The Player

by Marty Demarest & r & & r & Titan, Rated Teen, PC & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & 've hacked at that giant brown spider half a dozen times, and she's still scrambling after me. A single mouse-click, aimed at an empty spot on the stony floor, and I run down the hallway ahead of her. Another click, this time behind me, and I turn around. A click on her swollen abdomen and my sword swings towards it. Finally! She collapses in a chittering pile of clutched legs, one more fantastical corpse among many. I click my way back down the hall in search of another live one.

I never suspected the life of a hero would be so workaday and repetitive when I was signing my name to a character in Titan Quest. I had barely selected a color for my toga when I was sent into battle, without an identity, against a field of satyrs. It's been nothing but continent after continent of clicking since. I've clicked my way across Egypt and over the Great Wall of China, hacked my way through monsters of myth by the horde. Forget the Minotaur: I've killed dozens just like him. After the first few, the thrill wears off.

Behind my actions lies the age-old question: Where are all of these monsters coming from? Investigating this pretty much guarantees that a steady stream of monsters will be headed my way, increasing to an ultimate evil at the end. But this buildup isn't exactly a story. It's simply an excuse to drop more monsters into more dungeons. Even a change in my virtual lifestyle couldn't alleviate the monotony. Suddenly putting aside my sword in favor of casting spells only showed me a new special effect attached to the same old mouse-click.

I've tried to maintain a good perspective on my life as a hero. I see myself as the gods might see me: from above, at a slight angle. But I lack a god's insight. I don't know exactly why I'm here or who I am. It's very hard to know myself in a world that doesn't seem to know itself. Greece and Egypt look remarkably ancient and crumbling for countries still in their mythological youth. Walkways are overgrown, and ruins stand where I would expect civilizations. But it's not a hero's role to question aesthetics. It's a hero's role to slay monsters. And so I steadfastly click away, littering ruins with ruin.

THE GOOD: Even without a strong story to tell, the game is well written -- in this case by Braveheart's Randall Wallace. The dialogue spoken by characters captures the strangeness of what life could have been like in an age of myth. But like many other interesting details in Titan Quest, it gets lost in a game where the only real driving force is a mouse-click.

THE BAD: The artificial intelligence programming that controls the game's monsters often orders them to attack in awkward, crowded waves. Or it makes them retreat from a winning battle just because I leave their territory. Sloppy programming such as this could be ignored in quick and dirty doses. But Titan Quest generously smears it through the game's overly long levels, where it rapidly becomes boring.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A rudimentary role-playing game lost in a crescendo of mindless monsters.