge-seeking action RPG fans, as the genre is famously saturated with games designed to scratch that itch.

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On the other hand, one of Torchlight 3’s greatest strengths is conceivably a byproduct of its simplicity. The most important choice players face comes when they create their players. To do so, they select which one of four classes they’d like to combine with one of five relics. That’s technically twenty potential playstyle options, but a quick glance at the class and relic skill trees is all it takes to chart an optimal course forward. By all means, players can wander down any path they want, but it is going to be pretty difficult to forget that the path less traveled is less traveled for a reason.

The clear-cut routes lead to character growth that can be felt on an almost level-to-level basis. Combined with the intrinsically exciting nature of randomized loot drops, there is enough at play to keep the incremental steps between milestones engaging in their own right. It’s a pace and design that will be familiar to people who have played their share of free-to-play mobile titles and gacha games. It can work, though. The truth is that some of us are just wired to casually open Skinner boxes and chase tasty but evasive stick-mounted carrots with our good buds. Torchlight 3 is more than capable of scratching that particular itch, for sure.

Typically, a well-told story fills this role in games for me. I love when characters open up to one another on the hikes between their story goals. It’s a good thing that gaining levels fills that role in Torchlight 3, because there is scarcely a trace of character growth or plot development across the game’s three acts.

That said, Torchlight 3’s developers have managed to imbue its player classes with an incredible amount of personality. Visually, the world and enemies are moderately interesting, but you’d be forgiven for overlooking the enthusiastic and violent squads of jumping goblins because you were too busy staring at a player character that, at times, can look a lot like some kind of gun-toting potbelly stove in a minecart. That’s not hyperbole and it’s not even Torchlight 3’s coolest character; that award goes to the hammer-swinging Railmaster who battles enemies with the help of his noble companion, a literal train. Even the game’s least interesting class would fare well in comparison to the choices available in most other ARPGs. The game’s least interesting class, by the way, is a wizard who commands a rare combination of holy and unholy energy.

The skill trees in Torchlight 3 are a microcosm of the game in general; it only takes a moment to see its potential. As an RPG, it’s full of options, but there’s never a compelling reason to veer from the railroad. The issue I ran into is that I was eventually able to extrapolate and predict hours of my life, randomly generated items notwithstanding. In terms of leveling, questing, and shopping, I knew what choices I’d be making far in advance. I did play a five-hour-long session that was mostly salvaged by the fact that I was discovering tons of legendary items while my friend acquired only one, but even that kind of absurd disparity and the boasting it facilitates eventually gives way to monotony.

Before you know it, you might just end up talking about your workday or the news. Which, don’t get me wrong, is a perfectly fine way to spend an evening. Unfortunately for Torchlight 3, talking to friends is something people have managed to do for free for quite a while now.

Torchlight 3 is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Benjamin Maltbie
Benjamin is a writer from Upstate New York who has spent the past five years learning to survive the summers of Phoenix, Arizona. When he isn't playing video games, he is rambling at length about tabletop RPGs or diving down rabbit holes on Wikipedia. He has been writing about video games for the last twelve years and can't imagine stopping anytime soon.