I played through Titan Souls on the PS4, getting the true ending. This review is based on that version. Other versions (PC, Mac, Vita) may differ.
The central premise of Titan Souls is incredibly simple. You are a little dude in a harsh world filled with towering titans. All you have is your bow and one lone arrow. You start a journey to take down all the titans and retrieve the one true soul. Yours. If you read that and don’t feel even slightly excited then maybe this game’s not for you. I read that and think that that is probably the most awesome thing I have heard come from a game in quite some time.
Sure, you’ve got your big games like Bloodborne (which is beautifully sublime, but I’m still nowhere near being able to review after about 100 hours of playtime), but Titan Souls feels so simple it almost entices you in. It sits you down, gives you some easy-to-master central mechanics and lets you loose on a beautiful pixel art world where there’s titans galore just waiting for slaying.
The obvious comparison is first and foremost, Shadow of the Colossus, a phenomenal piece of art (that is a video game) which tasks you with slaying massive majestic beasts to save your love. Titan Souls gives you less direction and even less story than Colossus, and by it’s very nature, cannot match it’s spectacle or emotional resonance. However saying that, Titan Souls is still a joy to play and one of my gaming highlights of the year so far.
Oh yeah, the other comparison is the Souls series (Demon’s and Dark Souls). I guess the only real thing linking these things is punishing boss fights and the fact you’re going to die a lot. And that it has Souls in the title. I’ve had people straight up ask me if this is a game in the Souls series. No! Not at all.
Titan Souls begins by teaching you the central mechanics of the game. You can shoot and then pull your arrow back in, thus potentially getting a 2 hit combo going (that only really works on one of the bosses, the first one). You can also roll, and run. That’s it. From there on out, it’s you against the world.
You can only take one hit, then you die. But also the bosses can die in one hit. So in a way, it’s a level playing field. Not that it’s going to feel like that, when you’re facing titans that crush you with giant fists, spew hot lava at you, fry you with lasers and swallow you whole. Yes, you’re going to die. A lot. And in a sense, Titan Souls is more about finding the weak point of the boss than actually slaying it.
Or, more accurately how you can reach the obvious weak point. Most of the bosses do have an obvious glowing point, which your video game knowledge tells you you should probably shoot. Titan Souls allows you that kindness, but actually shooting the thing is another matter.
Titan Souls has breathtaking presentation. The pixel art visuals are beautiful, with water, lava, snow, forest and in some case, your own blood, represented in such a concise and elegant way that you actually forget that it’s performing to what is a slightly played-out aesthetic now. Don’t get me wrong, Titan Souls proves it’s worth in the visuals department and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Titan Souls also knows when to break character. Certain bosses jump into the third dimension for some interesting fights, but I will mark that as spoilery and move on.
The soundtrack in Titan Souls is equally fantastic. No chip-tune music here, instead we have sweet melodies that play for every area of the game, as well as some excellent tense boss music. The whole thing is worthy of adding to your playlist, and although it is a little more ambient (and thus a little less replayable outside of the game) than say Hotline Miami 2’s soundtrack, I will be listening to it for a long time to come. Man, this years had some great game soundtracks.
Titan Souls is not for everyone. Stripping it down, it is just a boss rush with no character progression at all. I got to a point where I was fighting one boss for an insane amount of time and I considered going to another, but then I realised there was no point as I wouldn’t have gained or lost anything by beating a different boss. This one would still kick my arse, it would just be slightly later. That’s when I realised what Titan Souls does (which is something I’ve also felt in Bloodborne) The game doesn’t level your character up. It levels you up. You gain knowledge, you gain courage, you gain strength. You learn the boss, and you beat him. And eventually, I did. And that feeling of achievement you get, is what it’s all about.
Titan Souls gets a 4/5.