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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (473)

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Tiny Tina's Wonderlands 3.5/5
Ratchet & Clank: Rift A... 4.5/5
Super Mario Bros. Wonder 4.5/5
The Alliance Alive 2/5
Catmaze 4.5/5
Turnip Boy Commits Tax ... 4.5/5
Seasons After Fall 3/5
Rayon Riddles - Rise of... 0.5/5
World to the West 4/5
MechWarrior 5: Mercenar... 4/5
Streets of Kamurocho 2.5/5
Aeon of Sands - The Tra... 2.5/5
Greak: Memories of Azur 3.5/5
Yaga 2.5/5
Riverbond 3/5
Bug Fables: The Everlas... 4.5/5
Front Mission 1st Remake 1.5/5
Middle-earth: Shadow of... 3.5/5
Bladed Fury 3.5/5
Ruzar - The Life Stone 3.5/5
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin 3.5/5
Mighty Switch Force! Co... 2.5/5
Aegis of Earth: Protono... 3/5
Torchlight III 2.5/5
Cyberpunk 2077 3.5/5

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Torchlight III   PC (Steam) 

Snuffed Torch    2.5/5 stars

“Torchlight 3” began life as an Alpha game known as “Torchlight Frontiers.” It was to be the final culmination of the goal the original “Torchlight” developers at Runic Games set for themselves when they founded their own studio: To create a full-blown MMORPG mechanically similar to non-MMO Hack ‘n Slash RPGs like “Diablo.” Alas, over the years, Runic Games lost important members and founders, was purchased by investors, and ultimately was dissolved by its publisher, Perfect World Games. The ‘Torchlight’ IP was handed off to Echtra Games, another small studio owned by Perfect World, with none of the original team still involved.

During its Alpha testing phase, however, “Torchlight Frontiers” received feedback that ultimately saw it almost entirely scrapped and rebuilt into its current form: “Torchlight 3.” Because many members of the MJ Crew held fond memories of our time with “Torchlight 2” (I was not one of them), we decided to grab the third game in the series during a deep, deep discount sale and give it a shot. The result of all that work, IP shuffling, and Development Hell is a bland, faded carbon copy of “Torchlight 2” with a significant number of technical hurdles that make the experience even more mediocre.

Presentation
“Torchlight 3” looks nearly indistinguishable from “Torchlight 2,” remaining very true to the series’ colorful, cartoony stylings. However, the game engine and cutscenes are completely divorced from each other, with the cutscenes taking the form of bland, lifeless still images with minimal animation. There is a shocking dearth of variety in the game’s visuals, however. The number of map layouts is shockingly small, and the return of procedurally generated maps that change each time the player revisits an area does little to liven them up. There are no truly iconic or interesting locations, but instead just a rote gristmill of samey areas filled with *gasp* samey enemies. “Torchlight 3” has a distressingly small bestiary of enemies, with only a handful of different archetypes that typically get scaled up in size and given a few particle effects to serve as champions, mini-bosses, and even full bosses.

The audio in “Torchlight 3” is… fine. That’s really all I can say about it. Most of the quest dialogs are fully voiced with adequate performances. Likewise, the gameplay is accompanied by an adequate soundtrack that is never grating, but also never memorable. I couldn’t even hum the game’s title music moments after finishing a session, the whole thing is just so forgettable.

Technically “Torchlight 3” is reasonably solid for a scrapped MMO hastily recycled into a Hack ‘n Slash. On one hand, it beats its predecessors by actually supporting Xinput controllers out of the box, with a generally well-designed and intuitive interface and layout. On the other hand, it crashes occasionally, and its MMO underpinnings are still present in disconcerting ways. Playing as a solo or multi-player coop character is 100% mutually exclusive, as coop characters can’t be played offline and solo characters can’t be taken online. Furthermore, everything in the game runs off of a server, which seems to be powered by a hamster with emphysema running on a wheel. Enemy spawns, loot drops, and every interaction with the game world is handled by the server, not a single host player. So while there’s no need to worry about a bad P2P connection or the host’s game crashing and screwing everyone over, the reliability of the server is paramount… but the server, and the netcode that interacts with it, just isn’t very good. We all experienced huge, annoying delays in loot appearing after killing an enemy, which often found us retracing our steps and finding “new” loot that had magically popped out of an enemy’s corpse after the corpse had despawned and we had all walked away. This Loot Lag wasn’t just an occasional annoyance, but was constant and omnipresent, making the entire game feel sluggish and irritating to play. Amazingly, solo version of the game runs a “virtual server” that is nearly as bad. I, personally, encountered more issues with the game’s netcode than the other guys, as my fiber was undergoing upgrades for THREE DAMNED MONTHS at the beginning of 2023, and I frequently had low download speeds (sub 10Mbps) and ping spiked in the hundreds of milliseconds. “Torchlight 3’s” server really does not work well with poor-quality Internet, thus there were two sessions where we either didn’t accomplish much or just had to scrap the entire evening because the game and my struggling fiber were a match made in Hell.

Story
“Torchlight 3” picks up after the events of “Torchlight 2” where some evil Nephilim creature wants to take over the world’s Clockwork Core and converts a trio of disgruntled women into its acolytes to help it achieve its goals. Our heroes are an unspectacular group of no-names who stumble upon the Nephilim conspiracy purely by accident, then end up plodding across the world to take out each of the Sisters before finally taking out Mommy.

And that’s really all there is to it. There’s fetch-questing, boring (but Diverse) NPCs, and forgettable errands that take the heroes through three acts, each with a different type of dominant enemy. The Hack ‘n Slash subgenre has always been one of the most story-lite varieties of RPG (along with Dungeon Crawlers), typically living and dying by the addictiveness of its gameplay. “Torchlight 3” does nothing to revolutionize Hack ‘n Slash storytelling, or, indeed, videogame writing and narrative in any way. It’s bland, clichéd, and completely forgettable.

Thankfully, it’s also short, clocking in at about 20 hours. Yeah, there’s an infinite post-game of grinding through random dungeons with random modifiers in pursuit of random loot, but in order to pursue that, the game would actually have to be fun.

Gameplay
“Torchlight 3” does little to differentiate itself from its predecessor, aside from the desperately-needed and much-appreciated addition of controller support. Players can choose from 5 classes, including a robot, a generic archer, a generic wizard, a train engineer, and a ghost pirate. Considering my love of all things piratical, I chose that particular character, and ultimately enjoyed the moment to moment gameplay quite a bit, as the class blends summons with long-ranged DPS abilities in a combination that I could describe as “my perfect class.”

Still, as much fun as I had playing as the ghost pirate, the content we played through felt dull and unrewarding due to a few misbegotten design decisions. First, loot drops in “Torchlight 3” feel even more skewed toward “Legendaries are the Only Worthwhile Items” than other Hack ‘n Slash games we’ve played recently, often allowing us to use our class-specific Legendary loot for dozens of levels or until we’d come across an identical replacement, as the extra effects matter so much more than raw numbers. Second, there is no trading system in the game, so when our group of four cooperating companions found Legendary loot items that would greatly benefit someone else on the team, there was no way to hand off the item. Third, gold is absolutely useless, as the in-game weapon shops NEVER stop selling starter equipment, and the Gambler is just as crappy as the Gambler always was in ‘Torchlight.’

Yeah, the returning mechanic of having a pet is nice, as the pet can be sent to town to sell a load of crappy items. Yeah, each character now gets their own fort that they can customize with furnishings and decorations, including a few altar-like objects that can be fed items or tokens (both of which drop from enemies) to increase passive stats by trivial, miniscule amounts. Yeah, pets can now be equipped with perks and characters can equip a handful of Legendary item perks separate from the Legendary item they’re tied to, provided said item has been found and looted at least once. But these are small, incremental improvements to a game that is otherwise generic, lifeless, and unexciting. If I could play as the ghost pirate from “Torchlight 3” is an actually-good Hack ‘n Slash, like “The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing,” I’d be ecstatic… but the prospect of spending any more time with “Torchlight 3” makes my eyes glaze over.

Overall
“Torchlight 3” feels like more of the same from “Torchlight 2,” only with a small number of QoL and mechanical improvements, but nearly all of the fun and interest drained out. For a dirt-cheap Steam sale price, a group of four friends could definitely finds worse games to play cooperatively. But there’s nothing about “Torchlight 3” that makes me want to recommend it to anyone, not even die-hard ‘Torchlight’ or Hack ‘n Slash fanatics.

Presentation: 2.5/5
Story: 2.5/5
Gameplay: 2.5/5
Overall (not an average): 2.5/5

 

 


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