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Titan Quest Immortal Throne Review

by Michael Anderson, 2007-06-07

Titan Quest was a Diablo clone good enough to warrant not just calling it a clone. Immensely popular for single player and multiplayer, it was inevitable that an expansion would come along. Providing the usual laundry list of additions, the game looks like a no-brain addition to the library of any self-proclaimed action-RPG fan. Let's take a look and see if it is worth diving back into the world of ancient mythology to take another whack at the gods ...

Last year's Titan Quest was a very successful addition to the action-RPG genre. My review (at GamerDad ) pointed out that the game played like hack-n-slash wrapped around a history lesson. In each town there are historians and storytellers and others who will impart endless lore, but only a small amount of that made it into the core game. The recent expansion Immortal Throne changes that, integrating history into the flow of gameplay and making enhancements and additions that are sure to please fans of the original. The 'will I like it?' breakdown is pretty simple - if you liked the original you'll be very pleased with the expansion; if you hated the original just stay away; if you liked the original somewhat but lost track after a while, then I'm afraid you're stuck reading on to see whether the new stuff piques your interest.

When we last saw our hero

The story of Immortal Throne starts from the end of the original Titan Quest - if you have not played or finished that, you might skip to the next section to avoid learning any details you want to remain a surprise. In typical expansion fashion, the game turns what seems to be an ultimate victory - you as a mortal slaying the god Typhus on Mount Olympus - into a mere first step on the path to your ultimate battle. Zeus and the other Olympians see this as a sign of the dawning of the 'Age of Man' and leave the material plane. Hades, god of the dead, has other plans - and there is only one thing in his path, which is to eliminate the god-slayer. With this epic setup as your backdrop, you know it is time to set off and run some trivial fetch quests for inhabitants of small towns along your travels.

New and Improved!

It is easy to assemble a 'laundry list' of new features and game modes and so on - and I will do that, but there are some more subtle elements that make this an expansion that seems typical but handles things very differently than most others of its' type. This is not the equivalent of Sacred Underworld, which was quite playable as a stand-alone game where you started with a new or saved character and played just the expansion content and ended up satisfied with the overall game experience. The new areas of the game will likely take about a dozen hours from 'beginning' to end using your character from the original game.

As I hadn't saved my old characters from my original playthrough of Titan Quest, I started a new game with a new character and worked my way through part of the game for many hours before tiring of it and just wanting to see the new stuff. Using a end-game character I 'borrowed' from someone (thanks magerette!) I plowed through the last chapter only and then realized something - I missed out on the best parts of the game that way! There are actually several ways to start out - you can start from a newly created character, start from the beginning of the original game with an imported character, start from the beginning of the expansion with a character that finished the original game, or start from where you left off if you finished the original game on Normal difficulty but were still in the middle of an Epic difficulty game. But this truly is a game that is meant to be replayed from beginning to end with a new character in order to take advantage of everything on offer.

This looks familiar

The new areas of the game look and feel much like the old areas, because little has been changed in terms of the visual or audio presentation of the game. This is a good thing, since the original game looked very nice and already needed a powerful computer to run effectively. There have been some new effects added, giving new lighting and bloom effects and improving some of the weather details. One issue that I had was that the vast majority of the game was spent in darkness - certainly this is not unexpected as the lord of darkness is trying to take over the mortal world, but the small amount of time spent in the light of Elysium feels very welcome in terms of breaking up all of the dark gloominess.

I don't want to gloss over how good the graphics and sound are with that minor complaint. The game plays from the standard 'Diablo Clone' isometric viewpoint, yet everything casts realistic shadows, grass and trees sway in the wind and the world just generally looks and feels alive. Add to that the massive amount of monsters that populate the land and the absurd amount of loot that comes fountaining from each downed enemy to an already dense and graphics rich world and you can understand why the system requirements are so high. The audio quality was already excellent but has improved from the original, now supporting Dolby 5.1 surround sound which adds some glorious detail to the world.

More, more, more ... how d'ya like it?

What will really grab fans of the original game is that the developers went out of their way to give you more of everything you already loved.

The expansion area consists of a decently large and varied main quest along with 26 new side quests. These are cut from the same cloth as the side quests in the original game, but this time the mythology and history are much more integrated. Instead of just finding a lost kid for his father, you are doing quests for ... no, you'll have to find out for yourself. Thing is, I really liked the integration of lore in the original game and they really took it up a notch in the expansion. You think of Greek mythology and certain names come to mind - some of those appear as NPC's you can talk to or obtain quests from ... or even do battle against!

The main quest portion of the game is essentially a linear march to a final battle, yet it is so well wrapped up in the side-quests and diversions along the way that it actually feels more open than the original. The areas you encounter are larger and have multiple paths in and out with side-quests taking you in all directions. You are never in danger of getting lost, but some of the areas are large and challenging enough to be quite exhausting! This is a definite improvement that I noticed immediately when I started a new game after completing the expansion - and it is a highly welcome change, as the highly linear areas in the original tended to become tedious.

Perhaps the most exciting area that got beefed up in the expansion is the advancement system. That is a vague description of everything related to making your character more powerful. There is a ton of stuff here - all new relic sets, dozens of new items, a new mastery and two entirely new classes of items. There are also hordes of new monsters to defeat on your quest to become the most powerful being in existence - and the best of all is that this stuff appears throughout the entire game, not just in the expansion area.

The new item types are scrolls and artifacts. Scrolls provide what you would expect - a powerful single-use magical spell capability. That sounds boring, but they are a new addition and very useful. In fact, you will likely find that you need some of these when facing the extremely tough boss monsters late in the expansion. But much more impressive are the new artifacts - these are special items that you create and equip in addition to your existing equipment, adding bonuses to statistics and damage and so on. Naturally, these are hard to come by - for even the most basic artifacts you need a relic set and a powerful scroll and a pile of cash. For more powerful artifacts the ingredients become even more challenging - you will need multiple lower level artifacts to combine. But this isn't something you just drop together and forge yourself, you need to find an enchanter who can create artifacts specifically for you. But the rewards for doing this are massive - not only can you boost your powers, you gain massive additional powers that can easily turn the tide of a battle you'd otherwise have no chance of winning. This is yet another reason to start a new game - gathering up the resources needed to eventually assemble a 'Greater Artifact' will take time and perseverance.

Titan Quest doesn't have preset 'classes' as such, but you build a base class through the selection of two different skill trees called 'Masteries'. Within these there are loads of sub-trees to allocate your advance points developing as you level up. For Immortal Throne Dream Mastery has been added, and is a sort of hybrid class of psionics and support skills. It has some overlap with the Spirit class in that you can summon a nightmare, but also provides for direct magical damage as well as protection and restoration to yourself and your party (cue multiplayer revelations). It is a very nice class that offers a great complement for melee fighters as well as mages - after completing I took a new Earth / Dream character through the entire game and found it was well balanced and provided excellent opportunities to inflict massive damage through very creative ways.

Another cool addition is called the Caravan, which provides a much-requested feature - persistent storage of items retrievable by any of your characters. There is individual storage as well as group storage, which allows you to place an Extremely Rare item you find but can't use in a place where one of your other characters can grab it. The overall inventory system got a much needed overhaul - there are now options to organize your backpack, something that was dreadful in the original game. Just click auto-sort and your items will be placed in some semblance of order to allow you to fit the next few things you want to carry.

When you die - and you will die, though the amount of times will depend on your level when you start the expansion - you can now find a tombstone at the stop where you fell. Accessing this will give you back some of the 'death penalty' experience you lost. Given the amount of encounters it isn't really a necessity, but it is a nice touch, especially if you hit a rough patch and die several times in succession.

One of the biggest issues with action-RPG's is that they generally lack a 'cash-sink'. In other words, they do a great job of throwing so much loot and gold at you that by the middle of the game you have hordes of cash and nothing to buy. Relax - this expansion will make you 'new game poor' in now time. The boss battles are quite hard (say hello to Cerberus and his three pretty heads for me!), and you will certainly need some powerful spell scrolls to face them, and some artifacts will also make the job easier. Assembling a couple of normal artifacts and buying a few spell scrolls will make a serious dent in those million coins in your rainy day fund. This is a really nice feeling - most of us are used to being so flush with cash that we never have to make hard choices, but when assembling a Greater Artifact means paying the Enchanter 300,000 you will find yourself picking up and selling more mid-level items as you roam the world.

Shoulda played more 'whack-a-mole'

One of the biggest issues with the original Titan Quest was stability. It had a tendency to crash, and it took a few patches to iron out all of the issues and get the game to a state that worked well, but by the time I had finished playing the game it was rock solid. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Immortal Throne expansion.

The game suffers from framerate stuttering and assorted graphical issues for many player, but the most annoying problem is referred to as 'rubberbanding' - this is when the game slows down to almost a halt for several seconds then accelerates to hyper-speed for several seconds. Of course, since the expansion changes the entire game these effects are global - I was working on playing through the original game just before release, and replaying that same area as part of Immortal Throne I had much more stuttering and lag. There were also issues with attempts to create artifacts causing the game to crash to desktop and a few other random freezes and crashes that really made the game feel like it had taken a step backwards. It is certainly better performing and more stable than at release and after the first patch, but not as stable as it had become since.

Multiplayer, multiplayer and multiplayer.

If you haven't already guessed a few items that make this expansion is a dream for multiplayer lovers ... then you aren't a multiplayer lover.

Titan Quest was already a ridiculously addictive multiplayer experience, and Immortal Throne just improves upon that without messing up what people love about the original. The new items and mastery show obvious benefit in multiplayer matches as well as single player. There is a new multiplayer lobby and the interface has been streamlined, allowing you easier access to information about the game you are joining such as the language. There is also support for PvP mode in custom games. The multiplayer games are not on secure servers, so your characters are stored on your hard drive. This tends to lead to rampant cheating and hacked items being used. In co-op mode it isn't such a big deal, but it makes PvP modes an exercise in frustration. The best recipe for an enjoyable experience is playing with people you know and trust, so that you won't be left fighting mobs solo while your other party members are squabbling over who gets the green items from the last few battles. It is just unfortunate that Iron Lore missed the opportunity to take the game to the next level by offering secure online player storage.

Last trip across the river Styx

Titan Quest Immortal Throne gets the typical solid expansion pack appraisal - if you liked the original you'll like this, and if you didn't like it then you won't like the expansion. This expansion is designed to enhance and renew the play experience for fans, not bring new converts. If you are a fan then this is something you will want to get - it gives you a very solid reason to start back in Helos once again on Normal difficulty.

I know that some people have difficulty reading the 'scoring stars' - for them I have scored this expansion at 4/5 stars.  This is definitely a solid effort that is an easy recommendationto fans of the original game. 

Box Art

Information about

Titan Quest: Immortal Throne

Developer: Iron Lore

SP/MP: Single + MP
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: Hack & Slash
Combat: Real-time
Play-time: Unknown
Voice-acting: Unknown

Regions & platforms
World
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2007-03-05
· Publisher: THQ

More information

Summary

Pros

  • Loads of new items and quests provide plenty to do.
  • New Mastery adds value to single- and multi-player
  • New Artifacts challenging to finally obtain - but worth it!
  • Challenging bosses and large new areas to explore.
  • Better integration of historical lore into the story.

Cons

  • Graphical issues and 'rubberbanding' abound throughout gamd
  • Multiplayer is still not on secure servers.
  • No easy way to just jump in and see the new stuff.

Rating

Review version

1.30