Ever since the release of 'Empire Strikes Back' it seems that additional material in any franchise now has to take a darker, more sinister approach in order to be taken seriously.
It's all George Lucas’ fault. Ever since the release of ‘Empire Strikes Back’ it seems that additional material in any franchise now has to take a darker, more sinister approach in order to be taken seriously. You only have to look at ‘Prince of Persia: Warrior Within’ to see how this mentality can unfortunately bring a blossoming series to its knees, leaving fans wondering why the directional change was necessary in the first place. Luckily for Titan Quest fans, developer IronLore has woven a highly logical and well thought-out reason for getting dark and nasty with us into the add-on pack ‘Immortal Throne’.
You’ll start off in the exact location you finished in
This is not your usual depiction of Hades
Continuing from the defeat of the Titan ‘Typhos’ at the end of the original game, Immortal Throne sees the player picking up arms once again. The storyline follows on directly from the original, with a handy portal opening up for the hero to travel to the Greek city of Rhodes. Following some brief story exposition and a few hours of traditional questing in the surrounding wilderness, players will be asked to journey into the fabled underworld of Hades, the land of the dead. The overall goal is to put an end to the dark army currently amassing with the intent of causing havoc amongst the living. Your hero will have to cross legendary locations such as the River Styx (complete with the boatman Charon in attendance, mythology fans), through to the Elysian Fields and beyond. Being that the series storyline is steeped in Greek legend and character, for once this dark new direction doesn’t seem out of place, and feels like a natural extension to the original storyline.
Graphically the new underworld location really allows the Titan Quest engine to shine. Not much has changed technically since the original instalment aside from a few new advanced post-processing effects (it is less than a year old after all), but the level of artistry seems to have taken a definite step forward. It may seem a strange decision at first to present Hades in a series of murky blue/grey/green colour schemes rather then the traditional fiery depiction, but in doing so it allows the new content to take on a more diverse and ghostly appearance. This fits particularly well given the amount of spirits or ‘shades’ wandering around the environment looking for a way to gain passage to Elysium or just to cross the River with the hope of being judged. The lighting effects in particular are superbly atmospheric, with a genuine sense of menace coming from some of the building architecture and the angular, piercing shadows cast as a result. Texturing throughout is excellent and the new monster design (some 20 in total) is good, with some genuinely interesting additions to the cast of foes.
Audio is largely untouched, with similarly stirring music accompanying your journey throughout (if a little too sparsely on default settings), and some good environmental effects to boot. The underworld segment again shines here, with some good echo effects and swirling wind. This accentuates the atmosphere particularly in some of the more briefly visited locations such as the passage of souls. Voice acting has unfortunately not been given any attention, with the same cast of seemingly one female and one male voice actor from the original title. Work needed here for sure.
The length of the additional campaign content is approximately the same as one of the chapters from the original, so anywhere from 10-20 hours depending on how thorough you want to be with side-quests and collecting loot. Don’t expect any gameplay revelations, the play mechanics remain unaltered and aside from a slew of additional side-quest opportunities you won’t be seeing any progression from the point and click combat already in place. That’s not necessarily a bad thing given the original game was already well-defined within the genre. The boss battles have definitely been given some attention and now entail some lengthy and tactical encounters even with high level characters. The greater amount of challenge is definitely welcome for those with powerful heroes created from the first game, as even the strongest new foes during the normal campaign can be defeated fairly easily.
Immortal Throne features over 20 new monsters
‘Shades’. Souls of the departed, looking to be judged
Its worth noting at this stage that you will need to have a character that’s progressed through the entire storyline from the original title before you can even access any of the Immortal Throne content. If you’ve formatted your hard drive in the meantime and lost your save game, you’ll need to start right at the beginning again, something that could have been avoided easily by having a pre-rolled character included to jump straight in to the new area, but for reasons unknown this isn’t the case.
It won’t be such a chore to start over however when you look at the raft of other improvements and tweaks IronLore have included. Chief amongst these is a brand new ‘Dream’ Mastery for players to experiment with. This plays out without any specific offensive abilities, but largely as a series of buffs to accentuate the power of your primary skillset, and as such is a welcome tactical addition to the fold. This creates a total of 8 new combined classes, enough to keep any hardened player busy. Scrolls are another new buff-based addition, and work as one-time durational enhancements that come in a variety of offensive and defensive flavours. These can be expensive but can also be supremely useful against the higher-level areas later on to tip the balance of an encounter in your favour.
The new ‘Enchanters’ are the Titan Quest equivalent of crafting and allow you to create brand new items from some of the rare materials that drop throughout the world. In order to use an enchanter you must have a recipe, usually obtained from a monster drop or chest, and its corresponding resources. These are then placed on an ‘altar’ and your new artifact is forged. In practice, this works out exactly like item creation in other RPG’s and will be a handy resource for high-level players looking to get the most out of the game. Get prepared for a search though. Throughout the entire time I spent with the Immortal Throne I only encountered the resources to make one solitary item. Enchanting is a nice addition but there is a definite case that such a staple feature should have been included from the start.
The last major addition is the ‘Caravan’. This works out as an item storage locker that shows up in various locations throughout your travels and even in Hades (no specific explanation on offer for that one). It is useful to finally have somewhere to put items you may otherwise have to sacrifice due to lack of space. Items in the caravan can even be accessed from other characters on the same PC, so if you come across a nice sword for your alternative warrior character, place it in the caravan and grab it later. Speaking of cluttered inventories, Immortal Throne now also includes an auto-sort button for the various bags of mess you’ll be carrying around. Sometimes the best additional features are the little ones.
The artistry is superbly atmospheric
Mythological creatures feature prominently throughout
Overall Immortal Throne doesn’t include a whole lot in the way of brand-new content but still offers good value for money and is a classic example of how to produce an add-on pack to complement an already well-received game. The core gameplay of the original is untouched and the storyline enhanced by a well-crafted and unique additional chapter. There is definitely a case that some of the structural improvements and additions should have found inclusion in the original title, but all of them are well thought-out and implemented, adding longevity and replay value to an already deep title.
Top game moment:
TOP GAME MOMENT
Wandering out of the sun-drenched Mediterranean into the Passage of Souls for the first time and emerging the other side in the dark underworld of Hades.