On paper, Titan Souls ticks all the right boxes for me. Indie: Check, Roguelike: Check, lovely pixel graphics: Check. But in playing through and completing Titan Souls, I can’t help but feel hollow. The games completely based around the simple concept of one shot kills, with your character only having one arrow to fire at a time and it having to be retrieved before firing again. It’s was a great concept in theory, but where did Titan Souls manage to slip between the crack and become so… dull?
Well it wasn’t in the graphics, which were simply sublime throughout the whole campaign. There were times when everything felt a little repetitive, and the Titans and player could of had more animations than the few they are given, but overall the world felt alive and lovely, with each and every Titan being exquisitely detailed. My biggest grip about the graphics? Too many enemies flip-flopped between being 3D modeled and others being completely 2D sprite based. It was jarring, and certainly inconsistent in a world that was mostly sprite based.
The music helped me enjoy the game and see it through to it’s end, with lovely guitars playing whilst exploring forests, and action-ey fast paced music appearing whenever a Titan is encountered. What surprised me the most was the amount of variety, with all 13 Titan encounters having different music. Granted, due to the way the game is played (you die, you run to the place again, and die again), you rarely got to hear music for more than a few seconds, but what was heard was certainly impressive enough to keep me adventuring.
The controls? Well not much can be said about the controls. You have two buttons: One to fire your sole arrow + reclaim it, and one to roll/sprint. It’s simplicity at it’s finest, enabling the player to master the controls early on, and purely using the Titans moves/patterns to dictate how the game is played out. There were times I couldn’t help but think how much better the game could have been with different abilities though, with a new level of variety being added to the game based purely on what actions you can and cannot do to your enemy.
So what of the gameplay? Well, this is probably where my major gripes start to manifest. You see, the roguelike ability to die with one hit is fantastic when applied to lots of different games, and can push you to better yourself as a player. My problem with Titan Souls’ implementation of this mechanic is that when you die you’ll then need to walk back to the same point you were at previously purely to start the fight again, which, when you’re dying over 128 times in one playthrough, equates to a lot of waster time walking back to the same point you were at previously. Whilst it sounds like a tiny gripe in the grand scheme of things, I can’t help but feel the single hit death which is applied to enemies and the player is a bad concept in making the player feel empowered after killing a Titan. You see, there were more times that I felt my triumph over a Titan was more down to luck than my own skill, causing me to feel hollow when I should have felt joyed that I had managed to kill my foe.
The hub world between Titans just felt contrived, with no story as to why the ruins are there at all being explained to the player in my entire playthrough. During development, team Acid were interviewed and asked where their motivations came from, with the team admitting Shadow of the Colossus being high on their list. The problem is, this doesn’t translate very well into Titan Souls. Where Shadow of the Colossus did indeed give massive open worlds, they were there as you was striving to find your next Colossus’ to take down, giving the player time away from the action they had previously endured. Titan Souls attempts to do this with their big open hub world, but it just can’t help but feel contrived, as the player has no prior knowledge as to why they’re there at all and why they’re killing Titans. At least with Shadow you had a purpose, here Titan Souls can’t even muster much of a purpose. You kill big things instantly; end of.
Add all of what I’ve said above with the fact Titan Souls is a short game (I managed to complete it in 2 hours 35 minutes), and you have a disappointment when compared to my initial excitement. Replayability is limited, as I now know how to kill all the Titans, so going back would feel more like luck in defeating them than actual skill. Titan Souls is clever, there’s no doubt about that, but I won’t be coming back to it anytime soon.