It feels downright impossible to say anything about Titan Souls without comparing it to Shadow of the Colossus. The influences are just too hard to ignore; you’re an undersized and underpowered adventurer tasked with learning the patterns of and eventually defeating much larger enemies, all of whom are spread out in a mysterious land for you to discover. I mean, even the strands of white energy that engulf your character after a victory remind the player of the tendrils that would hunt down Wander after defeating a giant. To say that Titan Souls wears that influence on its sleeve would imply that its even wearing a shirt, more likely flexing in a mirror at a giant chest tattoo that reads “yo, Shadow of the Colossus was dope!”
All that said, I don’t see any of that as a bad thing. After all, Shadow of the Colossus was dope, a one-of-a-kind experience that I never thought could be replicated. The whole idea of a barren world that has nothing to offer but boss fights seemed just too niche to ever try again, but with a shift to 2D and a little bit of Dark Souls masochism, it’s fresh all over again.
During my few hours with Titan Souls, I had to resist the urge to stop playing for a bit to look at videos, as I couldn’t shake the feeling that it probably made for an immensely entertaining speedrun. In a game where the bosses are just as much of a glass cannon as you are, I had to imagine that a mastery of the patterns and puzzle-like nature of the encounters would be trivial after a while, not too disimilar from the way those other Souls games would present each death as a series of lessons to be learned until the moment something clicked. Going in fresh, you never quite know what that inanimate object is going to do once you trigger it, constantly wishing your character were just a little bit faster in anticipation of an attack, then seconds later wishing the boss would stop beating on your unmoving corpse. It could be frustrating, but unlike Shadow, going nonlinear is not only an option, but encouraged, as you’ll often find yourself stepping away from a tough encounter only to learn new strategies facing another. It’s a subtle design choice that makes a big difference, especially if you’re like me and would rather save the goddamn water snake for later.
That’s the boss’ official name by the way. Goddamn Water Snake. That’s what the in-game language translates to. True story.
More than on a sheer mechanical or structural level however, Titan Souls scratches that same itch for me that Shadow did; the desire to exist and discover a world that I’m blind to. There’s no sweeping exposition or context for the character or world. You’re a little guy and you’ve got an arrow. Also, there’s ruins and everything in it wants you dead. Good luck. It’s refreshing to jump into an experience like this without spending my several minutes being told that I’m the only one that can save the world, but first I need to learn how to crouch.
Crouching is for wimps anyway. Real heroes roll everywhere.