Well, round 2 was satisfying (for me, at least) but time marches on and so, it seems, does my gaming progress. Here’s another one that I managed to cross off my ‘to do’ list:

Titan Quest (PC)

Titan Quest is a Diablo clone. Or, more accurately, it’s a Nethack clone. I don’t see why Blizzard should get the honours for a genre they merely polished. (For other examples, see Starcraft, WoW and their entire portfolio). Anyway, misplaced honour aside, I really enjoyed Titan Quest.

I like a tasty dungeon hack but the last one I made any headway in had it’s progress wiped during a hard-disk crash and I couldn’t get motivated to slog through the start of it again.

So, Titan Quest sees your anonymous character click’n’kill a myriad of mythological beasts in Greece, Egypt and China. It doesn’t re-write the rulebook in any way, it just does what it does solidly. Unlike more recent dungeon-hacks the viewing angle cannot be altered beyond zooming in and out. This makes the gameplay feel slightly more linear and initially felt compromising but it took no time at all to get used to it and to feel that I was always seeing the visuals as they were meant to be seen.

The quality of the graphics are superb. Like any good hack, your avatar wears his armour in accordance to how you’ve kitted him out. Your enemies also display any extra armour they may be wearing. The environments look fantastic too. Initially you start in greek farmlands and whole fields of swaying crops react to your movement. Although it must be, none of the envrionment graphics appear very modular. The changes in ground texture from larsh farmland to barren waste to marshes to snow is never too jarring. The exception to this tends to be caves which do tend to look a little formulaic in their appearance – then again, there’s only so much you can do with caves I guess.

There are six different disciplines of magic to choose from at the start of the game. You’re offered to choose one of them near the start and, later on, you can enroll in a second discipline also. Each discipline can be mastered in it’s own right and contains spells and sub-spells that can be levelled up too. To be honest, I didn’t really explore too much of that. I mastered the two disciplines (which makes spells more effective and also significantly boosts your health and mana stats for your character) and then maxed out two spells which saw me through pretty much all of the game. I won’t criticise the game for that as it let me play the game how I wanted to. I’m sure if I’d explored that side of it more I’d learn more of what it has to offer.

One of the most satisfying aspects of the game is the enemy deaths (and considering you’ll be seeing a lot of them, they should be good to look at). The moment an enemy dies, rag-doll physics take over. No big deal, right? Fair point. But if you’re a lot stronger than your enemy they get thrown back by your finishing blow. If you warp back to an earlier area where you’re many levels above those of your enemy then carving through them is great to watch as you’ll have bodies flying about all over the place. Nice touch!

Our hero meets the formiddable Egyptian Kabbadi team
Our hero meets the formiddable Egyptian Kabbadi team

There’s some other useful stuff in the game. Later on you can meet merchants in towns that will allow you to spend money and buy back character points that you spent on your spell development. This way, if you wish you hadn’t levelled up one spell because you want to boost another to beat a boss you can do so. Titan Quest also allows your avatar to have two weapon/armour configurations on the go at once. So you can swap your short-range sword-and-shield configuration to a long-range bow configuration with a key-tap during the action. This works well in many situations.

Dungeon hacks always tend to suffer from the problem of players grabbing all the loot around and then needing to go back to town to free up inventory space. Titan Quest is no different. Towns have warp portals. You can create a 2-way portal anywhere in the game so getting back to town, selling your loot and going back to where you just were is easy – but it’s still an annoyance. There’s huge amounts of loot and treasure in the game. You can hold down ALT to make it easier to collect the items (doing so brings up colour coded item labels – easier to click on). The colouring of the text helps you to know if an item is rare, enchanted or relatively worthless. Either way, you’ll still have loads of cash and loot by the end of the game.

The story, such as it is, is just the usual dungeon-hack mechanism of ‘go here’ type mission which sets you with a target and lots of meanies to kill along the way.

There’s a great variety of well produced bad guys too. Higher level versions of a particular speices are usually larger and more decorated than their more humble siblings. All of them look great and animate brilliantly. In the first chapter (Greece) the game seemed to be recycling the characters a little too much but the later chapters keep the variety going and the theme appropriate to the environment.

I found bosses looked great and were imaginative but were never much of a mental challenge to defeat. More often than not, a circling tactic punctuated with long range attacks and a bit of patience would see them off. Stocking up on potions helps too, of course.

Although I got to the end of the single player campaign I’ve not tried the level editing or online modes – nor the two higher difficulty campaigns that become unlocked. If anything I found the single-player campaign marginally too long for it’s own good and I just wanted the game to be over and my investment in my character not to have been wasted.

It’s not often I beat a game on the PC though – so I’m happy to have played through Titan Quest and may indulge in the addon pack (Immortal Throne) that is available. I’m not aware of any other recent, big production dungeon hacks other than the distinctly different flavoured Marvel Ultimate Alliance from Raven games. I’d certainly recommend the game if you’re a fan of the genre.

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