So amidst the news of the dumb last week… and it was a bad week last week for so many things… a few items dropped that I only got around to thinking about when the weekend finally hit.
One of those was the bombshell that Torchlight Frontiers, the planned ARPG-MMO from Perfect World Entertainment, was changing its name and focus. It is now Torchlight 3 and is giving up its MMORPG aspirations.
Back in 2009 a charming little solo ARPG called Torchlight came out. It had some issues and it was only single player and if you bought it from the wrong online store (this was before Steam was all) you had some trouble, but it was good in a very modest way and it was done by some of the same people who did Diablo and Diablo II back in the day. Even the music was done by the same person, which meant it was really good.
A year later the announcement came for Torchlight II, which would give us all the things we wanted. A year later it was announced that the game would be delayed and, when it came down to it its big rival, Diablo III, shipped first.
And when it did ship… well… it was okay. In the market Diablo III had story, Path of Exile had the gritty Diablo II vibe, and Torchlight II was cute and colorful and full of features and just a bit too bland. If local multiplayer or support for modding were your most important features, it was the game to back. But for me it just wasn’t that compelling.
This was all in furtherance of what was eventually supposed to be a Torchlight MMO. But by the time the team got the much-delayed MacOS version of Torchlight II out the company was sick of the game, the MMO was off, and that was that.
All those links lead to even more links about what was going on.
So we seemed to be done with the Torchlight story. PWE closed the studio and the devs were scattered to the wind.
Then come 2018 PWE came back and announced something called Torchlight Frontiers, which seemed to be there to revive the whole Torchlight MMO thing.
But it was 2018 and by then the whole MMO thing had been falling down a sinkhole for a while. The free to play apocalypse that Mark Jacobs had foretold seemed to be coming to pass and we have been living in a world of pay to win and lock boxes and bait and switch as studios scramble to chase too few dollars in an over saturated market.
I wasn’t sure we could really trust the idea of a Torchlight MMO in that mix, especially from a company like PWE, which loves all of the bad aspects of free to play.
And now, I guess we won’t have to. As I mentioned above, Torchlight Frontiers has become Torchlight 3 and it is not going to be a shared world sort of MMORPG experience but a single and multiplayer game much more in the vein of Torchlight II.
Is that a good thing?
I think it is, but I am not really sure. Setting aside my uncertainty about what PWE would end up doing with the cash shop, I have some misgivings… because of course I do.
This goes back to my feelings about Torchlight II. It is not a bad game and has much to recommend it. But if I want to play an ARPG my list tends to look like:
- Diablo III
- Path of Exile
- Grim Dawn
- Diablo (GoG version)
- Torchlight II
Torchlight II, as I have said many times now, is just kind of bland. It is all light and colorful with no edge whatsoever. And even playing with mods didn’t do much for me.
So the one thing that Torchlight Frontiers had for me was that maybe the whole shared world MMO aspect of it might be enough of a change to put a little bit of edge on the game and make it more interesting… or more to my taste… or whatever.
But we’re not going to get that.
In the end I think Torchlight 3 is probably the right path forward. And I have no intention of becoming one of those “what could have been” people who will go on until the end of time about EverQuest Next or Titan or Copernicus. missing something they never had. But for a passing moment I am wondering what might have been.