Torchlight III had a long road to release. It spent years in development as Torchlight Frontiers, a free-to-play ever-expanding multiplayer RPG. During the beta process for that game, the decision was made to totally scrap it and turn it into Torchlight III instead, a more “traditional” follow-up to the venerated action RPG franchise.
Earlier this year, Torchlight III launched in early access for PC…and I kind of hated it. It was a truly early half-finished product at best, with worlds that were made for a much larger game, a progression system that felt awkwardly out of place in a paid product, and combat that was riddled with lag due to a seeming over-reliance on constant server communication.
Somehow, the developers at Echtra games managed to turn that mess around. The final release of the game hit PC and consoles just a couple of weeks ago, and although it’s a bit light on overall content compared to other popular games in the genre, it’s now delightfully fun to play. Sure, on consoles it’s locked to 30 frames per second, but it’s got enough of that classic Torchlight magic to be worth the asking price.
I say all this to establish my personal background here. I went on a rollercoaster ride with this game, but now in its final mostly-good state, it’s going to be one of my most-played games of the year. I enjoyed it enough that I bought the Switch version the moment it was released (official Nintendo shop link here), just to see how well it turned out.
The answer? It’s not very good.
As with some other beleaguered ports, the Nintendo Switch is the worst place to play Torchlight III. In a vacuum where none of the other versions existed…it still wouldn’t be that amazing because the Switch contains an excellent port of Torchlight II. That prior game runs almost entirely locked at 60 frames per second and at a 1080p resolution on a docked Switch…feats which the new game doesn’t come remotely close to matching. Oh and it goes for $20, half the $40 price of this newer game.
Sure, the new game is more visually elaborate, and the Switch retains most of the visual elements of the versions on more powerful machines. But I still expected better performance.
On Switch, you’ll notice jagged edges everywhere whether you play docked or in portable mode. Shadow quality has been greatly reduced, with those characters lucky enough to still cast shadows now throwing simple circular blobs into the environment instead of fully- detailed silhouettes. Particle and spell effects are slightly reduced in count and complexity. And texture quality is much blurrier all-around, which when combined with the lower resolution gives the game a soft look overall.
All of these visual cutbacks would be worth it if the game ran smoothly, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The framerate is subject to constant juddering, and seems to be running completely uncapped and unlocked, pushing out as many frames as the Switch can handle. In fact, if you have a more recent Switch with the “Mariko” chipset, you will notice slightly higher performance when the game isn’t under load. I saw smoother gameplay on my Switch Lite than my older launch era machine…at least, when nothing was happening.
The second that the game draws more than a couple of monsters or effects, the framerate takes a nose dive. Unfortunately, this happens every minute or so. Controller response during larger encounters is greatly hampered as the framerate dives underneath 20 frames per second, and you won’t be able to precisely use abilities or position your character out of harm’s way like you can on other machines.
It’s a shame, because aside from the performance problems, this is still a competent action RPG. Load times are a little longer than on other systems, but not aggressively so, and there’s still an enjoyable pile of 10–12 hours of combat and looting to be had here. The endgame content is a little more chaotic and complex than the main campaign, and thus not all that fun to play on Switch.
You can do so much better on the platform. Diablo III and Torchlight II both run dramatically better, load faster, and contain much more content to play through, and they’re both easily worth playing before you choose this one. Victor Vran is another more-performant option if you want to support a smaller studio and you’re looking for something different. I called its Switch version “barely acceptable” so you can imagine what Torchlight III’s performance is like. Heck, I even loaded up the still-janky Switch version of Titan Quest and found it a smoother, more playable experience than this.
At least the audio survived intact. Unlike The Outer Worlds and Victor Vran, Torchlight III has managed to keep the full stereo mix for its music, and the sound effects come through without noticeable compression artifacts. If only the visuals were up to the standard set by the audio presentation here.
The Switch version of the game also seems to be a bit more buggy than the other versions, and the patching process has been slower on Nintendo’s platform compared to other systems. The “missing pet” bug I encountered a couple of times on Xbox happens constantly on the Switch, and I’ve had moments where my character started to sink into the world geometry, or where enemies spawn in only to immediately disappear before spawning again.
The Nintendo Switch only has so much power. I get that. I don’t expect more elaborate games to run perfectly smooth. But Torchlight III isn’t the most elaborate-looking game in the world, and it comes from a genre with a pedigree for high-performance and fast gameplay. The more modest, stylized visuals present in these isometric action RPGs are supposed to help increase playability and speed. That compromise hasn’t really worked on the Switch for this particular game.
Torchlight III sounds just as good as its bigger brothers, and has all of the same enjoyable content. But you’ll be looking at it through muddier graphics and constant framerate drops. If you’re a fan of the genre, and you’ve totally exhausted every other option, and you only own the Switch…there’s still some charm here. But this version of the game is several patches away from the fun time present on other machines.