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Titan Quest Review

Titan Quest pack shot
Developer:Iron Lore
Publisher:THQ
Genre:Hack 'n' Slash RPG
Platform:PC
Official Site:http://titanquestgame.com/
Release Date:June 30, 2006 (UK)
Reviewer:James Barlow (Malis)
Buy now at Amazon.co.uk

When Blizzard released Diablo in 1996, they single-handedly created a new sub-genre of action RPG; the point and click Hack 'n' Slash adventure. Simple to pick-up and incredibly hard to put down, Blizzard would later re-use the addictive elements of the franchise in World of Warcraft. To this day though, there still exists no game that has wrenched Diablo's bloody crown from this niche of RPG gaming, no developer that has taken advantage of Blizzard's reluctance to make a Diablo 3. Granted, Sacred and Dungeon Siege have both come close, but both strayed just a little, and in fact ended up overcomplicating the genre. Titan Quest changes this. Every inch the spiritual successor to Diablo 2, Iron Lore have crafted a game that is both unashamedly fun and addictive.

Titan Quest kicks off in Ancient Greece, where all hell has broken loose. The Titans are loose and predictably, it's up to you to set things right. Your adventure will take you from Athens, to Crete, Egypt and the Pyramids and onto China and beyond, all the while battling classic monsters and enemies from ancient myth and legend. While a knowledge of the ancient scriptures isn't at all necessary, it's certainly fun spotting Gorgons, Minotaurs and Harpies (before doing the gentlemanly thing of killing and robbing them of course).

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The first thing you'll undoubtedly notice is the graphics. The game is fully 3D (locked to an isometric viewpoint) and it looks gorgeous. Everything is beautifully crisp and clean, with some fantastic animation - especially in combat. Water ripples and reeves will rustle as your hero crashes through them. Dynamic lighting and shadows add to the atmosphere. Not only this, but we're treated to an action romp with rag-doll physics - yes, monsters go flying like the proverbial Icarus, falling to their death in a satisfying fashion and draping every surface as the corpses pile up. I was very impressed by little things with this game, for instance - every enemy type has a different animation in response to being hit by the war horn (mass stun). Bats will fly in circles aimlessly, skeletons' backs will snap back at a 90 degree angle, and jackelmen will hang lifelessly for a few seconds. Flourishes such as this really impart the care gone into the game. The graphical style of the game is both contemporary and fresh, yet perfectly in tune for a game so old-school in nature.

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If you're not familiar with the genre, I'll try and explain it. You kill monsters. Lots of monsters. Then, once you've morbidly picked their corpses clean of anything remotely valuable, you find the next group and slaughter again. Sound tedious? On paper it should be, but the game-play still feels as compulsive and addictive as it did back in 2001 when I was playing Diablo 2. Unlike most other RPGs, classes are not predefined. Titan Quest introduces an interesting and flexible system of character development. You get to choose two masteries during the game, one at level 2, the other at level 8. These masteries are basically large skill trees in different areas (eight available, ranging from hunting and earth magic to warfare and defence). It's the combination of these two masteries that will define your character. Do you pick two mêlée orientated masteries or go for a magic hybrid? Iron Lore leaves it entirely up to the player. Once masteries are chosen you must choose where to spread your skill points each level, the age old question of excelling at one or spreading your talents.

Control is very simple in Titan Quest; you click on an enemy and hold it down until it dies, with right mouse button and hotkeys covering special abilities and attacks. Similarly the character stats and figures won't pose much problem, even to staunch RPG haters. Everything is well covered by tool-tips and common sense. Simple to use, nothing really ever gets in the way of this game, and the key to this sort of game is fluidity. Keep the game ticking along at breakneck speed and the gamer has no time to appreciate the repetitive nature of the genre.

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Taking this to heart Iron Lore have really gone out of their way to ensure that nothing intrudes with the pure twitch gaming. Gone is the hunt for scrolls of town portal from the Diablo series. In Titan Quest your hero carries his own self-portal on him at all times, from which he can travel to any set portal activated around the world. This makes clearing out a clogged inventory quick and painless to do. All loot lying on the ground can be highlighted at the press of a button making it easy to see what is lying around, and Iron Lore have included an extra button which does the same but omits common level items and below. This is a nice touch which saves clutter on the screen. The loot colour coding system is simple and effective (and indeed, in a clever modern reference the colour grades are lifted straight from World of Warcraft, no doubt easing the transition from one addiction to another).

Speaking of loot, there's a lot of it. Everything from broken clubs to legendary weapons of classical heroes can be used and abused on unsuspecting creatures. Refreshingly for this sort of game, most rare and epic items have unique art, which is a great bonus, helps immersion and looks cool. The loot system is actually given a realism slant, in that what you see is what you get. If an enemy is wearing armour, a shield, and carrying a sword, he'll drop all of them when he dies (of course there's no guarantee what quality they will be). You won't find your amazing magic weapons on a giant cave bat - regardless of its level. Overall, the loot system is solid, the only downside being there's too much of it. Relics and charms are far too easy to come by, and basic enhanced items are so common that you'll never have to buy anything from vendors really, leaving you sitting on a pile of cash at the end of the game.

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Titan Quest isn't a difficult game to complete - but then that's part of the charm. Normal mode sees you as almost god-like in strength, and it's great fun rushing camps full of enemies and proceeding to deal out ancient genocide. Even if you die it's only an experience penalty and a short trip back to the last respawn fountain. However, once normal is over you can take your character back through the game on Epic and Legendary difficulty, and then things do get hard. Suddenly you'll be collecting resistance gear and kiting enemies in a bid to survive. So, more of the same, but harder and with better items. If you're addicted by that point it's hard to refuse. On a multi-player front you can take your single-player character in and out of online play at will, so if you get stuck on a boss you can always pop online and get people to help you. Sadly with open servers and client-side characters, the multi-player is rife with hacks, making it only advisable with friends.

Multi-player isn't the only issue with the game. Firstly there's an alarming number of bugs. Mysterious crashes, getting stuck in caves, sound vanishing and massive fps hits when near cave entrances - sadly everyone who plays the game will encounter a bug of some sort sooner or later. However patches are being released so we can expect this to improve with time. On another note, there is a real issue of repetitiveness. Titan Quest eschews randomly generated maps in favour of pre-designed ones. Whilst these look gorgeous, there's no doubt it hampers the replay value somewhat - there's only so many times you'll be willing to trawl through Greece again. This is of particular annoyance as the first few areas of Greece are fairly drab both in design and style. Things really get going when you get a few items and skills under your belt though so it is worth persevering. Iron Lore have included level editor is included with the game, so it remains to be seen if a community develops and properly supports the game.

Summary

Virgil once penned the infamous line timeo Danaos et dona ferentis - I fear the Greeks even bearing gifts. But those fearing that this will be a hopeless Diablo rip-off with a twist of Hercules need not worry. Titan Quest is what fans of the genre have been waiting for - a game that pays tribute to the rules established by its peers and suitably expands on them with contemporary graphics and physics. Whilst the game is filled with bugs, they aren't totally game-breaking by any means, and patches should improve this area. Titan Quest won't win prizes for originality, and it won't stretch your brain, but it's fun and addictive to play. Snobby RPG fans need not apply - you have your Oblivion. The rest of us though, can enjoy the new king of Hack ' n' Slash RPGs.

The bottom line
8.0 / 10

Good stuff

  • Fast paced action-packed game
  • Simple to pick up
  • Fantastic visuals and animation
  • Highly addictive

Not so good stuff

  • Unoriginal
  • Annoying number of bugs
  • Multi-player generally poor
  • Could get repetitive


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