by Troy Goodfellow
previewed on PC
Seeing the sights
Nothing succeeds like success, so it is natural that role-playing games would try to ape the triumphs of Diablo. The classic dungeon crawler spawned the action RPG model that has given us Dungeon Siege, FATE and a host of lesser beings. Iron Lore Entertainment is now entering the fray with Titan Quest, an action RPG based on Greek and Egyptian mythology.
The setting is the first thing to set Titan Quest apart from other action RPGs. Instead of mining the usual mix of goblins, orcs and other fantasy creatures, your hero will slay beings from the legends of the Mediterranean. Satyrs, Anubis warriors and other fabulous opponents will try to impede your hero's progress as he fights his way past the Great Pyramid and through the labyrinth of Minos.
Open plains and city-squares, mummy infested dungeons and perilous mountain trails all come to life. The beauty of the ancient setting shouldn't come as a surprise considering the game's background. Iron Lore co-founder Brian Sullivan was one of the brains behind Ensemble Studios and its first hit, Age of Empires. Like that seminal title, there is clearly an effort to suggest historic stuff more than mimic it and the sprawling plot will give you lots of historic stuff to look at.
Yes, a plot. Hollywood writer Randall Wallace (a scribe for Oscar winner Braveheart) was recruited to help make the story of Titan Quest more compelling than any other action-RPG plot to date. The story is framed in three acts, like any great Greek play. The first act sets you in Greece, starting with your typical "save the village" plot. You then move on to the land of the Pharaohs and finally into Asia, where you will battle Chinese demons on the Great Wall of China itself. Where most action-RPGs have emphasized the action, Iron Lore is committed to giving you a mythic hero to root for.
Mythic proportions continued...
Your hero will be able to specialize in any of over a hundred combat skills, including some pretty powerful magic. You start with just a basic avatar - male or female - and can then customize to your heart's content with over 20 character combinations, and over a hundred individual skills to choose from. Be a mighty warrior like Hercules, or a great spellcaster like Medea. The choice is yours. By eschewing the entire class-based system, you can expect to find a lot of variety in how players approach the challenges before them.
The intention is to make character building as painless as possible. You will have a chance to try out new skills before you commit to them, letting you call for do-overs in skill choice from time to time. Most of the character development is in game, and you can get an idea of what type of loot you will win in a fight by looking at your opponent - no rats dropping bags of gold here.
At this point, the monster design is the big draw. Titan Quest looks amazing. The familiar creatures of myth look better than anything Ray Herryhausen put together. In an effort to put its own stamp on the dangers of the region, Iron Lore has concocted some monsters of its own, like fish-men with swords, or completely rewritten others, turning bacchanalian Maenads into catwomen. These kittens have claws. Ragdoll physics promise some graphically interesting battles as your opponents flop around in their death throes in a variety of environments.
If you get tired of the settings you are given and have an artistic bent, Titan Quest will ship with a powerful editor, similar to the one the designers themselves use. Iron Lore promises that its power will not be compromised by the ease of its use. The hope is that with the custom quest creator, players will soon be generating their own content and their own myths to challenge other quest-seekers around the world. Titan Quest should be available in shops this June.