Developer: Iron Lore
Release Date: June 2006
Your Own Private Titanomachy
It was neither difficult nor rare to catch developers using words like "accessibility" and "casual" to describe the titles on display at the THQ pre-E3 summit. Talking with Iron Lore Entertainment, co-founded by Age of Empires veteran Brian Sullivan and currently putting finishing touches on PC action-RPG Titan Quest, those words came up plenty often, too, but this time, they were frequently accompanied by the word "Diablo," which of course makes all the difference.
In the years since Diablo's arrival, no truly satisfying psychological theory has come to light that explains why this extraordinarily simple mode of hack-and-slash RPG is so addictive. And the lack of explanation hasn't mattered much, either. You know you want to play for hours and hours, and that's the extent of the intellectualization.
Whatever dark magic gives the formula its potency, reception of the best action RPGs, from Diablo on the PC to Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance on consoles, often acknowledges the elementary nature of the action, qualifying the praise with variations on "it's simple, but it's great." If Titan Quest fulfills the promise of this first look, it will fit comfortable into that royal action-RPG lineage – and transcend the "simple" part – by amping up the epic feel, dishing out a boatload of precious loot and providing a comprehensive level editor to support what Iron Lore hopes will become a massive community of Titan Quest fanatics.
On the epic front, it's hard to get more dramatically grandiose subject matter than Titan Quest's source material. For those of you who've misplaced your ragged copies of Edith Hamilton's Mythology, Titans were the race of gods who gave birth to the Olympians and later came to regret giving into the urge to procreate. Written by Braveheart screenwriter Randall Wallace, the story leads your hero from a small village on to Sparta, Egypt and China before the single-player quest comes to an end. The idea, according to the Iron Lore folks, is to explore material that's both exotic and accessible, so as to please action-RPG fans while not alienating potential newcomers whose favorite Achilles ever is Brad Pitt.
Other considerations for a more casual audience appear in the form of easy character setup and accessible controls. Heavy hack-and-slashers shouldn't fret, though, as it's not all about approachability. You'll still have 28 character classes and 1,400 pieces of unique equipment for more serious role-players and loot collectors. Titan Quest also will ship with a complex editor similar to what the devs used to create the campaign. You'll be able to build your own levels and quests, so fans who are in it for more than the off-the-shelf experience can do as much of their own myth-making as they like.
The Titan Quest demo didn't feature much blood, and say the devs, it won't be about the splattering, but you will get some extra-flashy effects to make up for the lack of chum. Your character and familiar monsters from classic mythology run through smoothly parting grass, and things don't get any uglier the closer you get.
Beyond the 30-hour single-player adventure, Titan Quest supports six-player multiplayer-questing. Iron Lore also said competitions for fan-created content will follow the game's release to encourage use of the editor and nurture the community they hope will still be playing Titan Quest 10 years down the line, Diablo-style.
With an emphasis on extracting the fun action from the tales, Titan Quest promises to update that seemingly simple, but deeply mysterious, action-RPG formula while retaining the appeal for the serious adventurer. If the balance works out, maybe it'll do for classical literature what Mr. Angelina Jolie and Eric Bana put together couldn't pull off. Action RPGers can get their hands on it next month.
More articles about Titan Quest