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Torchlight Mobile - E3 Hands On with Runic’s Latest ARPG

William Murphy Posted:
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You wouldn’t expect a mobile version of any core PC or console game to be good. But we’ve been proven wrong before. Look at Transistor, Bastion, even the LEGO games. Hell, Minefract is pretty great on the phones and tablets. So why can’t Runic’s Torchlight make a splash on mobile? Well, it can and it will. Read on for our hands on with Torchlight Mobile from E3 2015.

Torchlight Mobile perfectly takes what was so fun about the first two games: great combat, loot collecting, and a wonderful world and art style, and successfully ports the experience to the phone and tablet.  Will there be an energy system? Yep. Will there be a cash shop? Yep. But these sorts of things are part and parcel for a freemium mobile experience.  I asked the Perfect World and Fedeen representatives (both companies are helping Runic release and develop the game as a part of their three-way partnership) if they’d consider a paid version without the shop and energy, but that goes against what they’ve known to work in the mobile market. Honestly, looking at the success of the App Store and Play store’s top games, can you blame them?

That said, at least in my fifteen minute demo of the game, it didn’t seem like energy is going to be limiting. It is, after all, a mobile game and not intended for hours and hours of play. For a free game that’s going to need to make money to keep the content coming, I can respect asking the players to pay a buck to refill energy early. I don’t have to like the business model, but I know it works and I can appreciate if the game itself is worth my time.

And Torchlight Mobile? Well, it seems like it’s going to be more than worth my time. Not only does it look identical to the PC version (which is to say, gorgeously stylized), but it plays rock-solid too. The controls mimic the console version of Torchlight, with the left thumb controlling a virtual stick to move your character, and the lower right side of the screen focusing on the special skills and basic attacks. I played the Engineer, the same class you know and love from TL2, but there are several more classes coming, including one all new for the TL Mobile version.

Now, in keeping with other mobile MMOs, Torchlight Mobile will have town hubs where players will gather, trade, chat, and all that. But the gameplay itself will take place in private party-based instances like Guild Wars 1.  You’ll select a dungeon from the map, many of which can be played and replayed on higher difficulties, and completing them each unveils more of the story. Runic plans on adding to the maps on an ongoing basis, and these updates will be free to all players.  

But what about the Cash Shop then? Well expect the usual things: cosmetic items, pet skins (yes, your faithful pet makes a return in TLM), experience boosters, energy recharges, and so forth. I expect you’ll also be able to purchase gear packs from the store, similar to other mobile RPGs, but I hope I’m wrong and they could not confirm this during the demo.  Prices seem really decent too. You won’t spend say, 5 bucks to get one more dungeon run for instance. Rather the costs will be relatively cheap (less than a dollar) with some things going for higher prices (like the rare cosmetic stuff).  It’s very normal IAP stuff for pretty much any other F2P mobile game, and it certainly seems like you could play all of Torchlight Mobile’s content without spending a dime.

The dungeons themselves are shortened for short-session gameplay. The goal is to keep dungeons to five minutes or less, because again they don’t expect this game to be for players looking to dive into Torchlight for hours at a time. If a player wants to do that, they have TL and TL2 to play.  This is for when you want to game, but only can on the phone… as many an adult will tell you is a reality.  The thing is, there’s hardly ever a game that feels like it was made for my sensibilities. I’m resigned to playing puzzle games and Hearthstone. But Torchlight will definitely be added to my continuous play list when it launches later in 2015 across all devices.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.