Titan Quest: Ragnarök (PC Review)
It’s often lamented that games come with far too much damned DLC these days, and not just too much, but too soon as well. You’d be hard pressed to find a triple-A title these days that doesn’t launch with two or three slices of fresh DLC for you to spend extra money on or obtain via pre-order or console exclusivity.
It seems more and more that publishers are commanding their game dev peons to slice games into smaller and smaller portions to keep the DLC train chugging along. Buy now to get the Sacred Chimney™ DLC completely free. You don’t want to miss out on the PS4 version of Stringey Crumpets™, otherwise you wont be able to experience the new Shambling Deskjockey character! It never bloody ends. Make no mistake, the future is horrible.
You’d be surprised, then, if I told you that one game is bucking the trend in such a spectacular fashion that it can only have been a calculated move? A game you won’t have heard of in a long time, leaving out when you’re idling scrolling through your Steam games.
Yes, Titan Quest is sticking its head out into the hellish garbage fire that is 2017 and releasing a whole new expansion pack 11 years after the game launched. An expansion pack that not only adds new content but some new visual enhancements and balancing changes to a game that generally would be considered dead at this stage.
Titan Quest is a top down RPG, of the diablo persuasion, in which you travel the length and breadth of ancient Greece battling fantastical creatures, Gods and other puny humans along the way. It’s a loot grind of a kind that has only lived on in the indy space and Diablo 3, only purer, because it is still a game from over a decade ago.
This new expansion pack (that’s what we used to call DLC), Ragnarok, adds a whole new set of environments, enemies, quests and themes to the game. Gone are the days when Titan Quest was about murdering Greeks, now you’ve moved on to slaughtering Celts, nerfing Northmen and violating Vikings. The Gods of the Norse aren’t the only new additions though. Titan Quest Ragnarok makes changes to the game at many fundamental levels, adding new Masteries, weapons, raising the level cap and bringing new secrets to the game’s existing areas.
At its core, however, Titan Quest is much the same kind of experience and what additions there are certainly don’t change the soul of the game itself. In Titan Quest, you travel the land clicking on bad guys until they stop moving, gathering equipment and skills and completing quests both big and small for the inhabitants of this troubled world. It’s a formula we’ve all seen before, but it’s competently executed, although it’s certainly not very everyone.
When I first got into the Ragnarok DLC, I found the game to be quite confusing and ridiculously difficult, but soon discovered that was entirely my own fault. Starting up Ragnarok without an existing character simply creates a brand new level 40 character for you to explore with.
Because of this, I had a ton of skill, and ability, points that I hadn’t assigned and so my level 40 character had about the same muscle mass as my 3 year old daughter. After being pecked to death by birds a few times, I figured this out and began slaughtering in short order.
Shortly afterwards I figured out that your brand new Ragnarok character also starts with a small loan of a million (or close enough) gold coins, and the rest is history. I geared up, set my abilities and set about coating the countryside with the desiccated corpses of my foes. After the initial frustration it felt very gratifying to wreak havoc on my tormentors. Turning beaked idiots into charred heaps with my fire magic and summoning level 40 ghost warriors to absolutely massacre any larger groups of enemies. This is kind of where my one proper gripe with the game comes in: lack of challenge at the beginning.
Everyone knows you can’t make the beginning of your game rock hard, even Dark Souls gives you a break in that regard, but Ragnarok’s first few hours (and beyond, to a point) are laughably easy to wade through. I found myself able to stand still in a group of double digits worth of enemies and not take anywhere near enough damage to threaten my life. Even later on when the enemies started throwing decent punches, I had the money to buy so many health potions that any damage I took was immediately negated by guzzling red liquids like a vampire at a blood drive.
This is a problem I had a lot of with Titan Quest: very little challenge. Whether taking on large groups of enemies (Ragnarok tends to be denser with enemies than Vanilla) or tanking bosses, so long as you’re mashing your potion hotkey it’s very difficult to die. There is replayability in multiplayer and higher difficulty modes but I did find that standard difficulty just didn’t provide any kind of real challenge.
Overall presentation is good, considering the game’s age. It’s hard not to notice that the models all look very much like they’re from a decade old game, but there’s been some decent upgrades to make it a little less jarring. Sound design is solid, environments are densely packed with enemies and obstacles to walk around (in this world it’s against the law to climb over things). The music is quite forgettable, unfortunately.
The joy of Titan Quest, as far as I can tell, is not so much in crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women, but in stealing all of your enemy’s stuff. Looting appears to be the big draw, as with Diablo 3, and the driving force behind the experience. The story is thin, but the minute you hit alt the ground is thick with loot. There’s a joy to be taken in finding a new headress of swarthiness and donning it with pride, then watching as your axe kills enemies a whole tenth of a second faster than it did before.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t really hold my attention all that well. I never took any interest in Titan Quest when it hit the market and honestly, it doesn’t particularly grab me now. However, I can recognise that it does a lot of things right within its genre, and for that I applaud it even more than a decade after the fact. The idea that it got this brand new expansion so long after release is a testament to the dedication of the staff involved. Even if it doesn’t make me ragna-rock hard.