This is my arrow. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. My arrow is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my arrow is useless. Without my arrow, I am useless.
The halls of EGX Rezzed may have boasted the first UK public hands-on of Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm, not to mention a near-complete build of From Software’s Bloodborne, but one title that stood head and pixelated shoulders above the rest for me personally was Acid Nerve’s Titan Souls.
Let’s get one thing straight, before delving into the retro-inspired innards: you will die repeatedly in Titan Souls. Armed with but a single arrow and a blink-and-you’ll-die health bar to match, venturing through the barren world is as awe-inspiring at it is unnerving. The level design, for instance, is incredibly minimalist, infusing a top-down perspective with the rich stylistic tendencies found in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
But the inspiration behind the Acid Nerve’s title stretches far beyond Nintendo’s reputable fantasy series.
Titan Souls is certainly easy on the eyes, but the reason the three-man team behind Acid Nerve have garnered so much attention is their approach to boss battles. It’s a design philosophy reminiscent of Dark Souls and, perhaps more crucially, Shadow of the Colossus.
Much like Team Ico’s indie darling, Acid Nerve’s adventure is built around these Herculean encounters. As you trawl through the pixel art environment, you’ll come up against an array of formidable foes such as demonic knights and statuesque titans, with each fight putting your mettle — and patience — to the test.
You see, Titan Souls strips away a lot of the conventional rules that have become synonymous with the boss fight. Gone is the infamous three-hit rule, while a traditional health bar has also been kicked to the curb. Moreover, these encounters aren’t phase-based in the vein of Mario, where players would wait for the crucial moment when the opponent takes a breather before serving up the killer blow.
EGX Rezzed 2015: Titan Souls Hands-On Preview - Giant Killer (PS4) - PlayStation LifeStyle
Instead, the studio has implemented a wholly unique system based around a “you only get one” theme. Such an approach delegates a single health point to both you and the titans, while your budding hero only has space in his quiver for one, magical arrow.
Cue the intoxicating gameplay loop.
Memorizing boss patterns is, of course, paramount if you are to succeed in your quest. But what lends Titan Souls its wonderful, at times infuriating difficulty is the small, almost indiscernible margin between death and joyous victory.
Are You Up to the Test?
During my time with the game, I got the chance to go toe-to-toe with three of the colossi; a mutating blob-like creature, a demonic cube, and a rock-strewn titan that pounded the ground beneath my feet with an almighty thump.
Each encounter was as challenging as the next, but the sense of accomplishment gained when you eventually do overcome said challenge is about as rewarding as they come, even if you rack up an embarrassing death count in the process. Thirteenth time’s the charm, right?
As a humble title birthed during the Ludum Dare game jam, Titan Souls is nothing less than a passion project for the team at Acid Nerve. And if it wasn’t for Devolver Digital interest, the retro-inspired title may have very well remained as an experiment in game design.
Thankfully, Devolver quickly offered their support which, given the publisher’s recent streak of releases, is a testimony to the title’s innate quality.
Big things have small beginnings, as the saying goes, and with little under a month until its anticipated release, Titan Souls is primed to carve out a passionate audience of its own. Gameplay is fluid. The environments are rendered beautifully. And the boss battles, oh boy, the boss battles. But hey, who said toppling deities was ever easy? Just ask Kratos.
Titan Souls creeps onto PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita here in North America on April 14. Stay tuned to PlayStation LifeStyle over the coming weeks as we build up to its launch.