Titan Quest’s Console Port Was a Dishonest Waste of Development Resources
I’ve been waiting three years for THQ Nordic and their small network of development studios to fix the console port of Titan Quest. The closest way to make it an experience that’s similar to what I got on PC fifteen years ago is to run it on my Xbox Series S, where the new Ryzen CPU and fast storage architecture at least cut down its nightmarish load times.
But even then, it’s an experience riddled with obvious bugs, clunky controls, and general disappointment. That disappointment is all the more dramatic when you consider just how good the still-updated PC and mobile phone versions of this classic action RPG are. The PC version first released in 2006, and was already a well-optimized game even on that era of hardware. In the years since, it has received numerous updates and paid expansions, with Atlantis coming out just two years ago alongside a new more modern version of the client software.
On mobile phones, the game has had exemplary performance for years, with an experience that mimics the fast and fun PC gameplay courtesy of the folks at HandyGames. They’ve kept the build in line with the PC version, including all the paid expansions and patch improvements. It’s still getting active updates now, and it’s a wonderful way to play the game.
I don’t know how the console releases turned out so poorly, especially with the template of the excellent phone port to follow. First they were handled by THQ’s Black Forest Games, and since they’ve been bounced around to a few different smaller teams. For the last year or so, it seems the console versions have been abandoned entirely. This isn’t my first time being disappointed in these ports, with my most recent missive skeptical that any true fixes were coming down the line. Now, I’m one hundred percent sure of it. No more patches are coming.
Titan Quest on consoles was probably such an easy pitch to sell. Here we have an iconic, fun, loot-based game that can stand up to the Diablo franchise and which will run well even on modest phone hardware. Why not put it on the modern consoles? Somehow, it all went really wrong in the porting process. The console versions added numerous new bugs the PC version never had. The gamepad implementation has always been a mess, with hyper-intense clunky auto targeting system for basic attacks, and spell targeting that’s so frustrating it makes higher difficulties and later areas borderline unplayable at times.
They tried to “update” the graphics with new shaders and texturing effects…but then later un-did a bunch of those changes in a patch that was supposed to bring the game in line with the current PC codebase. But it just simply isn’t. It still has obvious bugs in it that were apparent on the console versions right from release day in 2018, including one that weirdly irritates me where merchants say two of their “goodbye” lines simultaneously every time you close the shop interface. This is a game about collecting loot and selling it for money, so you’ll be doing this a lot.
The Nintendo Switch version of the game was in the worst shape at launch, and that’s still the case today. Load screens are multiple orders of magnitude longer than they should be even on Switch’s modest hardware. The oldest PC in my house can load the game in about one second where the Switch regularly takes over ten. The framerate never quite stabilizes, and every time a new music track has to load the whole game stutters a bit. I fired up a new character for the first time in months just to give it one last try, and almost immediately, an item dropped by an enemy fell through the ground into the abyss below the world.
Titan Quest is a great game on PC and mobile platforms, but a miserable one on consoles. THQ Nordic has made a habit of putting out lower budget releases for a number of years now, when they’re not busy hosting Q and A sessions on message boards full of criminal content. It seems like their attention shifts to whatever the current game is they’re trying to market, and they leave a group of dissatisfied customers in their wake. If you scroll through their community manager’s reddit page, you can see how the company was making promises about Titan Quest, then Spongebob Remastered, then Destroy All Humans, and now…Biomutant.
(I want to be clear about something: THQ Nordic’s community manager seems nice and is tasked with the difficult job of selling these promises coming down from the top whether or not they end up happening. Under no circumstances should you harass this person, or anyone working at any of the development studios mentioned herein. I get that this job is hard. But marketing can still be more honest.)
Biomutant came out in an arguably worse state than even the Titan Quest port, but at least it had the excuses of being a new IP from a small team and the challenging nightmare landscape of pandemic game development. I’ve both loved and hated the few hours I’ve played of it, and like other games from the publisher it’s equal parts charming heart and disastrous mess. Based upon the countless broken promises made about the simplistic job of converting Titan Quest to consoles, I don’t have much hope that Biomutant (or any other THQ Nordic game honestly) will hit the lofty goals it started out with.