A few days back I realised that, even after all these years of clicking away, I didn’t really know what Titan Quest is about. I mean I know what it’s about – it’s about murdering stuff, Diablo-style in Ancient Greece or whatever. But I didn’t know who I was really murdering, or for what reasons. All these years and I’ve never watched the opening cinematic, and never really listened to a full sentence of in-game dialogue. That’s ARPGs right? “Oh hero could you–” “Master, we have been waylai–” “Brigands have–” Gotcha. Gotcha. Quest, I gather? Murdering time.
The thing is, the setting, even if I have steadily ignored the finer details, is still one of the main strengths here. When I think of Diablo I think of dark depths with nasty things moving around. When I think of Titan Quest I think of blinding sun glinting off polished gold armour, of implausibly balmy days and beautiful seas. Ancient Greece is a nice place to be regardless of what horrors are threatening the place. Titan Quest is at its best as a summer holiday romp. It’s one of the outdoorsiest games ever.
And I don’t know if you’ve read the Iliad, but, as I remember it, it’s finely-detailed, sinuous descriptions of a lot of people getting hacked to pieces. Intro Pylon – or whoever, in fact maybe it’s not Pylon, it has been a while – then he’s out onto the battlefield and someone’s had his head off while death swirls down in darkness from above. The Iliad, right, is like reading about a lot of people who were hit full-force by billowing bedsheets on a windy day. This is not a criticism. Homer’s a keeper. All I’m saying is that Titan Quest, whatever its story, is pretty faithful to the source material in terms of what you actually get up to.
So you’re killing people and beasts. Because it’s Greece at first and a lot of people have horns coming out of their heads, for the opening few hours it’s a bit like smashing your way through a casting call for an am-dram Midsummer Night’s Dream. What fools these mortals be! They just stand around until you arrive, and then you finish them off, pick over their belongings and go on your way, to the next quest-giver whose dialogue you don’t allow to run its full course.
This is wonderful, and it gets better because every time I return to Titan Quest – apparently you reach China in the end, but I’ve never made it that far – I remember that it’s one of those magical ARPGs where you can muddle classes together. You start off as no class at all, and soon, as you level up, you’re piling on different elements and plucking fruit from different trees all over the place. I waddle through the mid-game like one of those fancy 1980s cocktails where the different ingredients hover at different levels in the glass. Except they’re not vermouth and Kahlua and all that.They’re lightning and fire and ghostly health-leaching stuff.
Every Diablo-alike that isn’t Diablo has to deal, at some point, with the fact that it isn’t Diablo. Titan Quest gets away with it by being breezy and generous. I love this game, which I have never finished, which I don’t really know the plot of, and which I return to now and then having forgotten everything about it. I think you might love it too.