Torchlight III developer Echtra Games announced the game's Steam Early Access launch during the PC Gaming Show 2020. An exciting surprise for fans was that the game was available immediately for $29.99 (in South Africa our regional pricing is a very reasonable R225).
Such was the anticipation for Torchlight III that the game's servers caved under the pressure, leaving many of the people who had just paid for "early access" unable to play for more than a few minutes before they were disconnected with an unhelpful error message:
Unable to connect to Torchlight III game server, please check your network connection.
Of course, it wasn't player network connections that were to blame, but the game's servers.
In their frustration, players descended on Torchlight III's listing on Steam and gave the game negative reviews. At the time of publication, 34% of the 1,964 reviews published were negative.
While much of the backlash centred around people not being able to play the game over the weekend, it would be unfair to characterise all of the negative sentiment as reactionary.
The backlash certainly raises questions about the use of terms like "Early Access" for marketing, rather than more technically accurate terminology, such as "$30 pre-order, with access to the open beta."
More pressing to Torchlight III, and for fans of the Torchlight franchise, though, are the concerns being raised by the two top-voted reviews currently on Steam.
Since none of us were able to play the game over the weekend, we only have the experiences of those who were able to play to draw from.
Criticism: Lack of depth, looks and plays like a mobile game
Among the concerns raised is that there is a lack of depth to class skill trees in Torchlight III. Each class has two skill trees with only seven skills in each tree.
While there is a passive skill section with many different skills to choose from, you can only equip three at any given time with slots unlocking at level 5, 20, and 40.
Torchlight III has also done away with stat point allocations.
"This isn't a deal breaker, but after experiencing the limited itemization and skill system it just feels very underwhelming overall," one player wrote.
The second-most upvoted review on Steam argued that Torchlight III seems to be have been designed to be a mobile game, rather than one for PCs or consoles:
"This is Torchlight: The Mobile Game not Torchlight III. I am so disappointed in this dumbed down Torchlight experience as I was a fan of the previous two and looking forward to this. You can tell this was designed to be a mobile game alone by the large UI/Buttons and narrow FOV."
The new runic weapon mechanic that was added to Torchlight III received a mixed review:
"The Runic weapon is somewhat interesting and is an active item you equip. You have five to choose from, they level up and have a small talent tree, but most of the talents are pretty generic and do not allow much room for creativity."
Keep in mind that Torchlight III is still in beta. One the reasons for launching a game in Early Access (besides the cash injection for the developer) is to make changes to your game based on the feedback you receive.
There is no doubt that Torchlight III has not made a good first impression, but that is no longer the death sentence it used to be. What remains to be seen is how Echtra Games responds to the constructive feedback it has received.
For what it's worth, Echtra posted at 07:57 UTC this morning (Monday, 15 June 2020) that the servers are currently stable.