If shadow of the colossus and Dark Souls were thrown together in a hadron collider, with a copy of The Legend of Zelda left in by mistake, Titan Souls would no doubt be the result. Focusing on stripped back boss fights in which every strike is fatal yet almost impossible to land, you’re thrown into a lavish 8 bit world with nothing but your wits and a cruel, punishing list of bosses that await the chance to crush you and your tiny body into nothing but dust.
Starting out life as a small game made for the Ludlum Dare 28 game jam, with the theme ‘you only get one’ Titan Souls has flourished into a game that is a showcase for how effective minimalism in gaming can be. While it may seem initially that theres nothing fair in the war you’re about to embark upon, as each titan towers above you, sweeping attacks that fill almost half the room. A single blow can turn the tides and win the battle.
While intense, each battle is almost just as fast as it is epic, a single blow can kill you also meaning some fights often didn't get past the opening thematic riff before I was squashed under the fist of a stone giant, or blasted with laser beams from the eye of a demonic cube.
The controls are just as minimalistic. Run and roll by holding and tapping X respectively while fighting back with your bow is as simple as holding square to charge and release your arrow, calling it back to you by again holding square. If you time it right and master the movement, you can pull a deadly bow from the ashes of failure by calling it back to you, via the weak spot of a gigantic foe.
Much like the Souls series or its younger sibling, BloodBorne, Titan Souls isn't a challenge to be taken lightly. Every brawl requires complete concentration as you look for that window of opportunity. That split second to hit your quarry right where it hurts.
Titans will bay for your blood at an alarming intensity, each swiping, stabbing, blasting through the ground or pelting boulders at you forcing your hand into a cramped claw as you fight to constantly evade a devastating blow.
This non stop assault is only made more tense by the almost tank attack controls, forcing you to stand still in order to charge a shot or call your arrow back, leaving you completely open to attack. praying you can finish your manoeuvre before that flying knight can.
Much like a real life lesson, you’ll never find the perfect moment to take a breather or a shot, instead its a case of fighting to steal whatever precious few moments you can to get the job done.
When you finally succeed and feel the immense mixture of relief and joy wash over you, the screen freezes in a black and white still of your success. Waiting for you to withdraw your arrow causing the screen to once again burst with colour before you move onto the next big fight. the sudden surprise of victory, as is often the case,
The victories often feel sudden and surprising, despite fighting for so long, the frantic pacing doesn't allow you to stop and smell the roses so when victory is finally yours, you'll be just as dumbfounded as you are intensely proud. A feeling that is incredibly hard for many games to capture and something the team behind Titan Souls should be immensely proud of!
Outside of boss battles, theres still a lot to be experienced within the game.
In a sense, Titan Souls has taken a leaf from the book of ICO, offering vast and beautiful landscapes that are void of any life apart from that of your own. Given the chance to tread lightly in the shoes of a young and almost powerless hero, searching out a vast array of wondrous evil spirits. This is all very Shadow of The Colossus, even down to the abandonment of recent rig tropes such as character progression and a rhythm that forces you forward. The only forward moving force here is that of your own sense of exploration, trekking through forests, frozen landscapes and molten underground pathways all to a beautiful sculpted and cultivated landscape. In short, the feels are real here!
All in all Titan Souls is a fresh and pure idea, captured extremely well and offering something that is so much greater than the sum of its parts. From the imaginative titans and the challenge they offer, to the beauty of the world around you. You can instantly tell how much passion was poured into the game to make it what it is.
Sure, some may be turned of by the fact that there are no complicated combos to master or endless upgrades to fight for, but somehow by being whittled down to its purest form, the challenge is even more infuriating yet brilliant.
Titan Souls is easily one of this years greats and something I’m sure everyone will enjoy.