Titan Quest is Iron Lore Entertainment’s first entry into the crowded PC game market. It presents an interesting take on the action RPG genre but ultimately fails to deliver a compelling game experience that will keep you coming back for more. To back up that statement, I give you ten reasons (in no particular order) why you should spend your money elsewhere:
1) There is basically no customization available for your player character.
When you create a new character, you get to choose the name, sex, and tunic color of your new avatar. That’s it. Apparently people only came in two different flavors in the ancient world, male & female, because no other options are supported. This decision was made to let even casual gamers get into the game immediately but it prevents a player from adding any sort of personal touch to the game. This blandness is especially evident in multiplayer games where you’ll feel like a long lost sextuplet meeting up with his identical brothers to rid the world of the taint of evil. Titan Quest would have likely helped itself by having a full host of options during character generation, including but not limited to body size, hair color/style, and skin tone.
2) Lack of a random map generator for the game world.
There are both pros and cons to the entirely hand-built game world but I feel that in the end it is a negative feature of Titan Quest. In order to fully experience everything the game has to offer, you’ll need to play through the game on each one of its three difficulty levels. This involves playing through the exact same map three times in a row with the same character. If the game were a better overall product then this repetitive journey would not be as dull but unfortunately this is not the case.
I also appreciate that the environmental graphics are much better than they would be if the maps were randomly generated but I would gladly sacrifice a reasonable amount of eye candy if I knew that the bridge right after the village with 3 huts wouldn’t *always* lead to the hill with a group of critters lounging about on it. A random map generator would prevent the feeling I found myself having of “Oh no, not another trip through the unchanging hills of Greece.”
3) Lack of a well implemented player vs. player mode.
This reason isn’t a dealbreaker for myself but there are enough players who enjoy PvP combat that it is important to note. A PvP mode does exist in the game but it is only accessible by using a flag on the game’s executable file instead of an option you can choose from the in-game menu. As such, the PvP mode is not officially supported by Iron Lore and pales in comparison to what the gaming public expects from a 2006 release. A fully-fleshed out PvP mode could have featured general free-for-all, capture the flag, team deathmatches and more.
4) Way too many useless items drop on a way too frequent basis.
Clutter, clutter, clutter! After a typical battle with 7 to 10 monsters, you’ll be happy you decided to go with the extra-heavy soled boots before you left in the morning. Each monster in the game is decked out with an assortment of items when it is first generated. For the most part, these items are either of the lowest (grey) or normal (white) quality. Upon ending said monster’s life, its various equipment will fall to the ground in a hodge podge pile of junk that your average adventurer wouldn’t think to look twice at.
Scattered amongst this pile of worthless scrap metal might be a magic item of some type that you’ll actually want to pick up. Now, Iron Lore has thoughtfully provided several filter keys to prevent the worthless items from being displayed onscreen but unfortunately these keys don’t simply nuke the junk into the next realm of existence. So as you attempt to click on your desired magical item, you’ll often accidentally pick up an assortment of broken swords and shields that will quickly fill your available inventory space. When fighting a group of bad guys, you’ll need to deal with this as well; clicking to move around the screen during a battle will often end with your character picking up these random broken items in the heat of the combat.
5) Lack of an easy method to transfer items between your characters.
The lack of this feature is one of the major flaws for a game that claims to be focused on the single player experience. During your adventures, you will inevitably find fantastic magic items and artifacts that your current character is not able to use. A warrior might find a powerful staff that greatly boosts casting abilities. Or a mage might find the world’s greatest sword in a long forgotten treasure chest. No problem, right? You’ll just transfer that sword over to your hand-to-hand fighter and you’re all set. But alas, the game doesn’t include an easy way to do this without third party modification. In order to move your sword, you’ll need to log into a multiplayer game and hope you can find a charitable honest soul to help you make the transfer. This is inexcusable in a game that modelled large parts of its gameplay experience from Diablo II. That this problem existed in Diablo II and still exists in Titan Quest over six years later is just mind-boggling. The developers know that players are clamoring for this feature – why not give it to them? A “shared stash” that all of your characters can access would easily solve this problem and make for a much better overall game.
6) Game balance is off and needs to be drastically fine-tuned.
To put it bluntly, the normal level of difficulty is a cakewalk. With almost any class combination, you’ll have no problem strolling through each of the three acts without any problem whatsoever. This wouldn’t be such an annoying problem except that you have to beat normal difficulty before you can start a game in epic difficulty mode. So you’re basically forced to spend around 20 hours of your time walking over living speedbumps and their assorted broken droppings before even getting the smallest bit of challenge from the game. Epic difficulty is much more reasonable but will either continue to be a cakewalk (if you’ve picked one of the overpowered magic builds) or will start really slowing you down (if you’ve gone with one of the very underpowered melee builds.) Legendary difficulty continues the trend as you’ll either find yourself mowing through your enemies or constantly reviving at a rebirth fountain after another smackdown in close combat depending on your choice of character.
7) Game-ending crashes and lock-ups are happening to a number of users.
Any game released these days is going to have assorted bugs and problems. The game-buying public is aware of this and endures it as a necessary evil that usually cannot be avoided. Titan Quest was shipped with a number of severe problems though and some users are still experiencing these crashes even after the release of two patches by Iron Lore. It’s understandable that the infinite amount of available PC configurations makes it impossible to squash every bug before shipping but no company should release a game that is still haunted by gamebreaking crashes when it goes gold. Hopefully Iron Lore will be able to correct these problems sometime this year and enable these gamers to finally play their purchases.
8) Boring, repetitive gameplay without much variation at all.
This is probably the biggest complaint I have with Titan Quest in its current state. The game is simply boring to play once you’ve spent any length of time with it. At the heart of this is the distribution of monsters across each game map as well as the AI that manages your opponents. As you move through each map, you’ll come across clump after clump of critters, evenly distributed without much variation. A boss encounter every once in a while helps to break up the monotomy but it’s simply not enough to keep the gameplay interesting. Because the maps are all hand-created, I would expect much more thought to go into the placement of the monsters on each one. Perhaps the bad guys could set up ambushes or have some sort of defensive plans in place that would make things more interesting. Instead, you’ll take out group after group of monsters while their compadres simply lounge about waiting for their turn. Fun for a while but it doesn’t make for an enjoyable extended gaming experience.
9) Hefty graphic and PC requirements that are difficult to meet for many gamers.
I can understand needing the latest CPU and video card in order to play a newly released first person shooter with all of its bells & whistles turned on. But I can’t understand not being able to run an action RPG on even medium-level settings without experiencing drastic slowdown during many portions of the game. I’m able to run most of the graphic intensive games of today (e.g., F.E.A.R, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, etc) on higher-level settings without many problems or slowdown but Titan Quest really put my gaming rig to the test. The game has a definite problem with its graphic optimizations and this is most sorely evident during the nighttime cycle and when entering/exiting cave areas. Many players have complained about the lack of an option to turn the day-night cycle off in order to avoid this problem, as well as the awful framerates that must be endured when transitioning from indoors to out and vice versa. More time in development would likely have been able to fix these problems and more, or at least given the user more options to combat them on a scaleable level.
10) The lack of a closed multiplayer server or online ranking system severely hampers the longevity of the game.
The way the multiplayer system works now is pretty simple as each person’s character is stored on their own PC. This means that anyone can use a character editor or other means to greatly boost or distort their character’s stats and equipment without regard to the way the developers intended it to be. One person in a typical multiplayer game could have spent hours building their warrior up, finding the best magic items to equip him with, and carefully choosing the most efficient way to improve his stats and skills in the process. Meanwhile, a second person in the game could have used a character editor to instantly create what is essentially a god among mortals with the best items in the game and hit points & mana to spare.
The non-cheating player will basically be at a huge disadvantage in every way to the superhero, as he watches in amazement while Zeus-in-the-flesh slices and dices his way through the toughest enemies the game has to offer. These two characters shouldn’t be allowed to play in the same game but the current setup means that it will happen on a pretty frequent basis. A closed server which saves every character on itself is the best way to make sure that Titan Quest has an even playing field. This system wouldn’t be perfect by any means (Diablo II is still subject to hacks despite its closed server system) but it would go a long way towards establishing more credibility for Titan Quest as an upper tier RPG. Also, an online ranking system could be implemented in a closed server scenario which would keep players interested in the game as they work their way up the online ladder.