Titan Quest: Ragnarok Review

Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2017-11-17
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

Introduction

Titan Quest: Ragnarok is a new DLC for the Titan Quest: Anniversary Edition (released in 2016), which was a remastering of Titan Quest (2006) and Titan Quest: Immortal Throne (2007).  It's not often you get a new DLC for a single-player game that's essentially ten years old, but here we are.

If you don't remember Titan Quest, it took the same point-and-click action RPG goodness from Diablo II, and placed it in a world filled with the myths and legends from ancient Greece, Egypt, and the Orient.  The titans were the bad guys in the original game, and Hades took on that role in the Immortal Throne DLC.  Titan Quest included lots of bosses and enemies to kill, lots of equipment to loot, and lots of maps to explore.  I found the game to be a perfectly serviceable action RPG, but I didn't like as much as many others.

Iron Lore Studios developed Titan Quest and Immortal Throne (and then closed their doors in 2008), THQ Nordic handled the remastering for the Anniversary Edition, and now Swedish developer Pieces Interactive has taken over the reins for Ragnarok.  Is there any hope for a franchise that has changed hands so many times?  Is THQ just milking the engine for a few extra dollars?  Does the new DLC provide any entertainment value?  Keep reading to find out.

Getting Started

The Ragnarok DLC adds a new act to the Titan Quest campaign -- that's Act V if you're scoring at home.  When you create a character for the expansion, you can either start over and play through all of the earlier acts before reaching Ragnarok, or you can create an "accomplished hero" and skip ahead to the new content.  Accomplished heroes start out at level 40, they get credit for completing all of the earlier quests (so they receive all of the inventory bags and stat reward bonuses), and they get lots of money so they can buy equipment, but they're blocked from visiting the first four acts of the game (on the normal difficulty), so they're only recommended for players who have seen the earlier content before.

Ragnarok is played in exactly the same way as Titan Quest.  You left click to move, you left click on an enemy to perform your normal attack (and keep the mouse button pressed to keep attacking), and you right click on an enemy to perform your main secondary attack.  If you have more attacks than that, then you can assign them to hotkeys and trigger them that way.  You can also press shift to attack without moving, Q to quaff a health potion, and E to quaff a mana potion.  The camera follows your character around, so you don't have to worry about that; all you can do is change the zoom level by using the mouse wheel.  Basically, if you've played any of the point-and-click action RPGs that are descendants of the Diablos (like Sacred or Dungeon Siege II or Torchlight, to name just a few) then you should be able to jump right in.

Characters in the game are defined by three attributes: Strength (for heavy melee weapons), Dexterity (for lighter melee weapons and bows), and Intelligence (for spells and skills).  They also gain access to two masteries (aka classes): one at level 2, and an optional one at level 8.  Then when characters level, they get 2 points for their attributes and 3 points for their skills and spells.  It's a fun system that gives you plenty of ways to build a character, and Ragnarok only gives you more options.


New Class

One of the main additions of the Ragnarok DLC is the Rune Mastery, which brings the total number of masteries in the game up to ten.  Rune Masters are basically battlemages, with a variety of physical and magical abilities, so they fit in well with all nine of the other masteries.  Some of the Rune Master's skills include Rune Weapon (which infuses their basic attacks with magic and gives them health steal), Thunder Strike (which deals explosive damage to an enemy), Runic Mines (which deploys defensive mines), and Runeword: Absorb (which makes their shield work better).

I played through the entire game using the Rune Mastery coupled with the Spirit Mastery (which made my character a "shaman").  Everything seemed easier this time around, and I suspect that Pieces Interactive has succumbed to a bit of DLC bloat, where developers make all of the new items in their latest DLC more powerful than everything that came before, so players have a reason to visit.  (And if the Rune Mastery isn't strictly overpowered, then some of the new charms and artifacts added to the game certainly are.)

But still, the Rune Mastery is different than all of the other masteries, and I had a fun enough time using it for the campaign.  So it gives you a decent excuse to take Titan Quest out for a spin again, assuming that you actually need an excuse.

New Act

The other main addition of the Ragnarok DLC is a new final act.  You start out in Corinth in Greece, and you learn that with the titans and Olympian gods now out of the way, some of Poseidon's creatures (but not Poseidon himself) have decided to fill the void.  So you have to fight lots of sea creatures, culminating with a battle against a monster called a Ketos (aka Cetus), which unfortunately reminded me more of a sock puppet rather than something fierce and dangerous.  After winning these battles, you're invited to Scandinavia to do the same thing there.  However, when you arrive, your planned assault turns into a rescue operation, and then eventually you're tasked with preventing no less than Ragnarok.

If wasn't clear from the above paragraph, the Ragnarok DLC deals with German and Norse mythology.  That means you'll be dealing with the likes of Nerthus, the Dvergr, and Muspelheim.  If none of those names sound familiar to you, never fear.  You'll also meet some famous entities like Odin and Loki (but not Thor).

More importantly, because the DLC takes place in Scandinavia, you get to explore mountains and forests, often in winter settings, and so the new parts of the game look dramatically different than the old.  Also, because the environment is colder, the new equipment in the game is different as well.  Instead of the sandals and bracelets and breezy leather gear that made sense in the Mediterranean, you now get gloves and boots and even pants.  So your character looks different as well.

In fact, the look of the DLC is the best part.  Pieces Interactive did a nice job with the new maps.  They're a little more winding and complicated than Iron Lore's maps, but this gave Pieces Interactive a chance to hide things (like bandit camps with majestic chests) in out of the way corners, which you find if you're thorough and but walk right by if you're not.  They also did some impressive work with the Corinth maps, fitting them in seamlessly with the existing Greek maps.  The new equipment also has its highlights, but every time my character tried on a pair of pants, she looked like she gained 50 pounds and put on sweats to hide it, and so I stayed with my Greek gear there.


Unfortunately, the quests and the dialogue aren't of the same quality as the graphics.  Like with the main part of the game (and just about every action RPG), the quests are simple affairs, where you're mostly (or maybe entirely) tasked with killing something or finding something.  I had hoped that Pieces Interactive would try to be a little more modern in this regard, and add something new and innovative, or at least add in some choices and consequences, but they seemed pretty content with a cookie cutter approach.

And despite the simple quests, the dialogue is atrocious, to the point where after receiving a quest I wasn't always sure what I was supposed to be doing.  Characters tend to orate paragraphs of text without saying anything, and I couldn't tell if the problem was poor translation or poor writing or both.  Just as a random example, at one point you meet a pair of smiths, and they tell you, "Our craft is forgery, not melee."  Eh?  Worse, you can't even always go to the quest journal to see what your goals are, because half the time quests don't bother to show a current objective.  Luckily, if you explore everywhere, loot everything, and kill everything, then you'll complete most of the quests by mistake (if for no other reason) and make it through the game.

Another problem I had with the DLC is that I don't know Norse mythology nearly as well as Greek mythology.  If you mention Greek names like Odysseus, Agamemnon and Priam to me, then I can tell you a few things about them, including what they did during the Trojan War.  But a lot of the Norse names are meaningless to me, and they sort of look like somebody gave up on unscrambling a Jumble.  Pieces Interactive even managed to exacerbate this problem by using less popular names for some of the key people and places.  For example, near the end of the game you go to Valhalla and meet Odin, but Pieces Interactive used the names Valholl and Wodan instead, which is likely to leave most people confused.  Once again, this might reflect the indifferent translating effort the DLC received, but in any case I didn't connect very well with the content.

Luckily, the combat remains effective, and that might be the most important thing for an action RPG.  Piece Interactive reused a lot of assets from the first part of the game, so you'll see more than a few harpies and turtles and bats, but they also created numerous new creatures, like trolls and centipedes and giants.  Plus, enemies have learned a few new tricks.  Trolls, for example, are pack hunters, and if you attack one then all the trolls in the area will converge on you.  So between the new creatures and the new environments, the combat stays fresh enough to last the entire DLC.  The difficulty is also fine for the most part.  My character died a few times while trying to prevent Ragnarok, but the boss battles (and particularly the final boss battle) were way too easy, and didn't provide any memorable moments.

Other Additions

Along with the major additions, Pieces Interactive also added some smaller things.  These things include strength-based throwing weapons (so you don't have to rely on dexterity-based bows for ranged attacks), a way to improve legendary equipment, and an increase in the level cap from 75 to 85.

Pieces Interactive also made some minor changes to the first four acts of the game, where they hid a collection of "spell pieces."  If you can find all of the pieces, then you'll be able to put them together to form a key, which will give you access to a secret temple.  This temple is much like the secret area from the Immortal Throne DLC, where you can fight strange creatures named after the developers, and also loot some nice equipment.

Conclusion

Overall, Titan Quest: Ragnarok was a mixed bag for me.  The intent and the design of the DLC seemed fine, but the writing left a lot to be desired, and the references to Norse mythology didn't work for me as well as the Greek mythology references from the main part of the game.  Worse, perhaps, is that it didn't seem like developer Pieces Interactive was trying very hard.  They basically added exactly what Iron Lore added for their DLC -- a new mastery, a new act, and a secret area -- and they stopped there.  Innovation and creativity didn't make the trip.

But still, the new mastery is nice enough, the combat works well enough, and the additional locations are effectively designed.  So the Ragnarok DLC gives you 15-20 hours of perfectly acceptable content, provided you just want to wander around and kill stuff, or if you've been looking for a reason to run through Titan Quest again.  If that's all you need, then Ragnarok is a worthwhile purchase, although you might want to wait for a sale before plunking down your money.