“Do not fear death, as it is both inevitable and plentiful.”
I’m going to get this out of the way right now – I never played Shadow of the Colossus. I bought it for friends when it first came out but never had the urge to play it. I didn’t think a decade later every video game critic would be clamoring about how great it was along with the merits of All Boss Battle Games. All-boss-fights-games are as the name implies: all fluff encounters are removed and there is no (or limited) grinding whatsoever.
This brings me to Titan Souls; a game I thought would be cake-walk but turned out to be natural, pixel-art successor of Demons Souls. Titan Souls is hard. The hardest game I have played in December. You control an unnamed protagonist who may be male, female, or anything else depending on how you project on fictional characters. This “hero” only has one weapon and one magical power. You have the ability to shoot an arrow and wherever it lands, you have the ability to recall it using magic (or a really powerful magnet). There is no reason given for why you must find, fight, and kill these titans. After the first boss fight against a slime, I didn’t care. Titan Souls pits you against monsters faster than you, stronger than you, and more unpredictable than a bad ex. The moment you walk into a room the fight is on and you have a split second to come up with a strategy. You will die. You will learn. You will try again.
Games with this level of difficulty have risen in popularity after Demons Souls (a game I loved and crushed with great prejudice). These games closely reflect aspects of real life in that unless you are some entitled, naive kid you will understand the feeling of being kicked down repeatedly only to have to get up and trudge on. When you die in Titan Souls you are sent back to a save point and you must perform the walk of shame to get back to the boss. You will do this over, and over, and over. Much in the same way that you will stand on a packed subway going to/from work for a measly paycheck so that you can drag yourself out of your current position in society.
When I write reviews, impressions, or notes about video games, I like to take a look around the internet at user-reactions to see if anyone had a similar experience as my own. This helps me filter my thoughts and put something somewhat intelligent down on paper. In the case of Titan Souls, what I found were complaints and frustrations that say more about the players themselves, than the game. Here are some choice samples which include my reactions beneath them:
The one-shot-kill-or-death thing is pretty overrated. Half of the bosses feel exactly the same, with only a tiny change in mechanics. It’s waiting for that half-second opening and daring death, as you almost always have to nearly trade your life to score the killing blow.
It can be argued that waiting for this “half-second opening” is a practice in meditation. You need patience and mental fortitude to wait for it. You need to memorize patterns and movements and be constantly ready to pounce on an opportunity. The willingness to trade your life to kill the enemy is an excellent metaphor if you see it through the lens of “How much do I really want this thing? Am I willing to die for it?” Hesitation here leads to death – every time.
You walk into a room and shoot a boss character. Then you nearly immediately figure out how to kill them. Then you die and repeat 5-20 times while you try to execute that one thing you need to do with almost no room for any bit of error.
Much like life, Titan Souls isn’t here to hold your hand. Being able to think on your feet and respond to a chaotic situation with a cool head is an invaluable skill for getting through family christmas dinner or just a day at work.
You die in one hit, and then you have to backtrack a bit and try again. If you’re gonna make a game where you might die after only a few seconds of action, respawning should be INSTANT. Otherwise it’s incredibly tedious.
I would like to point out that it takes between 15-20 seconds for a respawn after death. This gives you enough time to calm down and think about what you did to get yourself killed. Instant respawn can easily lend itself to frustrating people even faster.
The boss attack patterns are also horribly chaotic and unpredictable. If the boss does something you didn’t expect, you’re dead. There’s no room for mistakes, and often you’ll feel the deaths weren’t your fault.
Titan Souls is an interesting way to see where people score on the scale for their locus of control and whether they lean towards internal or external. The commenters above seem to exhibit an external locus of control for they believe their decisions and life are controlled by environmental factors which they cannot influence, or by chance or fate. It’s the bosses (game creator’s) fault for being unpredictable – not my fault for being unable to respond appropriately to a chaotic situation. The criticisms above seem to have more to do with limited attention spans of players combined with the (for lack of a better word) entitled feelings that come along with playing games that cater to a wider audience:
Here is a minimap.
Here are some monsters you can grind on to get stronger to beat the boss.
Here is a magical sword hidden behind a rock to make your game a little easier.
Titan Souls is worth the pricetag (even if Steam’s Christmas Sales start tomorrow). If you want to get to know the real you, pick up a copy and practice some reflective thinking after you die again, and again, and again.
Titan Souls Information
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.