Originally released only two years after Sacred, Titan Quest combines Greek mythology with hack and slash: a world full of mesmerizing creatures to kill, wealth to collect, and above all: horrible bugs and boring gameplay. Should you play this hack & slash game over others such as Dungeon Siege and Diablo 2? The answer is a definitive no.
I slogged through more than twenty hours of repetitive and frustrating gameplay and wrote all this to spare you from the same misery, so do me a favor and simply don’t bother: look at better hack & slash games instead. The game was re-released for Nintendo Switch in 2018, and that’s the one I regretted playing. You’d think that twelve years after the original release, most bugs would have been fixed. Think again!
The following compelling about section on THQ Nordic’s page lured me into buying the game:
From Age of Empires co-creator Brian Sullivan and Braveheart writer Randall Wallace comes an action role playing game set in ancient Greece, Egypt and Asia. The Titans have escaped their eternal prison, wreaking havoc upon the earth. The gods seek a hero who can turn the tide in an epic struggle that will determine the fate of both men and gods. Are you ready for the quest?
Wow, the AoE co-creator and Braveheart writer - this has got to be good, right? The story is slightly original, compared to most other generic high fantasy hack & slash games: no goblins and zomb-wait, zombies are there. No Dragon- wait, dragon beastmen are there. Okay, no rats! Nope, Ratmen are present. Wizardry 8 Rattkin? Nope, no cleverness, funny dialog or questing, just killing and looting - but in style: in ancient Athens, in the Temple of Apollo, in various dull Pyramids that look exactly like the previous one, and on the Great Wall where everybody calls you “Warrior!" with a strange Asian accent.
Okay, so the game looks good - or looked good in 2006. It’s fully rendered in 3D, although most scenery is pretty static. On the Switch, it looks and plays quite fluently - aside from the texture mapping bugs here and there. The game look and feel reminds me a lot of Dungeon Siege because of its seamless transition in and out of underground dungeons and caves. But also because of the boring gameplay - mostly because of that. All I had to do with my dual wielding melee build was to press and hold the
Y button on my controller - that’s it. That’s it? That’s it - well, besides the constant thirst for health potions my character had, that can be quenched with a press of the
L shoulder button.
Your character automatically targets enemies (on the console) as long as you keep that button pressed - as with Diablo III and Torchlight II I also played on the Switch. However, in those games, actually re-targeting is easy. Not so in Titan Quest: while attacking, you can try to move your character, which reveals a blue cone that should aid the player with choosing a target. In practice, the thing never works, or works after three seconds, when my character ran towards the wrong guy, and ended up getting killed. This is particularly frustrating in Act II tombs, where “Dark Crystals” spawn elemental-wielding skeleton mages at a rapid rate. The trick is to get rid of the crystal, which also makes the summoned skeletons go away. However, in a crowded place such as that one, trying to target a single pillar, is simply an inpossible task. I threw my controller on several occasions because of this.
There is nothing wrong with auto-targeting on a console, but another problem I had with Titan Quest was the skill tree. While it looked amazing, and the system is classless, meaning you can mix and match however you like, in practice, most skills are passive. That means, you’ll be receiving damage/attack rating/defense/etc bonuses from spent skill points, but you won’t be receiving many new moves that gets mapped to a button.
This was especially true for my build: I was a skilled warfare and rogue melee fighter, with 90% of my points put into the warfare tree. Dual wielding requires a lot of points in several passive skill slots, and does not work like in most other H&S games: there’s a x% chance of hitting two enemies at once or attacking with both weapons, depending on the skill level. Most other points went into evade and more buffs, and I ended up with a bit of a glass cannon that can take down hordes of enemies with ease but is also killed with ease because I didn’t equip a shield or didn’t go with the defense mastery. I should have gone with a caster, I knew it…
What about loot, one of the most compelling reasons to play games such as this? Well, it’s there. Items are categorized in different orders of rarity: common (white), magical (yellow), rare (green), unique (blue), set items (also green?). That sounds suspiciously familiar - and that’s a good thing. In the beginning, since rare and unique items are very uncommon, I picked up every single yellow thing I saw. That ended with too many trips back and froth to town in order to sell unwanted items. You really feel lucky when a rare item drops! And I suspect that some drops are set, such as several boss monsters that just so happen to drop the items they were using against you.
Besides the regular loot, you collect other spoils of war: boar hides, fangs, demon blood, and so on. These can be combined (3 or 5 items will do) and used to further enhance your gear, not unlike runes. Except that with Diablo’s runes, you need socketed gear, and in Titan Quest, you don’t - although most unique items cannot be enhanced for some reason. These trinkets do take up a lot of your inventory space, and managing these is very painful, as every single act introduces new variants that do not mix with previous ones. I ended up with a bunch of crap (2 out of 3) items cluttering my precious space, until I finally unlocked some more backpack room. These can be stored in a private stash in town, though.
On a TV screen, it is very difficult to see what’s what, especially with those tiny 1x1 things in your inventory. The inventory screen does not make use of a ring-based menu system like Diablo III or Torchlight II, but rather falls back to the PC implementation. That means that scrolling through stuff you’d like to sell or equip is also a pain, although the overview is better than in aforementioned games. I’m starting to get the feeling that if you still would like to play this game, you’d better do this on PC…
I mentioned before that the game plays and runs fine. That was a lie. It is riddled with bugs: every single time I put it out of sleep mode to continue my quest, half of the textures are gone for a minute or two. Wuh? Okay, that’s not so bad. But what about this: I was fighting my way through a bunch of lunatics in a cave in act III when I suddenly managed to position myself in front of a cave wall with junk (and a chest) blocking my way. I tried for a few minutes to wiggle my way out of this, without any luck. I was stuck! I couldn’t simply reload as there are set save points (wells you have to activate), so I had to do this part again. Great.
What’s more, enemy glitches happen frequently: animations mowing through a solid wall, hitting you in the progress with no way to hit back. Doors that won’t open for a few seconds, but your HP bar drops anyway because of what is on the other side. The list goes on and on, and I have no idea why such an old game is still full of shitty bugs such as these.
And yet, death animations are really cool, you can sometimes even see their armor realistically falling next to the fresh corpse. Chests release their goodies with flare, shadows are really cool, and there’s a day and night cycle. Too bad that many of the bad things outweigh the good…
Another “bad” thing on the console is navigating the menu or overworld map. There’s no semi-transculent map that can be enabled with one button: you have to press
+, use the thumb stick to try and aim for a world map, and press
A. The trouble is, that ring-menu is horrible. It selects the wrong menu more than half of the time, and having to slog through it in order to see where the hell I’m supposed to be going is very off-putting. Not that getting lost is easy, though: the game is very liniar, and simply guides you from point A to point B, in a similar fashion to Dungeon Siege. Even the enemy variation reminds me of Dungeon Siege: there is variation, but only after the scenery changes. By then, you’ll be moaning at the sight of yet another centaur in Act I, skeleton in Act II, or lionmen in Act III.
Might the questing system be a superior version, compared to Diablo 2? Again, I’m afraid that I’ll have to disappoint you. While the towns of Titan Quest offer story tellers, like the good old philosophers who like to hang out in the streets to tell everybody what they should and shouldn’t know, most citizens do not have anything to say. That’s not unlike most other H&S games, true. But the way you pick up quests is by walking towards people with a
! on their heads, pressing a, and just walking away - even while they’re still trying to explain what you’re supposed to do. Why? Because the text scroll speed of the NPCs is terribly slow, compared to the voiced explanation. To me, this breaks immersion, as I lose the patience to sit through a dull “Oh, Woe Is Me!” speech.
Another thing that irritated me was that finishing a quest by finding a required item or killing a local nuisance simply resulted in a message saying Quest Updated. What does “updated” mean - do I still have to do something? After inquiring in the quest log, the quest was ticked off - and thus, finished - so the answer would be no. Huh? Shouldn’t I go back to town and tell the poor woman that I killed the bandit leader? Nope, she’ll hear it from a local guard, but here is your money anyway. Where did I get that money form? It fell out of the sky - a God gave it to you.
Is it worth it to play Titan Quest? No. My conclusion is in stark contrast with Justin’s over at his Random Battles Blog, but for the reasons mentioned above, I’d rather replay other H&S games than trying to slog through the expansion(s) content(s). Even Dungeon Siege, the H&S game I found to be most boring, is a better alternative. The setting is unique but does not have enough to offer to to justify the other shortcomings.