GamingReview: Titan Souls

Review: Titan Souls

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A game that revolves entirely around boss fights isn’t an unknown concept. Titan Souls follows in the enormous shadow created by certain well known Colossus and concentrates solely on fighting bosses. You play as a nameless child armed with only a bow and a single arrow who decides that’s probably enough preparation to go and take on the big nasty things that live in the world. I’m pretty sure more arrows would have been useful.

Except you have a rather nifty trick at your disposal. Once you’ve fired your arrow you can recall it and fire it again. Useful. You can also roll around and sprint but that’s the limit to your Jedi powers. Playing a top down action game with this limited set of skills is Titan Souls’ key to success. The gameplay is, mechanically speaking, very limited. There are no complicated button sequences or level ups and stats. Just you, your few skills and the fact that everyone, you and the bosses, all have only 1 health.

The first few fights are reasonably forgiving, at least when you compare them to the rest of the game, and try in a limited way to introduce you to the core gameplay. Just like the action, Titan Souls is very simple conceptually. A series of bosses for you to kill. Each one has only 1 health and all you need to do is find its weak spot, not get hit and successfully attack it. Then you can move onto the next one.

But it’s amazing how much complexity can emerge from such simplicity. The bosses are all different enough that you never get the sense of repetition that could easily have ruined the game. The first few bosses are reasonably obvious although probably only after a death or two. The first splits when you attack so speed is key. Another needs you to lead the enemy around the map to reveal a weak spot. One needs you to use an environmental effect and so on.

There’s loads of variation and there’s never anything other than the simple mechanics and the same single health point system. There isn’t that one boss that has 5 health and you never briefly acquire jump boots or a jetpack. Titan Souls has an incredible robust and well designed set of mechanics and it’s confident enough to stay true to itself and use them effectively.

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But that also means that aside from the boss fights there is nothing else to do in Titan Souls. Which is great in one way but also limits its potential. I love that it stays focused and doesn’t get clouded by anything else. It really lets the battles shine. But the world ultimately acts as a hub for fighting bosses with no interaction at all. Random enemies would not have worked but there aren’t even people to talk to in the world.

There isn’t really much in the way of a story either. I understand the very deliberate design and the aim of the game to stay minimal and focused but the vague hint of a plot is underdeveloped and my playthrough suffered from it. It’s difficult to say it’s a problem because the entire point of Titan Souls is to avoid these complications but for those who want plot or character development you will probably be left wanting.

So too will those looking for longevity. There are some options that become available after completion but they really weren’t anything that appealed to me. In fact their inclusion seems to have had zero thought at all. One option disables your roll which is just ridiculous. It’s not fun on any level. There is challenge to be had from executing your attacks but the main challenge is from solving the bosses ‘puzzle’. Once you’ve completed them during your first playthrough there’s a lot less satisfaction to be had.

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Playing through and figuring out bosses is a fantastic experience. The gameplay is solid and finding a boss’s weakness isn’t patronizing. Executing your attacks and successfully defeating an enemy is tough and you know it from the sense of satisfaction you get after each victory. The deliberate trade off of plot and world design for solid mechanics is partially successful but it does leave Titan Souls with something missing.

There’s really no significant plot to wrap yourself in or characters to talk to. Personally I think it works but it’s not for everyone. Your nameless protagonist and the absence of complex plot elements really allow Titan Souls to focus on the minimalist concepts and mechanics. But without much replay value there isn’t a whole lot to do after the initial 5 hours or so.

Titan Souls is a short but satisfyingly challenging boss fest with tons of style and impeccably well crafted top down action gameplay. It may be short and lacking in some respects but my first playthrough was so satisfying it didn’t matter.

SUMMARY

+ Well designed action mechanics
+ Simple concept well utilized
+ Creative boss designs
- Lack of plot limits scope
- Limited replay value and longevity

Reviewed on PC. Also available on PS4, PS Vita and OS X.
phillvine
Phill has been the director of a small IT repair business since 2011 which he runs alongside studying for his degree in Information and Communication Technologies at the Open University. Video games are his real passion and they take up more of his time than he'd like to admit.

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