Sometimes all I want to do is click on things and level up.
It’s hard to say why exactly the slow progress of battering things and becoming gradually stronger is so compelling. It’s hard to know what evolutionary impulse it’s really appealing to. Perhaps it’s just the sense of victory that comes from each experience point earned. Instead of delivering the ‘you’ve won!’ screen at the end of the game it gives it to you in small and addictive amounts throughout the experience.
I’ve been pouring my hours into Titan Quest recently, which, like it’s spiritual predecessor Diablo, embodies the joy of levelling up in a skeletal distilled form. It’s completely transparent that you’re just clicking on millions of enemies until they fall over and you hear the ‘level up!’ dong. Somehow, knowing this doesn’t stop it from being immenseley entertaining and terribly, terribly addictive.
In fairness there’s a bit more to it than the endless clicking. There’s skill trees to consider, character builds to weigh up and loot to flog. Then there’s the endless stats, weapon loadouts, item enchantments, minions to summon, damage figures and probabilities to calculate. Generally there’s a lot for the mind to obsess over as you click away.
My character is a warrior who can channel the power of nature to summon wolves and nymphs to eat and shoot my enemies. He can dual wield which means that with each strike of the primary weapon there’s a percentage chance that he’ll throw in a blow from his secondary mace. Harpies drop Essences of Achilles when slaughtered, collecting three of these allows me to enchant my character’s primary blade and increase attack speed, getting the more poweful flame enchanted secondary weapon into the fray faster. I want the secondary weapon to deal the killing blow after a period because my fast primary blade steals enemy life, keeping my warrior fighting for longer.
But while Harpy hunting, a gnarled boar the size of a small caravan somehow drops a superb suit of armour which I can’t quite wear yet. Solution? level up some more, of course. And so it goes.
Pretty though it is, I don’t feel especially inspired by the sunny and fantastical climes of the mythical ancient Greece portrayed in Titan Quest, the monsters are generic and the loot design isn’t variable enough to really make my character feel unique. The structure itself is solid, though, it’s a formula well proven by the Diablo series. Copying the pacing of Blizzard’s efforts gives Titan Quest that addictive quality that keeps me booting it up every evening when I get home from work.
There’s no doubt that I’m enjoying it, but it’s hard to say how successful this formula will remain as larger open world and story driven RPG’s improve their combat. Nevertheless, Diablo 3 remains a monolith on the distant horizon. As a co-op experience at least it promises great things.