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.
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