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.

My Cheatin’ Heart

Still without any desire to play World of Warcraft, I’ve jumped back in to Titan Quest, a game I’ve wanted to get through for quite some time now.  I continued the game from where I last played, long ago; my dual-wielding warrior was level 10 whose current mission was to speak to the Oracle in Delphi.

The first thing that struck me as I continued mowing through the endless onslaught of monsters was just how much mouse clicking I was doing.  I realize that’s pretty much what this type of game is all about, but seriously, my index finger was getting sore.  The other thing I noticed is how long the game is.  I don’t know how many different areas I went through before I broke down and checked an FAQ to see how much longer it would take to reach the Oracle, but it was a lot.  The FAQ only served to tell me that I still had a ways to go.  Now, it’s been ages since I’ve played Diablo II, but I remember it having a much faster sense of progression and story.  Titan Quest is starting to just feel like a whole lot of clicking, but it looks so good I still want to go through it to see everything it has to offer.  Another glance at the FAQ told me that there was a very long way to go until the end of the game, which didn’t include the Immortal Throne expansion, which I also have.

I want to see the game, but I also kind of don’t want to play it any more because, like I said, it’s now feeling like nothing but a lot of clicking.  There’s something missing from it; something that kept me playing Diablo II countless times over and over.  Maybe it’s my choice of class and mastery selections.  I don’t have spells, or cool abilities to execute, just endless clicking.  The masteries I took were all passive abilities, so I don’t even have different skill buttons to click, I just swing my swords.

The solution to my problem, I decided, was to cheat.  I download a program called TQ Defiler which allows for save game editing.  I boosted my hero to level 25 (I didn’t want to go too crazy) and jumped back into the game, only to discover that the extra levels didn’t make that big a difference.  The problem seemed to be the equipment I was using.  While I had more health and better stats, it appeared that the weapons I was using were holding me back from being a crazy damage dealing machine.  Back to the editor, I gave my warrior access to the final encampment in the game and 7 million gold, then once back in the game, teleported to that encampment and bought all the best equipment on offer there, only to find that my stats weren’t quite high enough to equip them.  So, using the editor once again, I gave myself three more levels and jacked up my stats a fair bit.  Now I can kill most creatures in one hit and I can progress through the game a lot faster, which fits my purpose of just seeing the game’s environments without caring for the gameplay.

Again With the Lack of Time Thing

I sat down to do some gaming the other night but was unsure of what to play.  Nothing was jumping out at me, but dammit, I wanted to play something!  I looked over at my little row of neatly stacked game boxes and my eyes settled on Titan Quest.  It had been a while since I played it so what the hell, I threw it in.

Every time I come back to that game (once every blue moon) I’m reminded of how fun it is.  At least I seem to enjoy it.  There’s just something about it though that keeps me from obsessively playing it through to completion.  Perhaps it’s best enjoyed in short bursts.  I wonder if I’ll ever finish it…

There was a time where I finished just about every single game I played.  This magical time has long passed.  At least I’ve stopped buying so many games.