– Simon Vallenet
Since its first appearance at the Ludum Dare Game Jam in 2013, Titan Souls has always been categorised as an indie/2D version of Shadow of the Colossus, one of the greatest games of the Playstation 2 catalogue, which is fair to say that it sounded pretty promising. Hands on keyboard, the game is slightly different and somewhat disappointing but don’t get me wrong: it’s still fun to play.
Titan Souls starts with our nameless little hero, armed with a single bow and arrow, who finds himself lost in an enchanted world with only one goal: find and kill the Goliath-like enemies who inhabit the place. A simple yet effective concept, highlighted by a very basic set of controls: one button to roll and run, another one to fire and retrieve the unique weapon you have.
If scenario is the reason why you’d play this game, a little bit more explanation on what is going on would have been nice. The story, if you consider that there’s one, is subject to interpretation and is told through some glyphs inscribed on old mossy ruins and a few obscure cut scenes.
With no other goals than looking for the titans to kill, exploring this empty world is kind of pointless. There are no mobs to fight, no one to talk to, no villages to visit. Even considering the relatively small size of the map, it gets pretty boring. However, the vacuity of Titan Souls’ universe finds its balance in the soundtrack, which helps us travel from one point to another without falling asleep. David Fenn’s compositions literally bring out the ancientness and mystery of this Zelda-esque world.
The map is divided in different zones inherent to this type of action/exploration game: the forest, the lava/cave area, the snowy mountain and the cemetery. The developers’ inspirations are clearly evident; they do not hide from it and players will be pleased to discover some Easter eggs here and there (who said Ocarina of Time’s Lost Woods?). Each zone offers the players two or three titans to fight and every one of them has its own characteristics, patterns and weak spot.
Within seconds into a brawl, that weak spot – generally bright pink – appears almost automatically to the player. Firing the arrow right in that spot is on the other hand is a different kettle of fish. This is why timing, reflexes and skills are essentials: for a vast majority of the boss fights, players will only have a tiny window (sometimes not even a second) to master the perfect shot. There’s literally no place for mistakes and every encounter is filled with tension and stress, not to mention that the titans are in general very fast and extremely accurate when they attack.
When you die (in most cases within seconds), you’re transported back to a check point, roughly 10-15 seconds away from the arena. I can hear you saying that it’s not that bad, but trust me when you die 30 times in a row; you really don’t want to be running from the check point to the arena again, even if it’s only a few seconds away.
An important problem as well is that a lot of the bosses show their weakness a few patterns after the battle’s start, which means all I had to do as a player was to master these first few seconds to perfection to be able to fire my arrow right on their weak spot. If I missed that chance, there was almost no need to continue the battle and wait for another lucky moment simply because I knew where the weak spot would be if I started the fight again. When I realised that, the game got a little bit less epic.
That being said, the titans are all unique, they show great creativity from the developers and there’s still a great satisfaction in defeating them.
Once you beat the last one and you thought you didn’t sweat enough, you unlock a few other modes: a new game plus in which the bosses are faster and harder to kill, another one where you can’t run or roll (in other words, you can barely avoid attacks) and another one where you only get one life to kill them all (in other words, impossible).
If you’re also receptive to successes and trophies, you can try to unlock these virtual rewards to show your friends that you are the king but spoiler alert: they’re extremely hard to get.
In total, it took me four and a half hours, a little patience, a lot of luck and 285 deaths to finish Titan Souls. You’ve been warned.