One of the smartest decisions a game studio can make is to fill a niche or uncrowded market. One reason why Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds became such hits was because there was nothing else like them. Likewise, taking established trends and moving them across genres in a unique way helped Overwatch to gain momentum. It mixed League of Legends and Smite with first-person shooters to stand out from the crowd. One such game type that has been mostly left untapped is Diablo-like dungeon crawler, and Titan Quest seeks to remedy that.
The first thing you notice about Titan Quest is its similarity to Diablo. Keeping the God’s eye view point, you move around a bleak-looking world taking out mythical and religiously inspired enemies. The religion of choice here is Greek mythology, featuring satyrs, centaurs, harpies, and... more satyrs.
The game really flounders in its story. The Titans, which are equivalent to the parents of the Greek Gods, have broken free of their chains and start to unleash havoc in Greece. You play as a Greek warrior, a typical "chosen one". Travelling around, you aid citizens and serve as a messenger between the war-torn villages. The story is told by talking to citizens, but it takes hard missteps here. Despite everyone being voice acted, the text scrolls slowly and it’s impossible to speed it up. You can also accidentally skip the dialog, with key lines no longer easily accessible.
The story never feels as epic as its setup. In my play time I only encountered satyrs, wild animals such as crows and boars, skeletons, and various smaller mythological monsters. I did encounter a cyclops, but it just appeared with no fanfare and felt lackluster. There was also little noticeable influence from any Titan, and while it’s possible I missed the reference, not a single name of a God or Titan was ever given any importance. The closest I came to seeing a God was my character acting like Hermes, rushing around the map and delivering messages.
The gameplay starts to feel weak as you learn to play. The developers opted for a more simple style of combat, where you hold the Y button down and your character attacks until you let it go, or the enemy dies. You auto lock onto nearby enemies, which is helpful in preparing for danger, but the act of changing targets is poorly implemented. Having to select another button and highlight a general area takes you out of the action. This becomes especially troublesome with large amounts of enemies, where choosing targets becomes important. The feature won’t cause any major issues, though, but can be frustrating at times.
As you level up, you unlock special abilities and stats increase. Choosing a field of specialization, you have to upgrade its overall points, and when you reach particular thresholds, you can unlock special skills. The skill tree is handy in theory, but it lacks solid focus. The unlocked skills are either vague or don’t feel overly useful, and I found upgrading stats to benefit me more than any type of power.
Stats are also a mixed bag, though, as they don’t have any clear correlations. In a game like Dark Souls, it's clearly defined what each stat grants and why they’re important, but in Titan Quest everything is so vague. Like with skills, I found pumping every point to strength to be the best option, and never felt any negative connotations from doing so. However, despite several levels of boosting strength and focusing on a raw power, I was unable to ever notice any strong pushes while fighting. Enemies would go down fairly quickly from the start, and the difference between level one fighting and level eight fighting never manifested.
Visually, Titan Quest both succeeds and fails at the same time. On one hand, it's aesthetically very cohesive. The monsters all feel like they belong in the world, and the locales match the enemies in each environment. The amount of variety is lackluster, though. The majority of your exploration is spent in a forest, fighting satyrs. There are some more unique locales, such as caves and tombs, but your time in them is short and you’ll soon find yourself back in the forest. While the graphics models aren’t bad, they don’t have anything that makes them feel special or stand out as anything new.
When it comes down to it, Titan Quest feels like a disappointment. The game is put together competently, but missteps and minor issues are repeatedly encountered to the point where they grow large in scale. A good concept and the intent to make a strong game is there, and by trying to reap a niche market, the developers clearly have the passion to make a great game. However, there aren’t enough hooks to keep you strongly invested in Titan Quest. As someone who never played Diablo while growing up, I was looking to fall in love with the genre but it just didn’t happen. While I can’t recommend the game for newcomers, those who already are familiar with the genre can probably find some enjoyment here.