The Missing Ingredient

I’ve mentioned before that while I enjoy Titan Quest I seem to be able to only play it in short bursts every so often.  I couldn’t put my finger on why that was the case, while back in the day, I could sink hours on end into Diablo 2.  The other night, I may have figured it out.

My current goal is to get to Athens, and while on my way there I came across the scene pictured above; a giant cyclops frozen in stone along with several other stone people in the area.  When I came upon the scene, the music changed, becoming much more ominous, and there were no living enemies to be seen in th area.  It was quite apparent that big ol’ nasty Medusa was in the area, and it was one of the few times during my playing of the game that I felt a sense of awe along with a compulsion to continue forward to face the threat.  It was then that I realized that Titan Quest has, for me up to this point, lacked a decent sense of atmosphere.

I’ve sunk quite a few hours into the game at this point and I don’t think I’d be able to tell you what the point of it is.  I know that my current goal is to get to Athens, but I don’t know why.  When the game starts, you’re approached by a villager and told that monsters have taken over the lands and you’re sent out to kill them as you make your way from town to town.  There’s nothing driving the player forward aside from the instruction to get to the next town.

When I think back to Diablo 2, I can remember there being very explicit reasons for all of my actions.  On top of the whole back story of the mysterious wanderer, each chapter has a specific goal to accomplish, and the threat to your character and the world, is always at the forefront.  The player is constantly reminded by the non-player characters of the doom and gloom that lay ahead, and that’s on top of the great atmospheric music portraying an ever-present sense of dread.

That kind of atmosphere just hasn’t been present in Titan Quest, aside from the little tastes noted above.  If your game consists primarily of clicking on stuff ad nauseum, you better present your players with a very compelling reason to  do so.  From a technical stand point, Titan Quest is a better game than Diablo 2, but its lack of a story, or more importantly, over-all atmosphere, is what is preventing it from being a better play experience.

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