THQ Nordic and Black Forest Games have surprised a lot of us by bringing Titan Quest to all modern consoles, including the Switch (later this year). Titan Quest was first released back in 2006 on PC as one of the main contenders up against Diablo 2. Back then, the Action RPG isometric loot-gathering dungeon crawler genre was pretty popular with titles such as Torchlight, Sacred, Path of Exile and more, all benefiting from this newly popular style of gameplay. Titan Quest, and it’s expansion ‘Immortal Throne’, were both critically acclaimed games, ranking up there with the best of the games within the genre – however, that was then and this is now…
Does the old-school format still work as well as it once did or are we now used to more modern gameplay mechanics and spoilt by new advanced programming developments? Another question that I feel should also be asked is, should a remaster consist of more than just a texture update? Finally, is it too late for Titan Quest to come back, with the advent of Diablo 3? Many questions, but do we have the answers?
The story is actually quite an interesting one, the Titans once ruled the primordial darkness before the Olympian Gods appeared and thus begun the great war. The Titans were all exiled and imprisoned whilst the Olympians ushered in a golden age all across the mortal realm. Sometime later, three smaller Titans called Telkines had managed to break the communications conduit the Olympians held between the immortal and mortal realm and thus, summoned hordes of creatures to terrorise the humans and prepared the release of the mighty Titans.
You take control of our protagonist, a character you can only customise by sex and colour of their tunic, who is currently finding out about these events at the same time as we are. What begins with a simple batch of enemies terrorising a horse in a field, will soon turn into hordes of enemies patrolling all of the lands. Through your journey, you will travel to Egypt, China and Olympus as well as your starting ground within Greece. You will encounter many different creatures of the underworld as well as mighty Titans and even Olympic Gods – it’s a journey that is full of awe and fantasy, but is it a journey that stands up today? Let’s find out.
I just want to issue a PSA here – there will be quite a few negatives within this review, but I’ll try and counter them – if possible.
The original game was released back in 2006 on PC only – which means the game was originally released for operating with a mouse and keyboard. The team have done a decent enough job of mapping controls to a single controller, although it does sometimes seem a little overwhelming with menus within menus and, funnily enough, an item/level up screen very similar to the one in Abo Khashem!
The biggest issue I have with the controls – and the game in general – is the 2006-ness of it. I know that probably sounds petty and obvious, but hear me out. Modern takes on the genre have solid controls – look at Diablo 3, Van Helsing or Victor Vran – in these the character can move smoothly and freely with no limitations, in any direction at the push of the left stick. However, Titan Quest works as if you are playing on an invisible grid, with little control over precise movements as you move in set increments.
Another issue that arises from the controls is the targeting – you can’t control who you’re locked onto when attacking. The game will automatically choose the nearest person (I presume) and attack them, even if you want to aim for a different person. I was equipped with both a sword and a bow, and I found the only way to win was to stand back and shoot them one at a time with the bow. Another thing which I found out is, once again with the 2006-ness, hardly anything is destructible, you can kill creatures in order to gain loot, but there is no pots, crates, weapon racks – nothing. Oh, apart from chests which are scattered all over the place.
Finally, the mechanic we take for granted and don’t even think about these days… the camera controls. Other than zooming in and out, you have no control over the camera as it’s fixed in an isometric position above your head. It does pan in a little as you zoom, but ultimately it is in the same location looking down. This isn’t too much of a problem, but it can cause you to run into enemies if you are running towards the bottom of the screen and unable to see what’s coming up.
Now, the second most frustrating and annoying thing – which I really hope they fix in a patch – the delivering of text from an NPC. Okay, the game has decent voice acting and there is a lot of it, with all NPC reading their lines and delivering them with a some-what believable tone. However, the subtitles are so annoying! As the character speaks you have a box appear with the text they are saying in it, this text scrolls up like an opening for Star Wars and at around the same speed. If you press Cross then sorry, you’ve just missed all of that conversation that you can’t re-read or go back to. Numerous times I was having to go into my journal and read what my objective actually was just because I had pressed Cross by accident and skipped the whole conversation.
I’m literally begging the developers here – if you go back and change one thing, please either have the whole text appear as soon as you talk to an NPC, or at least allow us to press Cross and have the text instantly appear for us to read. As good as the Voice acting is, not all of us actually sit there and listen to the whole of the conversations in big games like this, we tend to listen as we read then move on. However, this is a non-issue to those out there who do like to sit through the conversations and listen to every word each time.
That being said – the dialogue is interesting and I like the fact that everyone has a voice and something different to say – that’s quite commendable for 2006 as a lot of today’s modern games in the genre won’t do that. But please add support for those of us who just want to play your game a little faster…
I think I’ll take a break and talk about something I actually really like about the game – the environments and certain mechanics. As I stated above, the game is interesting as you journey through various locations, each with its own ancient mythical beasts to conquer and overcome. With the remaster, you can zoom right in and really see all the details upon the characters – although this isn’t recommended if you are in mid-battle – and then zoom right out and everything still looks really sharp and colourful. It’s a shame you can’t customise your character outside of changing the colour of their clothes, but all of the other models look varied and decent from any level of zoom.
When you are stuck out in the field with little health, and the town is miles away – pop open your portable portal! This feature is so handy, you simply select it from the menu and you can warp back to any town you have found, then simply jump in the main portal at the town and go back to your Portable one. Simple. this saved my life so many times during my playthrough as you run out of health potions really fast and at the beginning, you will be dying a lot if you don’t level up accordingly. You also have a vast array of weapons and armour which you can find on dead bodies, in chests, and buy from merchants – although most of these are purely stat-increases and not really game-changers, there is a decent selection but you do become overwhelmed with lots and lots of the same item.
Co-op. Everyone loves it, don’t they? Grab a friend, seat them on the couch next to you, grab your copy of Vikings – Wolves of Midgard or Diablo 3, pop it into the machine, wait whilst it installs and updates, go grab your friend again who has wandered off to play on their phone, and finally begin co-op! Well, I’m happy to say that Titan Quest supports co-op for two to six people, which is pretty impressive… All online. There is no local co-op at all, just an online co-op option which will obviously require all of you to have your own copies of the game.
Personally, this isn’t a big deal for me as I tend to play these games on my own anyway – but from seeing the backlash over Vikings – Wolves of Midgard shipping with no local co-op, and seeing all the people go on and on about how much fun it is to play locally with their friends or family, the omission of this mechanic seems like quite a big deal for a lot of people. I can see where the co-op aspect would come in handy as well. I’ve tried to take on the first Titan on my own at a decent level and I always got my ass kicked. With multiple players, I can see this being a lot easier and more fun.
Now, when you think of a remaster, what do you expect? Updated textures, resolution, bug fixes, mechanics re-worked, lighting, ‘all the DLC’, modernised, etc… I don’t think that list is unfair or too ambitious if we are expected to re-buy an older game that’s being given to us on a new system, is it?
Titan Quest fulfils some of the above. The textures look a lot sharper and nicer than the original game but this could be down to the fact the game is running in a much higher resolution and also is a port of the Aniversary Edition from 2016, which also had its own set of graphical and performance upgrades whilst merging the DLC into the main game. That touched upon the second point, this game is the base game plus the Immortal Throne DLC (Ragnarock isn’t included as it came out late last year and will probably be a paid-DLC in a few months). I’m also happy to say that so far I’ve not encountered any bugs or glitches – so there’s that as well.
One thing the team didn’t re-do, for monetary, time or capability reasons, is the cutscenes. They look like the original files running at an upscaled resolution. In comparison to the sharp, crisp in-game graphics, the cutscenes stick out like a sore thumb. It reminds me of the Devil May Cry Collection which was ‘remastered’ – that also suffers from very low-quality cutscenes preceded by sharp HD in-game graphics.
The biggest issue overall though can be seen as both a fan-service keepsake and also its major crutch – it’s not very user-friendly in 2018. Fans of the original game will most likely love it as it’s been adapted well for the controller and it’s the same game they most loved playing back in the day – however, for a new first-time player, things felt ‘off’ due to us being spoilt by all of the vastly superior games in the genre which have come out over the last 3-4 years.
Official Trailer (no real trailer, but it’s the same as this anniversary edition):
Overall, it’s a shame the developers haven’t taken the time to give Titan Quest a full overhaul and change things around to become more modern – however, that then falls into the realms of a remake rather than a remaster and it also runs the risk of putting original fans off. However, as it stands – with our knowledge of current games in the genre and the fact we are simply spoilt by choice these days – I have a fear that the gameplay style of Titan Quest may put off all of those who don’t have nostalgia for the title. I imagine it was a case of cater for the fans or cater for the mainstream and with that in mind, I applaud their bravery and courage to stick with the original formula and cater for the fans. As such, this isn’t a game for me, but if you liked the original on PC in either 2006 or 2016, then this will certainly be a great remaster/re-release for you.
**Update since the review was published – The developers have improved the movement mechanic and you can now move freely without being locked to an invisible grid. Combat is still a little clunky but you do have more control over who you are attacking and what you are trying to pick up. They have also released a few updates for the graphics so that the 4k output is sharper and looks brighter than it did previously – both of these things are great improvements over the day-one version I was given to review. Unfortunately, the text which appears when you are talking to NPCs still scrolls up at a snail’s pace with no option to make it faster or instantaneous. As such, after playing another 4-5 hours of the game since the review, I have bumped the score to 8 as my own personal opinion.**
- - Great fan service by keeping the core mechanics the same as the original
- - Very colourful and varied environments
- - Controller implementation of a keyboard and mouse game is pretty good
- - Contains both the base game ind it's first expansion
- - Good music and voice acting
- - By keeping its mechanics the same - new-comers may be put off
- - A lot of the multitude of weaponry is just varying stats
- - The text from talking to NPC is delivered in a terrible Star Wars intro style
- - Co-op is only online
- - No control over the camera (but that's technically a design choice)