There are few more satisfying ways to destroy a single button on your Xbox control pad than by holding down X through about 30-40 hours of action-RPG gameplay. Until now, I’ve never been able to see past Diablo III, but with its brand new (but not really) Ragnarok DLC, Titan Quest does actually offer a nice alternative.
Firstly, there’s an elephant in the room. Titan Quest was first released in 2006, and by Zeus, it shows in several places. Firstly, the world — which spans Greece, Egypt, China, Germany and beyond — is incredibly static and very dated. That said, despite a lack of interactive features and some very dated textures, the vibrant colours and sheer variety of locations was enough to keep my interest.
Also rather old-fashioned is the core gameplay, which feels more Diablo II than Diablo III, and that’s saying something given that Blizzard’s latest effort is almost eight years old. There’s no option to perform an evasive manoeuvre, and the targeting (which is largely automatic with respect to your basic attack) is often hit and miss. Skills, when activated, sometimes fail to respond, and can be hard to target when targeting is necessary.
But, you know, this is an ARPG, so you can’t come into it expecting it to play like an action game. Titan Quest, more than any other similar game that I’ve played, offers fine min-maxers the opportunity to fine-tune like I’ve never seen before. There are no set classes here, and instead the player will choose a starting “mastery” followed by a second mastery at level eight.
The original Titan Quest featured eight of these masteries that could be combined in various ways, but the two DLC’s that have since been released (Immortal Throne back in 2018, Ragnarok just recently) have added two more. This gives over 40 possible combinations, each of which has its own exhaustive skill tree.
The Ranger, for example, is the product of Nature and Hunting masteries that was a favourite during the early game, whilst by combining the two new DLC masteries (Rune and Dream) you’ll end up with a Seidr Worker. Whilst some of the names offer a clue as to what you can expect from a mastery, you’ll end up with tens of hours with whatever choice you make, so I’d suggest using a Wiki to plan ahead at least a little bit.
Like Diablo III, Titan Quest offers a single playthrough of its fives acts on normal difficulty to all new players, but it also expects that players will return to complete the game a number of additional times on harder difficulty levels. These levels are not available to begin with and must be unlocked, and it’s unlikely you’ll reach the level cap in a single playthrough.
Thankfully, Titan Quest can be played multiplayer both online and in local split-screen, and as always with ARPG’s, that’s the way you’ll want to do it. In my case, online play has been a staple, but the local cooperative mode has seen some love during these strange days of Covid-19 lockdown, although my wife is less keen on the subject matter than I am.
Because of its focus on multiplayer, building the perfect character and all of the usual ARPG trappings, the storyline is very much secondary. The main game features a pantheon of mythological creatures including Medusa and her sisters as well as The Minotaur, whilst the antagonists through the two expansions include Hades himself in Immortal Throne and a host of Norse favourites in Ragnarok.
Even as you chop your way through minions in their tens of thousands — including satyrs, boars, gorgons, mummies, scarabs, automa, terracotta soldiers and the rest — you’ll never need to know or care why. You’ll just need to wade into each group of enemies holding down X, whilst intermittently activating skills, buffs and abilities as needed.
Each mastery or combination of masteries has particular strengths and weaknesses and these will dictate your style of play, as will your choice of weapons. The three basic attributes that support the classes are strength, intelligence and dexterity, whilst the only resources are health and energy (the latter of which is spent to perform actions).
You may wish to create a build based on dealing direct damage to a single opponent whilst using summoned creatures to do your tanking, or you may build a class purely to control crowds and support other players. Each class will usually support two or three different play styles, so whilst I mentioned over forty named combinations, there are actually hundreds of different ways to play.
This review was originally intended to be focused on the Ragnarok DLC, which has just launched on consoles, but I feel it would have been remiss to focus on that alone when it only makes up for about twenty percent of the time I’ve spent with the game. You see, Ragnorok doesn’t do anything that Titan Quest wasn’t already doing, it just does more of it, and it’s real USP is probably the setting.
Personally, I like the Ragnorok act, but I don’t think I like it any more than the others — it’s nice to see completely different enemies and locations, but then again, The Orient (Act III) is pretty different too. So what am I saying? Well, basically, if you’ve already got Titan Quest and you enjoy it, then picking up Ragnarok seems like a total no brainer.
But what if you don’t? Well, Ragnarok isn’t going to change a damn thing, but you should still buy Titan Quest, and Immortal Throne, and Ragnarok, since I think the package they offer is absolutely fantastic. This may be a very old game in terms of core mechanics, but it’s been improved over and over again, and the fact that new DLC continues to arrive is testament to what a labour of love it is.