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SummaryMore monsters. More Loot. Interested?
The GoodGame expansions are a funny thing to critique. On one hand, I could talk about graphics, gameplay, and generally how much fun I had with this product. But the perceptive among us would quickly realize that I'm merely critiquing the game this expansion is designed for -- Titan Quest -- and since I've already done that, it's clear that a different approach is required for this review. So instead, I'm going to go through each of the new features that Immortal Throne brings to the table, and talk about how they add or detract from the game itself.
A brand new chapter to add onto the existing quest
Fresh off of killing the big bad boss of Titan Quest, you're immediately thrust into a quest to restore order in the underworld. The premise of battling into (and through) Hades is admittedly cool, and it gives Iron Lore a chance to design a world that has a substantially different feel from the rest of your journey in Titan Quest. The game box boasts that you'll battle twenty brand new monsters, but I don't believe it -- I encountered at least twenty-five types of bad guys in my first run through the Underworld. If nothing else, Immortal Throne's added chapter will keep you busy -- there's a solid 10 to 15 hours of extra gameplay to be had here, including an impressive number of side quests (don't ask me to give you an exact number, I wasn't counting, and I probably didn't even find half of them. Just trust me when I say there's 'lots', ok?)
Also worth mentioning are a number of challenging boss fights that you'll encounter during your journey. Immortal Throne will pit you against Charon the Boatman, Cerberus, and a number of other imposing creatures who all manage to put up a good fight without giving you the feeling that you're in a completely unfair fight. Pattern recognition and a bit of planning ahead will be required to get past some of these guys.
A new mastery: Dreams
I kinda scratched my head when I first read about this one. Titan Quest seemed to cover pretty much all the typical RPG conventions with the original eight masteries -- things like rogue skills, nature magic, and good old-fashioned sword-swinging is already present and accounted for.
As it turns out, Dream mastery is more geared towards being a compliment to your existing set of abilities, which is a clever move by the developers. There's something in this skill tree for almost any type of character build. Mage-types can draw on some pretty cool spell effects, and warriors will still have some damage enhancing abilities to utilize. All in all, a solid and creative addition to Titan Quest.
Another creative addition to the game, enchanters can craft special items called artifacts that can give you a variety of beneficial abilities. To craft these items, you'll need formulas (scrolls that will randomly drop just like any other item) which will indicate what combination of relics and/or other items are required to create the artifact. This is a great feature, mostly because it gives you an excuse to actually collect and store relics again. Enchanters can also separate relics from the items they've been fused with, destroying either the item or the relic in the process. Very useful.
The BadEnhanced Lobby in Multiplayer, Caravan Drivers, lock item pickup, inventory sort button
To quickly explain: a bevy of new options and displays have been added to make Multiplayer more coherent. Caravan Drivers can store your goods and even transfer items between two of your characters. Locking item pickup means you can only pick up items by holding ALT, meaning that you'll never again accidentally pick up something you don't want while in combat. Inventory sort is kind of self-explanatory.
You're probably wondering why these options are featured in the bad section of the review, as they're all really useful options and I'm actually glad they've been included in the expansion. The reason they're here is because these are the options that should have been included with the original game. That's right, the original Titan Quest featured no storage of any kind, save for what you carried with you. The multi-player lobby forced you to log into a game before you could even know what kind of players you were playing with, and the item pick-up thing was just really annoying. Asking players to shell out extra money for options that are pretty standard for most RPGs today seems a bit on the greedy side.
I also want to talk a bit more about the environments of the new chapter. Remember how I said Iron Lore had a chance to design something really unique? Well, they kinda missed the boat. The environments for the Hades part of your quest look like locales taken from Greece that have had all the color sucked out of them. There are a few really cool looking spots, like the Tower of Judgment (which seems to be a throwback to the Arcane Sanctuary in Diablo 2) and the final few areas of the game, but overall, the level design is a bit of a letdown.
Lastly, I want to comment on the set up for the Hades campaign. Whoever wrote the story for this is clearly not pulling his or her weight. It goes down something like this: a ghost appears before you and informs you that there is strife in the underworld. Strife? Of course there is! It's the Underworld, for crying out loud! Hades is supposed to be a bad place, right? But somehow, this motivates your hero to venture down there and see what all the fuss is about.
Don't get me wrong here, I'm never going to pick up a hack-and-slash game like this and expect a storyline that would bring Ernest Hemmingway to tears, but I'd like to at least get the impression that the writers actually tried. And I don't feel that that's the case with Immortal Throne -- this feels more like a team that ran with the first idea that got thrown onto the table. And that just feels lazy.