Titan Quest

It takes a game like Titan Quest to make you not care very much that Blizzard still hasn’t gotten around to making a new Diablo. C’est la vie. Take your time, Blizzard. We’re having a great time with Titan Quest. And now we’ve got the Immortal Throne expansion, which doesn’t just add new content after what used to be the final boss. It also gives us an incentive to start over from the beginning.

One of the first things you’ll want to try after you installImmortal Throne is the new Dream mastery. This new “class”, if you will, is a powerful jack-of-all-trades, with skills for all occasions. There’s crowd control, a healing aura, melee attacks, and even mage-style long-range nuking powers. Most of them are accompanied with some nifty visuals that make use of transparency effects. Nothing says sleep and reality-bending powers like clear rippling shockwaves and bright blue sparks.

You can even make use of a rather unassuming little pet. The Nightmare may look like nothing more than a winged eyeball with a tail, but he’s got considerable kick once you put a few skill points into him. There’s a whole set of improvements for the Nightmare and even a buff for your other pets if you’re a dual class with a wolf, lich, or earth elemental. Thematically, the dream mastery doesn’t make much sense. But it’s got enough power and flexibility to make anyone want to roll up a new character.

The problem with rolling up a new character is that you’re going to have to play through all three acts of Titan Questbefore you get to any of Immortal Throne‘s new areas. The new areas pick up right where Titan Quest left off. Once you’ve reached the end of Olympus, you step through a portal and you’re back in…Greece. You’re still only in Greece.

You’ll begin in Rhodes. Say ‘hi’ if you see Kratos, who also starts God of War 2 in Rhodes. But this is the Rhodes to hell, at least eventually. It takes a while to get to the underworld, and there’s a fair bit of mundane Greek filler before you get to the cool new stuff. Apparently, the road to Hades is paved with a lot of artwork that doesn’t look that different from what you played in the original game. But about a third of the way in, you’ll come to a shade-infested ruined town with a stairway behind it that leads conveniently to the underworld. Here, you’ll find some of the expected trappings: the ferryman, Cerberus, and Orpheus, for instance.

But down here there are also some new demons, some impressive effects, and lots of harmless dead people aimlessly wandering around. You’ll eventually get to some really funky locations and special effects. Immortal Thronestarts out pretty mundane, but it eventually turns out to be quite a trip.

The core game has a few important changes. There are new money sinks, so you won’t have that an extra million gold pieces weighing down your pockets any more. New artifacts are made from recipes, but for a steep cost in gold. These recipes also require some pretty esoteric ingredients, such as completed relics or charms. Some artifacts are even made from lesser artifacts. The result is an even more robust collecting game, partly maddening for how hard it is to complete anything worthwhile, but partly addicting for how easy it is to just keep playing in the hopes that you’ll come across what you need. There are also expensive one-shot scrolls that are particularly useful during some of Titan Quest‘s boss battles at the harder levels. As far as money sinks go, these feel a bit tacked on, but they do the job. Overall, it’s nice that money is useful again.

To help you with the collecting you’ll inevitably be doing, there’s a new caravan shopkeeper. He gives you considerably more storage space, which makes it feasible to play packrat in hopes of collecting the ingredients for artifact recipes. It also means you can keep collecting charms and relics without eating up precious backpack space, and therefore making trips back to town more frequent. The caravan shopkeeper also has the ability to store items and transfer them to your other characters. You no longer have to jump through hoops to get that sweet staff from your character who can’t use it to your character who can.

Inventory management is also made easier with a new sort button that instantly repacks your inventory a few different ways. You won’t have to tax your Tetris skills while you’re playing Titan Quest. Remember trying to squeeze that 1×4 bow next to that 2×2 helmet and the 2×4 chest piece with a smattering of tiny potions and relics crammed into the gap? No more. The new loot sorting options lock out any inadvertent pick-ups when you’re gathering treasure, so you won’t accidentally trawl junk that you don’t want. These two relatively minor features go a long way to making Titan Questless tedious.

A new multiplayer lobby makes it easier to know what you’re getting into when you join a multiplayer game. Unfortunately, there’s still no provision for secure character storage, so Titan Quest is rife with cheating and maxed out characters. THQ has given us a great game, but it’s too bad they haven’t taken steps to protect it for those of us who want to play fair.

But at least they’ve given us enough new stuff to warrant another playthrough, plus the ten or so hours it’ll take to go through hell. Not to mention the extra time you’ll spend collecting ingredients for your artifacts. And then there’s the time it’ll take to level up a new character with Dream mastery. Plus the new characters you’ll want to make to use the great loot you found that you can’t use. Diablo 3? Never heard of it. We’re too busy playing Titan Quest.