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Titan Quest (PlayStation 4) artwork

Titan Quest (PlayStation 4) review


"Itch-scratcher."


Sometimes A Gaming Itch Needs To Be Scratched And It Doesn't Matter If The Game Is Truly Good: When I Played Titan Quest

Okay, that might be a bit long to be used as a title, but if I ever get around to writing that rambling 14000-page memoir on my gaming career the world demands, it could easily be used for, let's just say Chapter 746. I do have a soft spot for those loot-collecting hack-and-slash games and with it being a few years since I binged on the third Diablo, I was ready to dive back into the genre. I had the itch, it needed scratched and there was Titan Quest staring back at me from the PlayStation Now library.

And after completing all four acts that were available, I have to say that itch was scratched. It wasn't a great game or anything like that -- definitely not high-quality enough to inspire me to drop money on either of the two DLC acts -- but it was the sort of game I had a strong urge to play, it connected the dots and I was reasonably satisfied.

Titan Quest is a game that's been around for something like 15 years in one form or another. Originally made for PCs by Iron Lore Entertainment, it was eventually purchased by THQ Nordic and ported to modern systems, with the company also creating additional content in the form of that DLC I didn't purchase. You'll travel from Greece to Egypt to the Orient to Hades, battling monsters, titans and gods every step of the way. You'll collect unbelievable amounts of loot and sell it to clear inventory space for more as you advance through the world, going from caves to forests to tombs to deserts to weird underworld cities. As you gain levels, you'll be able to add new skills in your classes.

Yes, "classes", as in the plural of "class". When you start the game, you'll choose from nine possible classes, ranging from melee specialists to more fragile magic-users. After gaining a few levels, you'll then be allowed to select a second class. This gives players a vast array of potential combinations, although common sense probably should be applied. You only have to worry about three attributes -- strength, dexterity and intelligence -- which determine what sort of equipment you can use. Combine a melee class with one focused on magic and it could be easy to find yourself torn between two stats, putting you in a situation where you can't equip the best stuff available because your character is neither strong nor smart enough.

When you gain levels, you'll get a few points to allot to those attributes, as well as possibly increasing your health and pool of skill points. You'll also get points towards increasing your classes, which can serve the dual purpose of improving your stats and gaining new skills. I combined the Warrior and Hunter classes to eventually create a quite effective physical attacker. My Warrior class gave me a few good melee attacks, both for single opponents and groups of foes. Supplementing that with the Hunter class provided great support in two ways. First, I was able to master a skill that greatly improved damage against foes in the Beast and Beastman categories, which compose a very noticeable amount of the game's enemies. And, since I was doing so much of my fighting up close and personal, it was really nice to get a skill that greatly enhanced my character's health regeneration.

While this game is pretty basic, there are a few nice touches. You won't necessarily be swapping out old equipment for new constantly, because it's possible to upgrade most of the weapons and armor you'll find. Occasionally, monsters and treasure chests will drop components which can be attached to equipment. By collecting either three or five of a component, you can combine them to create a full charm that can offer nice boosts to your character. As long as that piece of equipment is on his or her body, you can use those charms to boost attack power, speed, defense or some sort of resistance. You'll also eventually start getting recipes. Combining completed charms (and occasionally rare equipment) at a particular vender will give you a special accessory that may be equipped to offer even more bonuses.

You'll have all the basics you'd expect from a game like this. Copious amounts of treasure boxes and bone piles to search for loot, an assortment of "hero" monsters serving as mini-bosses, a bunch of side quests typically revolving around you finding a particular item or killing a certain monster while exploring and so forth. Plot is minimal and can be summed up as: "Big monsters are trying to release a really powerful titan, so stop them!", with there being no real twists and turns other than those typical moments where you barely fail to thwart one step or another of the evil plan because we all know that when the plot involves someone trying to awaken a great evil, that great evil WILL awaken.

Titan Quest covers all the bases -- it just doesn't do so with a great amount of skill. I was able to tolerate its issues and play through it on a regular basis, having a reasonably fun time. But I do feel that whole "itch scratching" part should be emphasized, as those emotions could be painting my feelings in a more positive light. If I wasn't so very much in the mood for a game like this, I probably would have been more upset with its flaws.

Combat is pretty simplistic. When you get reasonably close to an enemy, its name and life bar will appear on the screen. If you then hit the attack button, you'll automatically attack that monster and, as long as you keep tapping the button, will move on to fight anything else that might be within range. In other words, a system where the game basically plays itself as long as you keep hitting one particular button and occasionally another one if you want to use a skill or potion. Except for the times where the game simply doesn't recognize that you're close to a monster, so you can be getting pounded and not have any ability to fight back. Sure, there's a simple fix for this in hitting R2, which switches between potential targets, but when a feature works most of the time and then doesn't, it is a bit disconcerting.

What's most disconcerting is how this game could be best described as a lot of monotony with occasional bursts of frustration. I might have enjoyed Titan Quest, but I can't deny it's a very repetitive game. You'll start a session, walk through various environments and kill everything that crosses your path. After you've loaded up on treasure -- a process that doesn't take long in the early going, although you will gain more inventory space as you progress further -- you'll warp back to the nearest town to sell a bunch of stuff, followed by repeating the process until you've finished one act and then the next and next and next.

And so, you'll be going through this game with no real issues until you run into one of a handful of bosses and get your ass handed to you so quickly you'll wonder what is up with this game's balancing. And then you'll find out that the best tactics for beating them involve taking advantage of A.I. exploits. In the third act, one early boss has this shout attack that can paralyze you for a few seconds, which often leads into a "falling rocks" attack that can easily one-shot you regardless of health. What did I do? Switched from melee to bow, found the point where his A.I. kicked in and caused him to turn around and go back to his lair and peppered him with arrows. He'd come back and start attacking, I'd run away; he'd turn back around and I'd attack again.

While using melee for mobs and bows (or shaky A.I.) for tough bosses wound up working for me, the controller lay-out made that trickier than it needed to be. For some reason, it was decided that pressing in the left control stick would allow you to switch between two weapons. You know, the same control stick you use to move your character. So, I'd often inadvertently switch weapons during those tough fights because it's very easy to press down on the stick while trying to move quickly. And then wonder why my guy was charging at something he was supposed to be attacking from a distance.

Titan Quest is a weird mixed bag. It's a pretty derivative game that never really seems to try to aspire to be anything more than a Diablo clone and this port is loaded with all sorts of glitches and issues, including hilarious moments such as shopkeepers delivering multiple "farewell" lines simultaneously whenever you leave them. But if you like games of this sort and need to scratch that itch from time to time and would prefer to not simply play a personal favorite over and over again, this is an adequate choice. I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it, but it can at least provide a bit of satisfaction.

3/5

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (August 01, 2020)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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