Review: Titan Souls (PS4/PSV)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy Yes
  • Cross-Save Yes
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Titan Souls
Format: PlayStation Network Download (PS4 323 MB) (PSV 271 MB)
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Acid Nerve
Original MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: T
Titan Souls is also available on PC, Mac, and Linux.
The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita download versions were used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Titan Souls started life as a game jam entry. The jam’s theme was “you only get one”. And while the game has expanded from that original version, the emphasis on the “only one” theme is still very apparent in this final product. The game is also fairly simple, using just an easy gameplay mechanic and iterating out from there for the fairly short runtime.

The simple gameplay means that it only uses two buttons: Cross and Square. Cross is the dodge/run button depending on whether it is pressed or held. Square is for the game’s main mechanic, the player’s bow. The odd thing about the bow, and the first place the game meets the “only one” theme, is that the player only has a single arrow. After firing the arrow the player must pick it up again if they want to get another shot.

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Fortunately though, the arrow and bow both contain part of the main character’s soul, so manually retrieving the arrow isn’t always necessary. Holding the Square button while the player doesn’t have the arrow will call it back to them. Calling the arrow back even gives it enough power to damage enemies, making it a valuable tool in taking down some of the game’s bosses. Of course firing and calling the arrow both render the player unable to move while holding Square, so they must be sure they won’t be hit by the boss during that time as everything kills the player in “only one” hit.

… the bosses can be fought in any order …
I’ve only mentioned bosses because Titan Souls is a boss rush game, similar in many ways to Shadow of the Colossus. Just like that game, bosses in Titan Souls tend to be a bit of a puzzle. Most have a specific weak point and, in keeping with the “only one” theme, will die in a single hit to it. Figuring out where it is or how to get to it is the puzzle of the game. For most of the bosses the act of hitting that weak point is much more challenging than finding it. Many have a very small window of opportunity so that getting off an accurate shot without getting hit is a true challenge.

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The game’s structure is fairly simple. After the first four easier bosses, the game opens up into a big area with the rest of them. Bosses tend to be clumped near respawn points, meaning low iteration time which is nice for the more difficult ones. A couple of bosses have some light puzzles to open up the room they’re in, but for the most part there isn’t much else to the game.

In the big area, the player needs to beat half of the bosses in order to progress to the end of the game. This is a pretty nice design choice because all of the bosses can be fought in any order and a player who is finding one boss particularly difficult can skip that one either entirely or with the intent to come back after finishing the game. Of course beating all available bosses is the key to unlocking the true ending to the game but it’s nice that there are some easier options to at least get the accomplishment of seeing the credits roll.

… certain players will revel in trying to do an Iron and Hard Mode run …
Titan Souls isn’t a huge game. It took me about three and a half hours to get to the end while doing the minimum number of bosses (although I fought most of the bosses in the game, even if I didn’t beat them all). Finishing the game allows the player to restart with several difficulty modifiers: Hard Mode, which gives bosses new attacks; Iron Mode, in which the game ends if the player dies; and No Roll Mode, where rolling is disabled. So while the game can be beaten in a matter of hours (or even less, as one Trophy in the game requires getting to the end in just twenty minutes), there are still plenty of ways to keep playing the game for much longer than that.

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I enjoyed my time with Titan Souls for few sessions I gave it. The mechanics are solid and pulling through on the boss fights feels rewarding. Still, I don’t have an overwhelming desire to go back to the game for any of those modifiers. I’m sure certain players will revel in trying to do an Iron and Hard Mode run (and in the Trophies those modes unlock) but enough of the bosses were edging on frustration to me that doing so isn’t appealing.

… the mechanics are solid …
Visuals:
Having been made by a very small team, three people if I’m not mistaken, Titan Souls goes for a fairly simplistic graphics style. The game’s simple sprites and backgrounds may not be a triple-A production but they’re still pleasing to look at. In fact, it surprised me how detailed the game’s 2D graphics were.

There are large sections of the game, between the bosses, that a player will likely not pay much attention to and even those areas seemed like they got the same attention and detail as the boss arenas. Bosses are well designed too, with some good variation between them all.

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Audio:
The music in Titan Souls varies from being either very subdued or absent on the world map to much higher energy during boss fights. It’s a pretty good soundtrack overall and a lot of the boss themes are great to listen to. In fact it’s almost a shame that boss battles go so quick (either from the player or the boss dying in one hit) because the tracks are pretty darn good to listen to.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
Titan Souls is an interesting little game. The fact that the game was originally designed in such a short period of time is apparent in the relatively simple gameplay mechanics. Fortunately the mechanics are solid and the game puts them to good use against the various bosses.

Some speedrunning and difficulty Trophies (gotta say, I really like the ‘alternate way to beat the boss’ approach to the majority of the Trophies) might earn this game a coveted place in some player’s Trophy cabinet, however for everyone else it’s hard to justify more than a couple sessions with the game. A little more meat on the almost-non-existent story or a few more non-boss uses for the game’s one-arrow mechanic might have propelled it from good to great. Still, the well-designed bosses and the great music and art style means there are much worse ways to spend a couple of afternoons.

Score:
7.5

Three random boss fights I recorded in Titan Souls.

* All screenshots and video used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature or the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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