One arrow, one hit, a billion deaths
Between our world and the world beyond lie the Titan Souls, the spiritual source and sum of all living things. Now scattered amongst the ruins and guarded by the idle titans charged with their care, a solitary hero armed with but a single arrow is once again assembling shards of the Titan Soul in a quest for truth and power.
Titan Souls is a game that many people are very excited about, and understandably so. It started with humble beginnings, being conceived and developed in just 72 hours for the 28th Ludum Dare Game Jam, and after a few incarnations since, took out several awards at last year’s E3. It’s now making its debut on a range of platforms. I reviewed the Steam version.
I came into it with little knowledge of the game itself, beyond hearing it was pretty hard, and I’d watched a brief YouTube video that, if I’d paid more attention, would have demonstrated I was setting myself up for a fall. As you might recall from my last review, Keebles, I struggle with too much of a challenge and lack the patience to keep one’s controller intact after many cheap deaths. However, I was taken in by the sweet pixelly graphics of Titan Souls, so when a review code was on offer, I put my hand up.
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The game opens with your little guy wandering around in a temple area, with just his bow and single arrow to defend against some pretty nasty enemies. I initially started out using keyboard controls, but quickly found that to be both frustrating and physically painful, so I spent an extremely irritating amount of time figuring out which console gamepad I could use. After several failed attempts, I managed to get my PS4 controller working with Steam and away I went.
The premise of the game is to determine and then carefully target the weakness of each enemy, using just your single arrow (which you must either slowly draw back to you after firing, or run over and collect). This mechanic is both frustrating and clever, as you can often score a hit with the arrow being drawn back if timed correctly. No doubt this becomes a more necessary strategy as the game progresses. Whilst avoiding enemy attacks, and managing your arrow, you will likely find yourself being killed many times. I experienced severe game rage after only a short time of playing, so keep that in mind if you aren’t a patient person. Thankfully the game does save for you each time you kill an enemy, so you don’t have to re-kill the previous ones – which was something I feared when just starting out.
The first enemy I fought was a bouncing blob with a heart inside. It was clear I needed to release the heart from the blob, and then shoot it, but of course, it wasn’t that easy. Each time you shot the blob, it divided (and became more aggressive), and so you then had to contend with multiple enemies. After several shots, you could end up with a large amount of small (and fast) bouncing blobs each leaving slime trails to trap you. If you were hit by a blob, you were instantly dead. I spent far too long yelling at my screen about this, and nearly got to the point of giving up, but I persevered and it eventually paid off. And I must say: the satisfaction you get from destroying your first enemy after dying so many times was so worth it.
The next enemy I went for was a rolling box with a large eye (that shot out a laser beam). It was hard to figure out what to do because I kept getting smashed, but eventually I worked it out. The box rolls a set number of times each turn then shoots the laser from its eye. If you timed it correctly, you could shoot your arrow from an angle, thus avoiding getting hit by the laser, but managing to get the eye while it was open.
Feeling like I was getting the hang of it, I moved on to the next enemy, which was a brain inside a block of ice. Again, this was a very aggressive enemy (sensing a theme here). A flame would regularly spurt from the centre of the room, and due to playing many RPGs in my life, I instinctively knew that I needed to shoot my arrow through the flame to hit the enemy’s ice shield, thus leaving the brain unprotected. I took out this enemy in short order and derived great satisfaction from absorbing its soul.
The final boss of the level was a stone golem with two very smashy fists. One fist would pursue you, while the other protected a jewel in the golem’s chest. Some fancy ducking and weaving is necessary before expertly (or luckily, in my case) timing your shot just as the fists swap places. For some reason I thought that was the end of the game and I was considering it a bit of a rip-off, until I realised that no, there are more levels to play – the game has a total of 20 bosses, in fact. The doors to the first level opened, and in I went, stepping on a floorplate, to be lifted to a new area – one with far more places to explore and pixelly scenery to admire, including a range of different environments (I explored a snow area with a stark beauty).
Despite my frustration at the difficulty of Titan Souls, I do understand that’s a big part of its appeal to many gamers. After 80 minutes of gameplay, my death count was 62, so that’s probably a good indicator of what to expect. The game requires patience and practice, and if you stick with it, you’ll be rewarded with a satisfying payoff. I would definitely insist you play with a gamepad because the keyboard controls are just not responsive and fine enough for some of the fast dodging and shooting you need to do. The gamepad gives you greater range of movement and your tendons will thank you later. The graphics are sweet and nostalgic, and the lilting piano score is subtle and ambient. Little touches like wind swirls, and trees swaying give a nice amount of movement to the scenery. Don’t forget to take a dip if you come across a body of water.
Titan Souls is out on Steam on April 14.