Iíll be honest with you Ė Iíve played quite a few games that were less troublesome than Titan Quest. Maybe itís my machine, you never know Ė but at some point or another during my review playtesting Iíve suffered the occasional crash, various windows displaying slightly wrongly, and cutscenes and sound files skipping a bit. Iron Loreís first game has already been patched twice, with more patches likely, and theyíre definitely needed to get TQ near its fighting best. Thatís the technical issues out of the way. They exist, you may stumble across them, you may not. But more patches will come, more errors ironed out and soon, I predict TQ will be smoother than a greased-up version of the Fonz on a lubricated Swiss piste.
And luckily for Brian Sullivanís men at Iron Lore, the tech issues make up the vast majority of concern that I bear for TQís gaming fitness. With a graphics and physics engine as capable as this, an intriguing mythological setting, and a pitch that harks back to the simplicity and fun of Diablo, TQ always did look as though it would offer a lot, and pleasingly, it does. The plot isnít exactly Lovecraft but itís perfect as a framework for this kind of RPG. In ancient times, the Titans, the awesomely powerful beings who lost a war with the gods, have somehow escaped their eternal prison. Emerging to rampage upon a young Earth and its unsuspecting human populace, the gods must rely on a powerful hero Ė you Ė to battle the denizens of the Titans and put them back in their place. Cue a frantic hack-ní-slash RPG journey across Greece, Babylon, China, and so on. One of the things that doesnít necessarily become apparent immediately is the depth of the character creation system. Although limited in terms of appearance, there are 28 different combinations of two classes. With these, you can have flame-spewing warriors, spirit-raising rangers, and axe-swinging wizards to save the world with. And yes, you can access both male and female characters.
As the game begins, players find themselves unceremoniously dumped in a small Grecian town, in the midst of an attack by ravaging satyrs. The satyrs are one of dozens of enemies youíll come across in the single-playerís lengthy campaign, all inspired by ancient mythology. You find yourself getting access to your first items of weaponry and armour, and begin taking quests from the frightened townspeople. When you are asked to request aid from the nearby city of Sparta, the journey undertaken by all of TQís characters begins in earnest. The combat is fast-paced and brutal, greatly enhanced by Iron Loreís usage of spectacular ragdoll physics. There are a great range of skills on offer for any character, from demoralizing war horns to jets of searing flame to static crossbow traps that can be left in a location. Finding pleasing and effective combinations of the many skills will be a popular pastime for Titan Quest players in the weeks and months to come.
The same goes for equipment, with a huge range of swords, axes, bows, spears, maces, staffs, shields, armour, helmets and torches to be found. To further increase the depth, there are relics that must be collected and assembled to imbue equipment with even more fearsome magical characteristics. All the variety in equipment and skills mean that tooling up your character with the most impressive gear is hugely entertaining in itself, once youíve mastered the inventory system. Similarly, once you get hold of the better skills the effects they present upon use are suitably impressive. Happily, the combat and equipment of TQís gameplay are not the only things that impress.
The gameís engine offers superb visuals, including some genuinely sumptuous detail. Cobbles glow slightly in the mid-day sun (a feature of TQís fully functioning day-night cycle), armour shines, energy blasts ricochet off the enemy as another staff-shot hits home - itís a joy to watch the visuals and physics pan out.
For our money weíre also given an extensive editor, with which we can hope for some extra quests and areas to be made by the community that can be played with anyoneís copy of the game with a built-in custom quest option. Along the same lines, Sullivanís team also offer multiplayer, which although currently is a co-op version of the single-playerís epic quest, should also be bolstered by the custom quests to come.
With its excellent visuals and physics, great longevity, and an interesting assortment of combat options, TQ can often be an addictive and entrancing game. Quibbles like often-tedious dialogue and slight confusion over the location of quest objectives can do nothing to stifle the action-packed RPG mayhem, even if it is heavily derivative of Diablo and even Guild Wars, and even if things are a bit bland and clumsy in places. If you like your RPGs fast-paced and youíre not too hung up on not having a quality plot and dialogue, Titan Quest may be the RPG for you - when itís patched up.