This is your way to endgame.
How to Melee Brawler Forged
Stats follow this rule: defense>health>fire/poison defense>critical damage>damage
Most of the damage you are going to be mitigating is basic attacks and charges, and having a lot of mobs on top of you most of the time, means a lot of damage. You need to cut it out in order to have enough time to dish out your melee damage.
Boosting your health is a good way to enhance your heals. Most of the healings sources like pots or augmented Power Projection heals with a %health base. If you keep your defense and health stats high, you can withstand most encounters with no risk at all.
Most of the damage of this source can easily be avoided with enough awareness, no need to invest on this stat. For example Blazing, this is a very annoying elite trait at first, but if you engage the mob while the trail is active and disengage when it is off, you can wait 2 or 3 seconds away to see where the next trails go, and then you engage again. You will have to repeat this max 2 times for very hard mobs.
This build dish some absurd amounts of criticals, so if u want to increase your damage, +critical damage is way better than plain damage or +critical chance.
Go for +brawl skill damage on chest cannon, or just damage that enhance your main hand weapon damage.
Also, try to keep always your block chance around 40%. I would say, 5% block chance beats 5% damage reduction always.
Theres nothing special for this, just follow the stats chain to see if you need to change a equipment or not. On Torchlight you can get very different gear from one run to another, so theres no point in saying, get this or get that.
Anyhow, 2 considerations:
You need to use a 1 handed weapon and shield, no getting around this. First, there’s no reason to use a 2 handed when you can have a 1 handed with the same damage and 40% block chance. Rapid Strike will hit the same if 2 weapons have the same damage, theres no difference if it is a 2h or 1h.
Legendary items are not always the best choice; look always for most damage and/or shock proc on weapon and stat chain on the rest. Obviously Mountain King set is a exception to this rule; it is designed to go with a melee building, and its procs are absolutly amazing.
Get a 1h that have shock procs. If I feel my weapon is behind the damage I should be doing, I just gamble until I get one. Shock procs on +30% and +critical damage it’s the best outcome you can get. Even if you have a weapon with more damage, go for the one with shock proc.
All brawler tree skills, no need to get ballistic ones. Brawler skills when augmented, usually gives you bonuses for the rest of your skills, like rapid strike in tier 3 gives you +% brawler skills damage, Power Projection gives you a 1sec invulnerability on cast and a heal over time effect, etc.
Your skill set is something like above.
This right here is your bread and butter. It hits for around half your weapon damage and hits four times in row at insane speed. This build was made around this skill, effects with small chance of procs get dish out just like that, by sheer brute force. Cyclone is a choice most people do, but for me, it generates way too much heat even when augmented (it reduces the heat produces in 30). This skills not only let yours procs go dry, but also have a nice synergy with Vent:Vortex Bomb, almost always when you are done getting enough heat, the vent is already out of cd.
Best Vent for this build, it hits around you and boost your defense. Until tier 4, when it drops bombs around you, try to not use em on fleeing enemies, or ones you are chasing, its hitbox is ridiculous small. Thats because when initially release, this vent dragged all mobs around you, then explode. But people used to get trapped for the mobs it attracted, so they disabled to initial push. Still, hit like a truck when fully upgraded.
Another core skills, let you stay engaged way longer. It gives a %defense bonus, heal over time and invulnerability effect on cast. Time it well, either for staying in combat longer, as heal over time when disengaging or to mitigate a burst. Mobs have to hit you through this skill, your 40% block chance and the constant heal. You can get low on health, but is more rng than anything.
Go for tier 1 for the extra charge. Its more a utility skill than anything else. Either to rush a mob, or to flee when low on health/out of defensive cds, or when trapped against terrain. I cannot remember a time that I said "oh man, that 3rd charge saved my bronze rears", but better be prepared.
I used this sequence to level RS->VVB->RR->RStier1->VVBtier1->RRtier1->PPtier1
Then go as you wish, I usually end a tier before starting to level another skill, with my priority being RS>VVB>PP
Theres 3 options for you to go with relics, but only one is the definitive for this build.
Blood drinker: it revolves around the bleed mechanic. Probably a good choice for early levels, until you get all your defensive skills. Have a few interesting heals, but all are on kill, so it doesnt help on bosses or elites unless you are killing everything around, which is no going to happen with a melee build.
Cold Heart: Have a wall, summon and frozen on hit mechanic. Second best choice, the wall is on a short cd and you can cast it to block ranged mobs that are aiming at you, also chills on contact. The golems summoned have a good damage but its only 20s and are summon by a % on kill on frozen enemies. The Frozen on hit is also useful, because frozen mobs that hit you with a %, but lets be honest, we dont need any more defenses at this point. Go for the +%chance proc lighting strike first, then the extra +%critical chance on activation.
Electrode: The only choice here, in conjunction with Rapid Strike, this is your jam. Coldheart could do more damage than this, because it have a +critical damage and 100% critical chance on frozen enemies mechanic, which absolutly obliterates mobs. But theres two problems, the lesser is that frozen is not a common proc on weapons, chills is, but you need to frozen enemies to get the full potential out Coldheart, so outside your relic activation time or rare frozen on hit, you have no use for this relic. But the major problem is that elites and bosses cant be frozen... but they can be shocked. Electrode gives you a nice % chance on hit on shocked enemies to proc a thunder that hit for another 100% weapon damage. If u sums up that to the extra critical chance that gives you on activation, you can dish out some nice damage thanks to rapid strike. It also give some aoe options with a active skill and %on kill projectiles, that helps to reach out mobs far from you.
Torchlight 3 is still on Early Access, so much of this guide will change overtime I guess. Thats also why theres alot of points left to call this a definitive guide, but I dont think getting ballistic skills in the future. Theres alot of useful augmentations on the skills i didnt take yet, like plus critical on brawler skills from the uppercut skill.