Switch’s success caught publishers off guard, and it seems portfolios are being raided to keep the steady stream of ports a-coming. Titan Quest – a revamp of the twelve-year-old hack-and-slash ARPG – is finally launching on Nintendo’s console following a PS4 and Xbox One release earlier this year. Reception was mixed on those platforms thanks largely to a host of problems including movement lag and loot falling through the floor. Has the extra time been used to polish a rough nugget into a portable jewel?
Well, kinda. We saw none of the game-breaking bugs reported with the other versions, although graphical glitches still abound. Environment textures load slowly, sporadically exposing grey level geometry. In misty areas one of our magical moves turned the fog’s bounding box completely white for several seconds. More seriously, our controls momentarily froze on several occasions and we experienced a number of crashes.
Hardly plain sailing, then. However, passing a rebirth fountain saves your progress and there are periodic auto-saves, plus a manual option via the pause menu, so we didn’t lose much progress. Considering the sheer amount of game, we’d say the Switch edition is both functional and enjoyable in its current form. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but Titan Quest on Switch isn’t an embarrassment at launch.
Your quest encompasses a globe-trotting hunt, from Greece to Egypt, through Asia and beyond. You’ll guide your warrior with the left stick through all manner of ancient cities and territories, despatching vile monsters and completing quests (mostly achieved through the dispatch of said monsters). The camera is fixed, although the right stick zooms in.
Your character auto-runs at enemies in range when you hit an attack button (‘X’ or ‘Y’). Keep tapping and they’ll run to the next and the next, with no further input necessary. Holding down the button brings up a directional cone, enabling you to redirect your target, but we’d have preferred a button to cycle through opponents. Much of your success relies on selectively aggroing enemies and drawing them away from the pack, which gets complicated when your character randomly targets a beastie in the distance and runs away from the group you’re fighting.
Character creation is as simple as choosing a name and gender; customisation comes from the gear you equip and your chosen Mastery, a branch of skills unlocked from nine possibilities. These function as classes and provide elemental moves and powers. You can choose a pure branch or combine two – we took a melee/caster route by combining ‘Warfare’ and ‘Dream’. Other Masteries better suit high dexterity users with bows or staffs.
Our playstyle consisted of lining up a bunch of enemies before casting a psychic death wave – which consumes Energy – and getting stuck in with a frosted pickaxe while the spell recharged. Pummelling the attack button reactivated our dormant Pokémon Go-related RSI, but the tactic was effective. Keeping an eye on your health meter is essential, as is having a large supply of health and energy potions to chug by tapping ‘L’ and ‘R’ respectively.
Later in the game, you encounter mystics who enable you to re-spec within your chosen branch(es). The original Immortal Throne expansion (which introduced the ‘Dream’ Mastery and other tweaks) is integrated here, although the Ragnarök expansion is missing. It’s apparently still coming to consoles – certain exclusive items and the Runes Mastery are currently visible, though inaccessible.
From the off, Titan Quest feels like a PC game of its vintage. Menus, sub-menus, weapon sets, stats, percentages – these things have been well-integrated into console games over the past decade, and while Titan Quest takes a decent stab at it, there are still too many steps required to perform simple operations. Inventory management is predictably tedious. ‘Y’ auto-sorts your gear but simply accessing your inventory requires pressing ‘+’, pushing up on the menu wheel and confirming with ‘A’. You get used to it, but three inputs to open your map is two too many.
Beyond optional tool tips, there’s refreshingly little in the way of tutorials, although it’s easy to miss useful info. For example, when the ground’s cluttered with loot, sorting the wheat from the chaff without picking everything up and scrutinising your inventory is tough. That is until you realise that holding down ‘A’ opens a box enabling you to select individual items and even compare with equipped gear. We’d recommend exploring the options menu, too – any loot below a certain tier can be toggled into oblivion. Handy.
The remnants of decade-old PC game design poke through here and there, which may fire up your nostalgia if you’ve ever lost months to Civilization or Diablo. The presentation on the main menu is authentically bare-bones. Dialogue textboxes are tiny auto-scroll affairs and spoken audio fades out if you walk away. The voice work is solid if you have the patience to stick around, although the audio sounds a little muffled.
Performance-wise, this port isn’t going to top the tables over at Digital Foundry, but it’s never less than playable. There are drops and dips, and you’ll certainly notice the framerate jump in enclosed spaces. As you roam the map compulsively wiping away the fog of war, you’ll see trees and terrain pop-in. Visually, some nice textures can’t hide the 12-year-old level geometry beneath, but a day/night cycle provides variety. There are some decent shadow effects and the water looks pleasant. Handheld mode softens the image significantly and screen text is a tad small, but that won’t prevent you playing on the bus.
Although online and local multiplayer options were unavailable to test, we did manage to try the vertical split screen mode by creating a second character. Two players are able to operate independently in entirely different in-game locations, though with predictable effects on framerate. Lacking access to the fast-travel network, the level 1 noob was stuck in the starter village, so our level 25 Harbinger teleported back from Egypt for some jolly cooperation. It’s a novel and unexpected extra, but not something we see people committing to for an entire quest.
Which brings us to the grind. Titan Quest has loads of content – around 50 hours depending on your skill and inclination for side quests – and you’ll need to battle every enemy you come across to be strong enough to take on later foes. Provided you don’t just beeline past enemies, you’re rarely forced to revisit an area (creatures respawn only when you quit the game). It’s fun, but hack-and-slash by its nature involves plenty of mechanical repetition, and the linearity of the game makes multiple playthroughs (and therefore exploration of different classes) unlikely for all but genre devotees.
A certain historical perspective and a touch of nostalgia will go a long way to helping you appreciate Titan Quest and its quirks. That core loop of killing satyrs in four hits before finding rare loot that destroys them in one is as compelling as it ever was. Disappointing visual glitches and the occasional crash give the impression that everything is held together with nothing more than sticky tape and a prayer, but it was never enough to stop us playing. Handheld mode is a massive boon for any RPG and, as long as you’re not expecting miracles, this Switch port delivers the core experience well enough to warrant investigation.