Titan Souls fails to understand the games it is inspired by — namely, Dark Souls and Shadow of the Colossus.
With a focus on high stakes, one-hit kills on both sides of its series of boss fights, Titan Souls offers a steep challenge, but it isn’t the kind of challenge that makes the “Souls” games so beloved. In Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls 1 & 2, and Bloodborne, the challenge is in learning from mistakes and executing on those lessons to achieve success.
It’s rare that you will learn anything while playing Titan Souls. More often, the way to kill a boss is apparent, and it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. That means wrestling with unpredictable AI and hoping that you’re positioned well when they happen to expose their weakness to you. It all feels like a gamble, and the quick deaths followed by quick retries only add to the unrewarding slot machine. When you land a winning kill — which can happen either with a combination of luck and purpose, or just plain old luck — your hero floats into the air, absorbing the life force of that boss in epic fashion. Presumably you are more powerful now, yet nothing changes.
That hollow meaninglessness bleeds into the game’s other inspiration. Each Titan boss sleeps silently at first, only attacking you when you attack first. Shadow of the Colossus used this same tactic to great effect, suggesting that you were murdering majestic giants for selfish reasons — namely, to gain enough power to save a lover. While the story was extremely minimal in SoTC, there was enough there to portray meaningful themes and give its audience something to chew on for years to come.
Conversely, Titan Souls has you wandering a hollow world, murdering each Titan for seemingly hollow reasons. The powerful idea presented in Shadow of the Colossus is displayed so plainly here that it has no meaning.
The true sadness of Titan Souls isn’t found within its story but within its aspirations. Nothing about the game feels meaningful in its own right. Rather, the entire experience feels like a brash wink-and-nod to far better games, wrapped in a layer of frustration, and set to a soundtrack far too thick with power and emotion for a game so lacking in either. Does that make it a “bad” game in the traditional sense? Not entirely, but I found it to be a bigger let-down than any traditionally “bad” game I’ve played in ages.