It wasn’t that surprising when THQ Nordic resurrected classic 2006 ARPG title Titan Quest by remastering it, slapping the Immortal Throne expansion in with it, and then releasing the whole thing in 2016 as Titan Quest: Anniversary Edition to celebrate the franchise’s ten-year anniversary. After all, it isn’t unusual in this day and age for videogame companies to re-release their old catalogs; it happens fairly often. But what did surprise me was the two brand-spanking new expansions that followed in the years after! I’m not 100% sure of any other game getting an expansion a decade after its initial release, but here we are. For this review I’ll be covering the base game and all three expansions, dividing them up in sections so it is easier for everyone to read.
Titan Quest (ACT I-III)
The original release was comprised of three acts. You (the hero) arrive on the shores near the city of Helos only to find the town and its surrounding area is in disarray. In my opinion, the plot is fairly derivative. If you have ever seen a movie based on Greek mythology such as Wrath of the Titans or even the more recent Immortals, then you already have a good idea of how this will go. Your plucky young hero finds monsters terrorizing the world and then tries to go to the gods for answers, which then reveals that humanity’s connection to the gods has been cut off. This leads to an odyssey across Greece to find a way to reconnect with the gods to find answers, all while helping stave off monsters. Then you find out some dude is trying to unleash a Titan in a plot against Olympus. In this scenario, the dude(s) are a group of ancient angry sorcerer demon things called Telkines. They aren’t quite represented the same in-game as their mythological counterparts, but hey, the game doesn’t actually contain any Titans in it, either. I found the main story to be underwhelming and only there as a slim thread to pull the whole package together. You won’t be finding any lore or texts around to flesh out the background, all your story and flavor-text comes from voice-acted NPCS. Luckily, the expansions do much better in this regard. While the plot isn’t much to get excited over, in my experience most gamers latch onto action-RPGS like Titan Quest for the loot grinding and monster slaying.
The gameplay is exactly what you would expect from an old ARPG title. You run around the map viewed at an isometric 3D angle, exploring the world, taking on side quests, and battling hordes of monsters. Fountains found along the way serve as checkpoints to resurrect at when you inevitably die. Portals placed throughout the world offer you a quick and easy way to return to other portals that you have previously activated. They are usually placed in towns, making it real convenient to go back at any time and restock potions and sell off loot by using the portable portal stone the game provides you with. I like the way this mechanic was implemented. Other similar titles make you use consumables or make you walk back to a nearby teleporter, but here you can just tap the icon in the corner of your screen anytime to open up a portal. Simple and convenient. I’m not a big fan of the map, however. You have a small compass/mini-map up in the top-right corner of your screen. I’m used to having the option of using a transparent map overlay near the center of the screen so I can keep an eye on things while navigating. Not only is this map out of my line of sight, but it is also too small to be of real use, even when you expand it. You can press M to open up a wider area map but it is opaque and immovable, blocking the center of your screen. There is no in-between: you either see too much or nothing at all.
What came as a pleasant surprise is how the entire game is not set in Greece. Act I takes place in certain areas of Greece, act II takes the action to Egypt, and act III finds your hero in the Orient (though the finale does take place in Olympus). Now what is really cool about this setup is how the themes and mythologies of each region bleed into every aspect of the game. Aside from the obvious visual change in the setting, you will also be finding gear and enemies intrinsic to that area. You won’t be fighting any Gorgons or Satyrs in Egypt; instead, you’ll encounter monsters like mummies and humanoid jackal men. The Orient will have you fighting off dragon-like monsters and tiger men at the base of the Great Wall. One of my favorite things about Titan Quest is the variety of environments and enemies.
The next best thing about Titan Quest is the customization. You have a lot of freedom to mess around with how your character grows. After selecting your gender, tunic color, and name, you are already in the game. Once you gain your first level you are allowed to choose one of ten masteries. A mastery serves as a tiered selection of skills and abilities that powers your hero. First of all, you need to invest skill points to increase the mastery level itself, up to a maximum level of 40. Each mastery level you go up increases your attributes by a specific amount, and once you reach certain mastery level milestones, you unlock a new tier of skills. You will also need to purchase the skills before you can use them, and you can power them up further by investing more skill points in them. If you feel like experimenting further down the line, you can decide to take on a second mastery to compliment the first one. Each level up grants you a few attribute points as well, to spend on whatever stat you need most.
Now the experience isn’t all sunshine and roses: there are still a decent amount of technical issues to be found. I’ve gotten stuck on the environment a few times. Turns out that there is a button you can press to reset your character to the middle of the screen, so it’s not that big a deal. I have also had issues with poor hit detection. Sometimes my hero will simply stop attacking the enemy. Later on in the game (the final two expansions, mostly), I encountered some framerate issues and even a couple of ill-timed gameplay crashes. It doesn’t happen often buy boy does it sure suck when it does. Your progress is usually saved at the nearest fountain checkpoint so you should probably only suffer a 20-minute setback at most.
Immortal Throne (ACT IV)
This comes bundled with all versions of Titan Quest: Anniversary Edition, but I decided to separate it anyways for the sake of the review. All around, Immortal Throne is a great time. Taking place directly from where you left off in Act III after that dramatic Typhon battle, you hop through a portal and end up back on Earth in Apollo’s Temple in the city of Rhodes. This act will see you battling Hades and his minions across Greece as he tries to take full advantage of the chaos caused by Typhon to enact his nefarious plan and dominate the world of the living. Immortal Thrones is a full-fledged act and as such, is around 10 hours plus, depending on your playstyle.
Expect even more Greek mythology and its figures not covered in the base game, like Medea, Charon, and the Three Fates. While the act begins in Greece, you will eventually find yourself crossing the River Styx and heading into the underworld, taking the fight to Hades alongside figures like Agamemnon and Odysseus. Thanks to the thematic emphasis on war, there are quite a few more exciting scenarios than in the base game. One that I am particularly fond of is a battle that takes place in the city of Paseron. The city has been destroyed and overrun by the time you get there. The remaining soldiers huddled outside ask you to save the remaining civilians and bring them to the gates so the soldiers can escort them to a safer location, so I found myself running through a ruined city, complete with burnt-out buildings and an unsettling fog of war that lay over everything, killing monsters and rescuing citizens. It’s a lot cooler than walking somewhere, finding some random item for the millionth time, and then returning to the quest giver. In general, I find that the expansions do a much better job handling side quests than the base game. This probably shouldn’t surprise you, but once you confront and defeat Hades in a tense showdown set in his palace, the expansion is over. And this sets the scene for THE END OF THE WORLD...sort of.
Ragnarok (ACT V)
The title of the DLC says it all. Now we’re taking a slight break from Greek mythology and taking a detour into the Norse side of things. After whomping Hades, you wake up back in the overworld in the fountain of the Temple of Asklepios (the god of medicine and healing), all shiny and new. The city of Corinth serves as your launching point into Act V aka the Ragnarok expansion. Ragnarok is easily the beefiest of the expansions, with an extra mastery class and a focus on larger, more wide-open level design (which is also one of its weaknesses). My biggest gripe with Ragnarok is how stingy they are with the portals. With the levels larger than ever and portals fewer and farther in between, it makes traveling back and forth an even bigger hassle. So much so that I actually couldn’t be bothered to turn in certain side quests because I wasn’t in the mood for the travel time it required. The original acts had portals placed for maximum convenience: one in every town to make turning in side quests easily. I guess it spoiled me a little. That being said, the rivers, fjords and snowy vistas made for a nice change in scenery from the rest of the game. The adventure takes you around some European countries of antiquity such as Germany and Scandia before placing you into the more fantastical realms of Norse mythology like Asgard, Jotunheim and eventually Muspelheim for the big finale and the (hopeful) prevention of the end of the world. Sidequests are plentiful but some instructions can be a little vague this time around. The Squabbling Merchants quest is the best example. A pair of merchant brothers are arguing over who should inherit the business and what they should sell. It is hinted at that you should ask the village leader for advice, yet she offers nothing. The solution is to complete a quest for some hunter out in the wilderness and return to her with the reward, like huh? Anyways, most quests are fine if you just keep exploring and talking to everyone, but in some cases, a little more guidance would have been welcome.
Aside from the usual visual upgrades, quality of life improvements, and story content, Ragnarok also brings an entire new mastery into play. The Runes mastery leans heavily into the Nordic theme as they are something akin to a berserker who uses runic powers to enhance their magic and combat abilities. Best part about this mastery is how its versatility allows it to be a good fit for both melee and magic-based heroes.
If you haven’t beaten the base game and Immortal Thrones yet, you can jump right into act V and the new Ragnarok content by creating a new hero and ticking the “Accomplished Hero” option. This option grants you a level 40 character with all the skill and attribute points that would have been earned through normal leveling, to spend at your discretion. You are also given a few million gold to spend on items and equipment since you will be starting with nothing. Note that you will only be able to access the cities and areas found in act V and the Atlantis expansion. All the previous acts will be blocked to you, I assume to keep people from creating a level 40 character and breezing through the original game content.
The latest expansion for Titan Quest is on a much smaller scale than the others, to the point where it isn’t even listed in-game as an act but rather a series of sidequests. Don’t let that put you off, though, since it more than makes up for it with a few new areas and quests encapsulating hours of gameplay and a new Tartarus mode. You can start this expansion as early as Act IV. In the city of Rhodes, you will find an adventurer named Marinos hanging out by the shoreline. He ropes you into his adventures since he thinks they will be dangerous and he will need a burly, Titan-slaying adventurer such as yourself. Naturally (and since your mother never taught you to go on ships with strangers) you agree to go with him to the port town of Gadir to track down the journals of Herakles to aid in uncovering the secret location of Atlantis! After recovering Herakles journal and visiting the small island of Gaulos and Africa to gather the necessary components to safely reach Atlantis, you finally make landfall on the titular island, where you’ll spend the rest of the expansion exploring the titular island and plumbing the depths of its ruins. I especially liked the emphasis on verticality as you wind through the mountains in Africa, but this is also when my framerate issues began. As a matter of fact, up until Atlantis my gameplay experience had been fairly free of framerate issues. While Atlantis doesn’t add a new mastery like Ragnarok did, it does add a new tier of skills to the previous masteries to further enhance your hero. The Warfare mastery, for example, gains a passive buff that further enhances their Ancestral Horn ability, plus a new attack skill called Slam that helps blast and debuffs those pesky ranged monsters that usually give you grief. While the build I was rocking didn’t focus on the use of Ancestral Horn, Slam was useful for temporarily disabling (and sometimes outright killing) the annoying magic users while I closed the distance to mush them into the dirt.
Looking for a challenge? A new feature called the Pits of Tartarus can be accessed in acts IV and V by speaking to a being called Senechal. Tartarus offers up an extra way to grind for gear by fighting against endless waves of enemies. The way it works is that you clear out each area (while being under a time limit) until you reach the boss, Tartarus himself. Your hero will also be under the effect of random negative effects for the duration of the challenge. Once you beat him, you can either take the orb full of gear and cash out or take a chance and keep on going. If you choose to keep going, your rare loot drop multiplier will increase but so will your chance of losing everything as the difficulty increases. It’s an interesting diversion but not something I would spend that much time on. It should be noted that if you started the Ragnarok expansion via the “Accomplished Hero” option, you will not be able to visit Marinos at Rhodes. You can still gain access to the new content, but you will need to go to Senechal in Corinth, jump into his Tartarus portal, and jump out to Gadir through another portal. A bit convoluted but it is what it is.
And that’s about it for Titan Quest: Anniversary Edition and its two expansions, Ragnarok and Atlantis. While I wasn’t quite feeling it in the beginning, the game grew on me quite a bit and really picked up with the expansions. 60 hours spent and I’m still planning on jumping back in to clear out the higher difficulties and hunt the special enemies, so that’s a testament to the game’s staying power right there. Come for the interesting single-player experience but stay for the six-player online co-op! If for some reason you haven’t played this classic ARPG or simply haven’t gotten back to it since the new expansions released, you should dust off your swords and sandals and jump back in. And if you’re more of a console gamer, Titan Quest: Anniversary Edition and its expansions are now available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One!
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 8/10
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