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Iron Lore Entertainment (developer) and THQ (publisher) teamed up to release Titan Quest last June. The game was an action RPG in the mold of Diablo, where you had to kill thousands of enemies, each with a click or two or five from your mouse. I basically hated the game. It looked nice and it ran smoothly, but it was all killing and no story, and I thought Iron Lore did a terrible job of using the Greek mythology backdrop to bring their game to life.
Now Iron Lore and THQ are back with an expansion pack for Titan Quest called Titan Quest: Immortal Throne. The expansion pack adds a new act to the campaign, complete with new monsters, bosses, and quests. It also adds lots of new features to make the game friendlier to play, including a caravan driver who can transfer items between your characters. But if, like me, you didn't particularly like Titan Quest, or if it was merely an adequate way to kill 30 hours of time, is Immortal Throne something you'd want to buy? Surprisingly, I'd say the answer is yes.
Titan Quest: Immortal Throne picks up where Titan Quest left off. You start out in the city of Rhodes, and you immediately learn that Hades has taken advantage of the strife on the surface to make a grab for power. His plan? To replace Zeus as the top god in the pantheon, and to make the world a darker, less forgiving place. That means you first have to find a way to enter the underworld, and then, once there, you have to defeat an actual god. Now, your character has already killed telkines and titans and thousands of other enemies, but a god is another matter entirely, and so along the way you have to get help from heroes and other figures from Greek mythology, you have to complete numerous quests, and you generally have to gain enough experience to make your character powerful enough to withstand the final battle.
I actually enjoyed this new act to the campaign more than I thought I would. Iron Lore Entertainment did two important things to make it better. First and foremost, they got the characters from Greek mythology more involved in the story. In Titan Quest, a storyteller would tell you about somebody like Herakles, but you'd never actually meet him or go anywhere where he'd had his adventures. In Immortal Throne, you visit all sorts of people and places. Odysseus and Agamemnon send you on quests, you have to duke it out with Charon and Cerberus, and you get to explore the River Styx and Elysium Fields. For me, this made the act much more involving than before.
Secondly, Iron Lore mixed up the quests a little better. In Titan Quest, just about every quest directed you to wander somewhere and kill something, which wasn't very exciting, because that's what you'd do when you weren't on quests, too. But in Immortal Throne there's more variety. There are some escort missions, there are some collection missions, and at one point you even have to find keys and pull levers. These aren't exactly cutting edge concepts, but they go a long way in making the quests feel more like quests, and in breaking up the monotony of the combat. I also think Iron Lore did a nicer job with the ratio of quests to random killings. There are fewer optional caves, and fewer forests filled with nothing but optional creatures to kill, and that's a good thing.
On the downside, there is still a lot of grinding to be done in the new act, and there still isn't a lot of variety in the way enemies attack you. At one point you come across some siege engines, and they're different and cool, but just about everything else fits into being a melee fighter, an archer, or a spellcaster, and only their appearance changes. Worse, enemies are re-used all over the place. It makes sense when the act starts out in a swamp that you'd see troglodytes, hydradons, and bullfrog creatures. But then you see the exact same things in the underworld and other places, and it's boring. The Diablo games in particular did a nice job in varying enemies and tactics to keep combat interesting, but Iron Lore -- and lots of other action RPG developers -- haven't figured out how to do that yet.
Other New Features
Of course, Iron Lore didn't only add a new final act in the expansion pack. They also added a bunch of other new features, both major and minor. For starters, they added a new dream mastery. This mastery involves trances (auras that affect you or your enemies), dreams (to buff yourself), and distortions (to damage enemies). It even allows you to summon a Nightmare creature to help you out. But to me this mastery didn't really add anything to the game. Titan Quest already had a rather complete set of masteries for characters to choose from, including four magical masteries, and so what was the gain of a new one? Still, more options are always good, and the dream mastery gives players extra choices for how to develop their characters.
The Immortal Throne expansion pack also adds two new NPC types: caravan drivers and enchanters. Caravan drivers give you an extra place to store your gear. You can find them in most towns, and you can give them some gold to increase the amount of space you have reserved for you. The original Titan Quest came with set equipment, plus relics and charms that you could insert into your equipment, and Immortal Throne adds arcane formulae to that, and so this extra storage space is very convenient, and it means you won't need to teleport back and forth to towns as often to sell stuff. Caravan drivers also give you a special transfer area that is common to all of your characters. That means if you're playing a spellcaster and you find a great melee weapon, you can put it into the transfer area, and then your fighter character can pick it up from there. And even if you don't have multiple characters, the transfer area provides extra storage, and so it's useful regardless.
Enchanters deal with relics and charms and arcane formulae. In Titan Quest, if you inserted a relic into a piece of equipment, the insertion was permanent. You couldn't take the relic back out or change your mind and insert a different relic instead. Enchanters change that. For a hefty fee, they can remove a relic from a piece of equipment and then return to you either the relic or the piece of equipment (destroying the other). This is a great improvement, because relics are sometimes hard to find, and equipment is all over the place, so this makes it easy to keep your relics as you improve your equipment.
Arcane formulae are used to create artifacts, which are a new type of equipment in Immortal Throne. Each arcane formula requires relics, charms, and/or other artifacts in order to produce an artifact, and you need to bring the ingredients to an enchanter (along with another hefty fee) to have the artifact crafted. Artifacts are kind of fun, but this is another place where I don't know if the addition really adds anything, since characters already had nine equipment slots, and what's the difference between nine and ten? Artifacts also require you to lug around a lot of relics and charms and formulae, and so it's a good thing Iron Lore increased the amount of storage space you get.
Finally, Iron Lore made a bunch of smaller improvements. When you die, your character leaves behind a grave marker, and if you can get back to the marker before you die again, then you'll back get some of your lost experience. You can toggle an option so that you no longer accidentally pick up equipment when you're trying to move around. There are buttons that allow you to auto-sort your inventory. There are expensive scrolls that you can purchase so that you can cast some magic spells. Quest mobs are now labeled with a purple color so that they're easier to identify. And more. Iron Lore touched upon nearly every part of the game.
Overall, I'd say that Titan Quest: Immortal Throne is a great expansion pack for an okay game. Iron Lore Entertainment made all sorts of nice changes, both expected and unexpected, and those changes did a lot to improve some of the problems of the original game. But Titan Quest is still Titan Quest. It's still an action RPG where you have to enjoy killing creatures over and over again, just to gain more experience and to find more equipment.
So if you enjoyed the original Titan Quest, then Immortal Throne is a slam dunk. You should go out and buy it right away. But if you didn't really get into Titan Quest, the answer is a little bit trickier. I played through Titan Quest twice when I wrote my review for it, and I disliked it nearly every step of the way. But when I played the entire campaign again for this review, I liked it a little bit better. It's not going to make me forget Arcanum or Fallout or even Diablo II, but it's now a nice enough diversion, and it's something you might want think about if you're looking for a way to wile away some free time.