Torchlight 3’s a bit of a mess but I have faith

June 18, 2020
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I hope they change the Torchlight 3 map. That seems like sort of a sulky, entitled thing to say, and it probably is, but I’m a massive fan of fantasy maps and maps in general, and I think Torchlight 3’s current map does it no favours. When you load up the game you get a screen with a lovely map – scattered land masses and age-stained ink. But in the game the map you actually use is the linear path from a thousand free-to-play puzzlers. The line muddles along like something out of Candyland and the places you visit are separated from the surface of the map somehow – it’s more like a selection of novelty cakes than a map. Nothing wrong with free-to-play puzzlers at all! But this map seems to be a glaring reminder of the journey Torchlight 3 has taken to its current paid early access release on Steam.

Torchlight 3 started as a free-to-play affair, I gather. And the map tells you that. It promises stuff to do and progression that goes on forever, content without much context. The places in the game are actually much more traditionally Torchlight than this map makes out, incidentally – they feel nicely interconnected and you can imagine them slotting in next to each other in interesting ways. But there’s that map. And then there’s that fort you can build. Torchlight 3 is an ARPG: it’s like Diablo, you wade around clicking things to kill them and unlocking skills which allow you to click with better fireworks. Want a fort in that world? Maybe, but I suspect this fort is the vestigial tail from some energy system or free-to-play currency thing. I may be wrong! I often am. But in its current iteration I unlock things and place them and buy props and stick them in there but I haven’t yet had a compelling reason to really enjoy what I’m doing.

I am sure this will change. That’s how I feel about every one of Torchlight 3’s annoyances at the moment. Multiplayer only. That will change. Server issues that caused disconnections? That already has changed, as far as I can tell, with a tiny update yesterday. Bugs that mean a quest won’t finish even though I killed the thing that should finish it? We are early, early in early access. Some of the bugs I even quite like. For a while going to a portal would sometimes take you where you wanted to go – your fort say – but would sometimes take you somewhere else entirely. Someone else’s fort? A dungeon area far later in the game where things can kill you just by smiling in your direction? You always trust the travel portals in ARPGs, I think. This glitchiness was irritating if I was trying to do something, but mainly it made me think that there’s probably a place in ARPG end-game design for playfully, interestingly glitchy portals. Isn’t this kind of thing where neat ideas can come from?

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