I’ve seen two schools of thought with Torchlight Frontiers so far: one that loves the core of the game, even with its rough edges - and one that thinks it’s lacking the fun of the original two. Me? I’m somewhere in between. On one hand, I love what Torchlight Frontiers is aiming to become, and on the other I know this is Alpha and that the game is missing a lot of content and features are in flux.
The core of the game is solid, though refinement is needed, and thankfully it seems the Echtra team is really receptive to player concerns and suggestions. Through their feedback already, we’ve seen major changes to the leveling system, itemization, we’ve seen Wardrobes added, and Dusk Mage skills adjusted.
The individual leveling of Frontiers is actually a really nice new feature in Alpha three. In TLF, Frontiers are basically “Biomes” or themed areas of the game. So while your character doesn’t have an overall level, he or she can get better at fighting in particular zones. In Alpha 3, we have the Goblin Forest and the Infested Forest. The Goblin Forest has you fighting against mobs that tend to deal Fire Damage, whereas the Infested Forest insect-like mobs tend to deal poison damage.
The issue with this is that while you have quests guiding you to each early on, to be really effective you need to be swapping sets of gear. The Wardrobes help with this, which are stored in your personal Fort, but it’s an inelegant solution at best so far. You still have to go to the fort and swap the items, or risk keeping a really full inventory, which is already far too meager on space right now. A solution, in my book, would be to make Weapon Types matter more in different Frontiers as opposed to armor types. I don’t mind having to maintain gear sets, and in a loot-based ARPG, that’s part of the fun. But Echtra should limit the amount of fuss between swapping through frontiers in future builds.
I’m reminded how helpful it always is in games like PoE or D3 to swap weapon sets with the push of a button. The Wardrobe should become something you have different “Sets” for, and can swap between at will, without affecting your carrying capacity. Give players 2 sets to start, so they can have a spare, and then since TLF is going to be F2P, charge for more. The Statues that are currently in the Fort are still cool places for players to show off items, but maybe make it so that said item doesn’t need to stay in the Fort to be displayed.
I’ve been playing a lot with the controller on my laptop, and I really must say that this is my preferred way to play Torchlight Frontiers and all ARPGs lately. It’s just far more comfortable. But it’s also clear to me that Echtra is designing TLF with the idea of keeping a relatively similar AI between the PC and console builds. This is a mistake, and I hope I’m wrong. The UI for console should definitely be streamlined and simplified for the controller, and the PC UI should eventually be scalable, customizable, and I’d love to see the puzzle-like inventory of previous games return. Or at the very least, add far more slots to the inventory as well as sorting options.
Lastly, and I’m sure this is coming because I feel like the team told me so in a recent interview, the Skill UI for building your character is both a bit confusing and a bit misleading. The separation of passive and active skills makes it look like there’s not a lot of skills to obtain or growth to be had with your character. But even in Alpha, there are 10 skills on the Forged, and 11 passive skills, each of which can be upgraded multiple times. More will be added, for sure, plus the Relic Weapon system adds another layer of character building. But I’d like to see skills mods or morphs a la ESO and Diablo 3 be an option as well. A way for players to customize what a skill does so that they can further differentiate themselves from other Forged and Duskmages.
I’m rambling here, but I can’t stress this enough - Torchlight Frontiers is the MMO ARPG I’ve been wanting from Max Schaefer and his team since Mythos. When Torchlight 1 was announced, I remember writing blogs about it long before I was ever here, and getting in touch with then “Wearer of Many Hats” Wonder Russell. She not only gave me a Torchlight key to review on my piddly little MMO blog, but she also helped me get introduced to Max and it was him who told me that the goal for the franchise was to get to a sequel with co-op play, and then ultimately an MMO.
Well, here we are in 2019, probably a decade later if I’m recalling correctly, and I’m finally playing Torchlight the MMO, and I’m oh so happy about it. Is there work to be done? Sure. It’s Alpha, after all. But I love what I’m seeing, and I believe these folks can turn this one into a winner for launch.