Very few games strive to be hard these days. With an era focused on storytelling and gameplay, developers tend to makes games easy enough so that a large audience of people can enjoy them. However, that leaves much to be desired in the way of real challenge. Games like Dark Souls have brought back the idea of a difficult yet rewarding experience, and it seems indies have also taken heed of this idea. Titan Souls is a breath of fresh air in a sea of over-the-top action and filler content. There’s very little else to what the crux of the core gameplay has to offer, but what that presents is a truly addictive and challenging experience that is bogged down only by my plea for more.
The story of Titan Souls is very vague in presentation. Like a true NES love letter, the only story initially given is through the game’s description. Seeking the truth and power of the Titan Soul, you have entered the ruins of the land of your ancestors to defeat any Titan in your way. The game isn’t played for the narrative, but the story and concept still leaves enough for the player to want to know more. Titans are labeled in an unknown language, and strange pictures are scattered amongst the walls and pillars. Answers are given if you dig deep enough. The more impressive matter, anyways, is what is on the forefront. Titan Souls shines in respect to its art and soundtrack. Two of the three developers at Acid Nerve devoted their work to a strong presentation for players. David Fenn has created an absolute masterpiece for his first full soundtrack. Each Titan holds its own pounding, rousing song that fits their theme and creates an atmosphere of pure tension, while the songs as you explore the world leave you relaxed, a calm before the storm. Andrew Gleeson’s pixel art, reminiscent of FEZ, creates a cute, yet ominous aesthetic. The ruins are eery and you feel isolated as you see such enormous buildings and beasts. The seemless inclusion of 3D Titans into the 2D world seems awkward in theory, but works out superbly in the end, allowing for truly epic boss battles that leave you wanting to stare rather than attack.
Gameplay is the bulk of the experience, and Titan Souls keeps it simple, keeps it challenging, and keeps its hooks in you until the very end. The game contains minimal exploration in a sizable overworld. A true sense of isolation and age is presented while making your way through mysterious forests, snow-covered mountains, and ancient temples that create a desirably melancholy atmosphere akin to Shadow of the Colossus. Around the ruins you will find small chambers, each devoted to a different boss battle. Both you and your adversaries can be killed in one hit. It’s your job to roll and run around the Titans in search of a way to exploit their weak point. Your weapon is a single arrow that can be shot and recalled at will, as long as you’re standing still. Battles usually last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or two, and death is imminent. You will die a lot while playing this game. Trial and error is the only way to defeat the Titans, and the short length of the battles creates an addictive nature similar to mobile games. You can jump straight into a battle and die quickly, but instantly want to return to the fight to try a new strategy. No matter how frustrated I was while playing, I always felt like I could try something new or dodge things I hadn’t seen before, so I ran right back into the fight. Deaths did not feel unfair, as only my lack of knowledge and skill was to blame.
The Titans themselves are incredibly well-developed. Certain ones will be themed around the area they reside in, but all bring a unique experience to the game. Save for one or two fights that build off of others, you’ll never be able to enter a fight knowing what to expect and how to kill it. There were genuine moments where I found myself astounded by the pure creativity of some of the Titans and how to kill them. At the same time, none of them were so frustrating that I had to quit playing. The game’s difficulty on your first playthrough is reasonable. Death, as I said before, is guaranteed. However, once I understood the way to exploit the Titan, it became a battle between my own skill and the game, rather than with my brain. And that’s a possible downside to the game that some may find. With less than two dozen bosses, once you understand their attack patterns and weak points, the game leaves very few secrets to be discovered and relies heavily on its challenge and skill-based combat to entice players to continue to play. As a player who only replays shorter games due to my attention span with one, such as Journey, this is absolutely fine for me. However, some people may be turned off by such little “content”, so it is worth noting.
A similar issue some may have with the game is its actual length. The game ranges from 2-5 hours depending on how many Titans you decide to slay, how much trouble you have doing so, and how much you want to explore in the world. The game’s length is not a problem as long as its experience feels fulfilling within that time, and I believe Titan Souls accomplishes that. However, Acid Nerve did include incentives to replaying the game. A timer can be toggled to show how long your game has been, allowing speedrunners an easy tool for record keeping. Beating the game unlocks four mode toggles, which can be activated in any combination when starting a new game, as well as New Game+. The latter allows you to reenter the ruins and fight any of the Titans as many times as you choose, which is good for those who want to practice specific Titans without restarting the entire game. Hard Mode is very self-explanatory, kicking up the attack speed and patterns of the Titans to brutal difficulty. With Iron Mode turned on, one death will restart the entire game. No Roll Mode turns off the feature to roll and run, which makes the game physically impossible in my opinion because I’m horrible. Finally, Truth Mode translates all Titan language text in the game to English, allowing you to see the names and descriptions of the Titans. Those who are up for a challenge will truly enjoy what the game has to offer if you stick around for it.
Titan Souls has been one of my most anticipated games of the year, and it delivered on every front. A beautifully empty environment to explore, an equally as brilliant soundtrack, difficult gameplay that remains addictive once the credits roll, and creative and truly epic boss battles leave a taste in my mouth that haven’t felt in a long time. Acid Nerve cut right to the chase when they made this game, no filler necessary, and it’s just what I needed. With a decent computer or a PS4 or Vita to play it on, I highly recommend picking this one up. With that said, I’m giving Titan Souls a rating of “adored it”.
- Cute pixel art mixed with menacing 3D bosses creates a unique atmosphere and an interesting world
- Gorgeous soundtrack
- Difficult-yet-addictive gameplay that never gets infuriating
- Modes to make the game harder
- Very short, less than two dozen bosses in total
- One playthrough is enough to learn all of the secrets, just becomes skill afterwards