When I learned that I would have an opportunity to interview Echtra Games Project Lead Tyler Thompson about Torchlight Frontiers, I was beyond excited. His history as one of the forces behind what we now call ARPGs is nothing short of stellar after his work at Blizzard North on Diablo II and at Flagship Studios working on Hellgate: London.
I’ll admit it. I fangirled...but then got busy. After all, Torchlight Frontiers is one of the upcoming games that has re-energized MMO fans both for its return to the iconic Torchlight universe, but also with a new and fresh take on the MMO-niverse. Echtra has a chance to push the genre forward, something it has needed for a long, long while and something that has many jaded MMO fans excited.
Part of that comes from Torchlight Frontiers’ shift away from character levels as it moves to focus more on gear quality and ways of combining three pillars to create an entire character. The focus is less on the single entity known as a “character” and has shifted it to innumerable combinations of character, pet and Relic Weapons. In fact, we spent over an hour chatting about Relic Weapons and how they are key to individualized customization.
Relic Weapons are as integral in defining who your character is as your pet and the gear that you’re wearing. In essence, pet, character class and relic weapon become your identity, but one that can shift from Frontier to Frontier or just because you want to play a different way.
So what is a Relic Weapon? Tyler put it this way, “We chopped off a piece of the character and put it on this weapon. It plays into several parts of how you play. There are a wide variety of weapons that will become available and most are shared across classes. They support a wide variety of playstyles but they are a separate thing that you’re collecting that can be mixed and matched across most of the game’s classes.”
While players will be given one on completion of an introductory questline, all of the rest of the Relic Weapons will be crafted by using materials -- both common and rare -- that are collected in the world. You will collect recipes to create these Relic Weapons that will require a combination of materials amassed by playing the game as well as taking on specific bosses for the rare material. While the rare material drop isn’t 100%, players will have about a 10-20% chance to obtain what’s needed in order to create a Relic Weapon.
“You need to be playing the game at a higher level and using higher level stuff for this weapon. You’ll need the pieces these bosses drop to create it. This is a significant time investment,” Tyler said. “Relic Weapons and collecting the materials are a way to keep players invested in the game and a way to find cool new ways to play. We want players out there to collect more power, killing monsters to get themselves something even more powerful.”
So what do Relic Weapons do for you? To start with, when one is equipped, it levels as you play the game. In fact, when Tyler and his team were testing RWs, they couldn’t figure out what was missing until it hit. There was no “DING” to indicate progression. With leveling in the traditional sense removed from characters, without a “DING”, things felt unsatisfying. To combat that, a progression bar and effect were added to Relic Weapons to provide that satisfying moment of knowing that something significant has been achieved.
Each Relic Weapon -- again 100% separate from the “normal” weapon that you’ll be using -- brings a “cool kit” to the player including stats, but as it levels, it also unlocks new abilities. Some are passives, some are actually new active abilities that can be slotted on the player’s bar and used when the RW is equipped.
For instance, here are the first three revealed Relic Weapon abilities:
- Bane - Causes poison bolts to erupt from a powerful staff
- Fire Striker - Shoot fireballs at its foes from a flame-wielding sword
- Flaming Destroyer - Grants the power to summon an ethereal sword that burns and smashes its enemies
Like me, you might be thinking, “Oh...they have an ‘ultimate’ ability” and while it’s true in a sense, it’s SO much better. The ability is a very strong one and one that should be used strategically. However, the cooldown on using these big abilities can be used every couple of minutes and the duration of the effect lasts for 30 seconds at a time! In other words, when the RW’s “ultimate” ability can be used about ¼ of the time you’re out fighting. Imagine shooting out fireballs at a large pack of enemies for 30 seconds! Talk about a barbecue!
Best of all, you’re not locked into any one Relic Weapon. You can create as many as you have recipes and materials for. They can be freely swapped as you transition from one Frontier to another where a different weapon might be more effective or simply because you want to play a different way. And it’s worth trotting out all of your RWs from time to time to keep them leveled up to be their most effective.
In addition, Tyler added, “New Frontiers also offer opportunities to level up new Relics and new ways to play. We want to make it easy to swap between outfits (gear sets). When moving from one Frontier to another, you’ll want to switch equipped items. We want to make tools to make that fun and easy.”
Hopefully, beta testers will get an opportunity to try out the new Relic Weapons as the game moves forward in development.
“We want to bring people in to play earlier than many others would be comfortable because, while we have these things we love, we want to see what the community thinks and then still have time to rethink things if we need to,” Tyler said.
Torchlight Frontiers is refreshing in gameplay and attitude and we can’t wait to see more!
What do you think of Relic Weapons? Leave us your thoughts in the comments!