It is apparent that the developers at Iron Lore, makers of Titan Quest, have played more than their fair share of the Diablo games. Though it trades a pure high-fantasy feel for a mythical take on the ancient worlds of Greece, Egypt, and Asia, Titan Quest is so similar to Blizzard's seminal hack-and-slash role-playing game series that it's essentially a warts-and-all homage. It's certainly well-made enough to please those who prefer more action and less plot in their RPGs, and there are dozens and dozens of hours of gameplay to get lost in here, but it's hard to shake the feeling that you've already seen most of what Titan Quest has to offer.
Those familiar with their Greek mythology will know that Zeus and the rest of the Olympians achieved their status within the world of gods by going to war with, defeating, and eventually imprisoning their forebears, a group of powerful elder gods known as the titans. Titan Quest opens up with these none-too-happy deities being freed from their prison, and they immediately use their great powers to wreak havoc on the mortal men that worship the Olympians. In an against-all-odds fight, you'll take on the role of a hero determined to stop these ravenous gods.
Your options when you first create your hero are quite limited--you can name your character, choose his or her gender, as well as the default color of his or her tunic, and then you're off to the titan-ravaged Greek countryside. It's a little surprising how few choices you're given when choosing your hero's appearance, though since the game is played mostly from a faraway, angled overhead perspective, skin tone and hairstyle are barely even perceptible, especially once you start burying your hero under layers of armor and weaponry. There's also no hand wringing to be done during the initial character-creation process over character class, since Titan Quest handles the path of your hero in a fairly dynamic fashion as you progress through the game.
The basic rhythms of the gameplay in Titan Quest should be quite familiar to anyone who has played Diablo, its sequel, or any of the dozens of knockoffs that have cropped up in the years since. Using a mouse-heavy interface, you'll explore open countrysides, forests, farmlands, ancient ruins, catacombs, swamps, caves, and other environments that are all just rotten with unfriendly monsters. If the idea of scouring the world for treasure and clicking your way through wave after wave of enemies doesn't appeal to you, turn back now, since that's mostly what Titan Quest has to offer. The gameplay is very single minded in this regard, and the quests you'll take on revolve around the mindless slaughter of monsters more often than not, to the point that you'll likely find yourself skipping through lots of the spoken dialogue, since it's usually just a flowery way of saying "go kill this guy."
The game features a great variety of mythically derived creatures, and it throws them at you early and often. Within the first few hours, you'll be crossing swords with satyrs, centaurs, harpies, gorgons, and cyclopes. Naturally, you can expect magic-using and bow-casting monsters to attack you from a distance, while melee-driven monsters prefer to get up close. Some monsters can spring traps, summon pets, or call for reinforcements, and occasionally a monster that you're about to finish off will make a run for it, but the combat generally doesn't require complex tactics. Mostly, all you need to do is keep an eye on your health bar and time the use of your hero's abilities so that your enemies go down before you do.
You'll make your first real decision about what sort of abilities your hero will have when you gain enough experience points from defeating monsters and completing quest segments to hit level two, which is when you'll choose your first school of mastery. Every time you advance a level, you're allotted points that you can put toward core attributes such as health and magical energy points, as well as strength, intelligence, and dexterity. There is a separate set of points for specific skills that are divided into eight different schools of mastery--warfare, defense, hunting, rogue, earth, storm, nature, and spirit. Generally speaking, the first four are best suited for fighters, while the latter four are good for bolstering a spellcaster. Within each mastery, the skills are tiered in such a way that you'll initially only have a few skills to put your points into, though you can choose to spend points on opening up new tiers of skills if the lower-level skills don't interest you.
What makes the mastery system even more interesting is that, a few levels later, you're given the choice of adding a second mastery, letting you further diversify your character's skills and making him or her that much more unique. Hardened RPG players should be intimately familiar with the regular desire to reroll a character after discovering that a particular class isn't to their liking. The mastery system in Titan Quest sidesteps that by letting you cobble together your own custom character class, and, should you find that you're not really using some of the skills that you've spent points on, you'll regularly run into non-player characters that will, for a fee, let you reallocate skill points. The generally flexible attitude toward character development is definitely one of the more clever aspects of Titan Quest, and it goes a long way toward keeping you from ever feeling like you're stuck with yesterday's bad decision.