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ups: Great graphics, smooth interface, rich ability tree
downs: Can't escape repetitiveness of the genre, can be taxing even on better systems

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Titan Quest Review
game: Titan Quest
four star
posted by: George Holomshek
publisher: THQ
developer: Iron Lore
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ESRB rating: T (Teen)
date posted: 08:30 AM Tue Jul 25th, 2006
last revision: 09:58 AM Mon Jul 24th, 2006

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Click to read.While the next iteration in Blizzard\'s benchmark Diablo series remains MIA, there are other studios out there who are more than willing to serve up truckloads of enemies for hack-and-slash hungry gamers. One such studio is newcomer Iron Lore bringing its new mythology based action RPG, Titan Quest to the table. The premise is simple, go from pathetic nobody to ultimate badass by ripping through hordes of monsters with ancient Greece as the backdrop. While Titan Quest will be very familiar to anyone who has played a hack-and-slash in the past, especially in the case of Diablo II veterans, this doesn\'t mean the old formula has lost its potency for providing a smashing good time.

The first lesson you will learn upon starting Titan Quest is that \"left-click is God\". Everything from moving to attacking to speaking to looting is done simply via a left click of the mouse. Action progresses in a very straightforward manner. Click on the ground where you want to go, or hold the left button to \"steer\" if you prefer, then click on an enemy to beat the snot out of it. Repeat this pattern 23x10^8 times to beat the game. While you can use the mouse for essentially everything, other controls include hotkeys for queuing up spells and accessing your various resources, such as your quest log and world map.

While it is a simple and efficient scheme, there are a few omissions that could have really smoothed out the experience. One of these is the ability to use your minimap for traveling. Even though your path in Titan Quest is the defines the term \"linear\", it is still possible to lose your way and have to switch back and forth between your map and standard view to get back on the right trail. Minimap navigation would have helped make travel faster, as well as getting to specific areas, such as caves, quite a bit easier. Another option that would have been nice is the ability to rotate the camera view. This issue commonly makes itself known when trying to click your way into a cave or other small passage. It is not unusual to have your character get hung up on a rock or wall, making a simple task far more frustrating than it should be.

While beating monsters over the head with a blunt object is a lot of fun, some players will prefer the feel of more flashy methods of extermination. Titan Quest offers a satisfyingly deep pool of skills, abilities, and armaments, allowing the player to customize their character however they want. Eight masteries are available including; Warfare, Defense, Hunting, and Rogue for specializing in physical combat; and Earth, Storm, Spirit, and Nature being based on magic. Every character can have a combination of any two masteries. Not only does this hybrid system spice up combat and give you plenty of options to experiment with, but it also gives a nice boost to the game\'s replay value, which is always a plus.

In typical hack-and-slash fashion, you will be drowning in loot from the moment you start the game. Seemingly every monster drops a useable weapon and always has its pockets stuffed full of gold. While this makes it very easy for you to get rich quick, you rarely, if ever, find anything to do with your wealth. Merchants in Titan Quest serve as little more than bipedal pawn shops for you to sell off any valuable loot you find. Every once in a while you find a piece of equipment that is an upgrade to what you have, and even then, odds are a more powerful upgrade will drop in the near future. Another wrench in the loot system is that there seems to be no cutoff for lower level drops. 20 hours into the game you will be seeing simple clubs that you could use at level 4.

The single player campaign is doesn\'t disappoint when it comes to playtime. Most players will clock at least 25 hours on their first run. Your quest will lead you through several ancient worlds including Greece, Egypt, and China. The story itself is very linear with the main quest simply leading you from point to point all the way to the finale. For a change of pace, however, each town in Titan Quest will commonly have two or three side quests to take players a little off the beaten path. While these side quests usually amount to little more than \"search the nearby ominous cave for the source of the problem\" and don\'t require you to go too far out of your way, they frequently grant experience bonuses as well as the occasional rare item for players who just have to see everything a game has to offer.

Upon beating the main campaign of Titan Quest a new difficulty level, \"Epic\" is unlocked. This allows you to take your victorious character and put them right back into the beginning of a new game, except with all of their skills, weapons, and loot from the previous game. And if your character isn\'t pimped out enough after beating Epic mode, yet another difficulty level is unlocked: \"Legendary\". The same premise as before, except now the monsters are as tough as Arnie from Predator and drop the rarest loot in the game. I\'m not a big fan of having to beat the game before I can up the difficulty, but for those of you who just have to make your character the ultimate war machine, this should suit you just fine.

So enough about how to beat the brains out of baddies, now the real question is \"How do the brains actually look?\". In a word: fantastic. Titan Quest sports some of the best visuals to ever grace the genre. Detail is abound wherever you look. Grass will bend and flow as you run through it and shadows will slowly shift as the day and night system cycles. Another big plus is a generally seamless world. Unless you use a teleport feature, you will never see a loading screen as you travel from area to area within chapters. In fact, one of the biggest graphical drawbacks of the game is that area changes are far too subtle. As you spend a hefty amount of time in each land, the scenery tends not to change very often and things can start to get a bit monotonous. I also found Titan Quest to be mysteriously taxing on my system. While the framerate never became unbearable, it can definitely chug when things get a little to raucous on-screen.

Titan Quest is a fantastic game whose only major drawback is that you feel like you\'ve played it before. Sticking to the exact same formula that made Diablo II the legend that it is today while making improvements in gameplay, most notably a better ability system and a more streamlined experience overall, Iron Lore comes up with a real winner. Gamers who love the hack-and-slash genre will undoubtedly love Titan Quest. And even others who like a little more gameplay variety should still check out the demo.

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