The expansion pack offers not just a whole new act filled with extra side quests, loot, monsters, relics and other such wonderful things; it also vastly improves on the original game by offering a plethora of updates and fixes. For instance, in the original you only had a limited amount of inventory space in which to keep your loot. Fill your pockets and it was a case of warping back to the nearest town and deciding on what can stay and what you have to sell to make room for the good stuff.The extra three loot bags that you were awarded throughout your journey only served to reduce the amount of trips you had to take back to town as it would be inevitable that you would be hoarding all of your good loot like a territorial hamster. This is especially true late in the game when there are plenty of high-level monsters protecting some majestic chests with spoils you can only dream of. Move this scenario into the Epic and Legendary difficulties and you are practically shedding tears when you have to sell some of your ‘inferior’ loot to make space for that recently dropped purple weapon.Well no more! One of the much needed services that are introduced in the expansion is that of the caravan drivers. Much like your stash in Diablo II, these drivers appear in the majority of the main cities and allow you to store your excess loot for free. This space is also limited however and you must purchase additional storage at a price, the cost of which rises exponentially as you buy more of the premium space. I found myself running out of space quite quickly when hoarding all of my recipes, relics and monster charms for future use. Still, the transfer area of storage does have more than one use…Yes that’s right, not only do players have their own storage in the shape of the caravans, they can also transfer loot to their other characters via the transfer window. Acting almost like another bag on the caravan, the transfer section is accessible by all created characters to be used as universal storage as much as they want. Now players can give their under-powered Conqueror that pair of kick-a* swords that their current Elementalist has no use for instead of selling them for cash.One of the biggest niggles in the first game that attributed to the problem of inventory space filling up quicker than one would have liked was the fact that there was no auto-sort facility in the inventory. Many a player has aired their frustration at this as they have to manually move their loot around in their inventory so that they all fit together like jigsaw pieces and allow that precious new drop to be added in the newly made empty space. Iron Lore has addressed this by finally putting in a button that can be pressed to automatically do this for you. Multiple presses of said button use different sorting criteria so a player can keep using the feature until they have the right amount of space to fit their new staff in their loot bag.Another new feature that is simple, but oh so time saving is the ability to switch equipped items by simply right-clicking on them in your bag. It may not be the biggest change in the World, but I have a feeling that a h** of a lot of players will appreciate the gesture. With all the new armour, relics and even the new additions in the form of scrolls and artefacts, this is sorely needed.Anyway, enough with the improvements to the original game; I bet you are dying to hear about the new act that Immortal Throne introduces the player to. After all, you didn’t just spend you hard earned money on what could be considered as a patch to the original game now, did you?The expansion introduces a whole new act for your character to play through, which is accessible after you manage to best Typhon. When this Titan hits the dirt, Zeus gives you the usual spiel of ‘you’re so great’ and ‘humans no longer need the Gods’, yadda, yadda, yadda. However, at this point the mighty Zeus then tells you that there is another disaster in the making and you are to get yourself to Rhodes to try and stop it. Nice of him to mention this ever so slightly important event the first time around, eh?Stepping through the portal Zeus creates whisks you off to the first of new new locations in the expansion; Rhodes. It’s not looking too good from the outset with the city in ruins and the great Colossus that once bore over the city now lies in pieces on the ground. A recently departed spirit fills you in on the details and then it’s off to see Medea who sends you on your way to Hades, then Elysium and finally the eventual trek to past the Tower of Judgement to face off against the God of the Underworld himself. Nothing too major then?In order to make the battle against the new horrors of the expansion more bearable, Iron Lore have seen fit to bestow upon the player a new mastery to learn; the Dream mastery. Without going into too much detail about this new addition to the masteries, let’s just say that it has an equal mix of physical and magical skills to complement both warriors and mages alike. However, the downside to this newest edition is that current characters cannot learn it unless they only have one mastery already leant. Most players (if not all) will have two masteries by the time they kick Titan’s butt and so the only way to sample the new Dream powers is to create an entirely new character from scratch. Bummer…Having said that, starting again isn’t all that bad when you think about it. You get to try out the new mastery against the ‘cannon fodder’ as it were as well as enjoying the improvements to the original that the expansion offers. After all, how else are you going to collect those relics needed for the all-powerful artefacts?In order for players to play through this new expansion with their existing characters they will have to import them from the old Titan Quest game. Although once imported these new characters cannot play in the original, non-Immortal Throne enhanced version of Titan Quest, why would you want to? Besides, it merely copies the character so that the original is left unchanged should you decide for any reason to play without the expansion enhancements.One of the features included in the game that surprised me (in the fact that it doesn’t seem to be advertised anywhere) is that Titan Quest: Immortal Throne supports Logitech’s G15 Gaming Keyboard natively. As soon as you enter the world with your character, the LCD screen switches to show you details on their level, DPS, resistances and XP. Granted, you can always look at this information on the inventory menu, but it is always nice to see the changes in your offence and defence abilities when hot swapping weapon sets.Unfortunately, this support doesn’t seem to be retroactive for the original Titan Quest game, but when you can play an enhanced version of the original when playing the expansion why would you want to go back to it?As expected with an expansion the new content features additional monsters and denizens of the Underworld to test your might against. Although they are very detailed in look and animation, they are not your ‘classical’ type of monsters and most seem to be the product of the game developers minds, but I can’t complain too much as they were bound to run out of ideas sooner or later! It can also be argued that original content is more appealing, but I’m just a mythology purist when it comes to these things. At least they did use some classical references when naming the beasts, yet they refer mostly to the more obscure figures of Greek mythology.Visually there isn’t too much of a change from the original game, as the graphics were good enough the first time around! Instead, the expansion tends to focus on the scale of things this time around with impressive backdrops such as the entrance to the Underworld where the land of the living eventually melds with the land of the dead (and scores of lost souls slowly walk to the long walk to the afterlife), the Tower of Judgement with swirling abysses and the corruption of the Fields of Elysium. These areas are genuinely awe-inspiring and remind you of just how small you really are in the grand scheme of things.
In the audio category, Immortal Throne’s rousing orchestral score is hard to fault. If you are really astute, you can even recognise some of the later themes as various mixes of the title screen music. There isn’t much change in the way of sound effects though, but I did notice an addition of background conversations or character comments and afterthought after you have spoken to them which I found to be a nice touch.Those technical hiccups that have seemed to plague Titan Quest since its initial release have not gone away completely I’m afraid. The game is still prone to crash randomly and also freeze up on occasion if you are not careful. I have since found out that this is due to my graphics cards (yes, plural – I have an ATI Crossfire setup) overheating and shutting off to prevent permanent damage. This would all be very well and good if my PC was not a monster of a gaming rig that eats the likes of Half Life 2, F.E.A.R. and Oblivion for breakfast… but it IS a monster gaming setup. My only solution was to force my GPU fans to blow at 100% whilst playing the game. This seemed to stop all of my random crashes, yet this seems such a drastic solution to a problem that shouldn’t even be present in the first place.The annoying issue of lag seems to rear its ugly head since the installation of the expansion too and I’m not talking about multiplayer games either. These ‘lag’ effects seem to happen randomly when playing through the single player game where one minute the game would freeze for a couple of seconds and the next thing I know I have sped across the screen into a pack of satyrs. This isn’t lag in the strictest sense as I am playing the game locally with no Internet connectivity in this instance, yet the effect I get is very similar. Many players have complained of the same issue on numerous Titan Quest community boards so I know that this problem is not an isolated incident.I also noticed some weird strobe-like effects from the game’s lighting when entering dungeons or when passing lit torches where lighting is more pronounced. This was fixed by reducing my settings from high to medium, but again I shouldn’t have to do this. I was unable to test if this was in issue with my ATI graphics cards or the game engine itself, but I have ensured that I have the latest drivers and I have no such issues in my other games.Another (albeit minor) annoyance is the weird graphical anomalies that can happen as a result of Titan Quest’s rag doll physics engine. Picture the scene; my conqueror character is in full swing, his Battle Rage has kicked in and he’s sending enemies flying in all directions with his fiery mace. One of the vulture enemies lands about six foot away from my feet yet their head is lying next to me. The neck has been stretched to comic proportions and I have just died because I cannot fight on due to the fit of laughter that has just overcome me!Titan Quest: Immortal Throne is said to boast an improved multiplayer experience, yet I cannot comment on that as I was unable to team up with anyone around the world when I tried to. Granted, at the time the game was still unavailable to the majority of the public but I couldn’t help but feel that something was amiss. Whenever I hosted a multiplayer game I could see many players joining up… only to leave almost instantly. I’m pretty sure I don’t smell THAT bad, so I can only a*ume that they were getting kicked for some reason. I had no problem joining other games myself, but at the time I was still in Greece whilst other players seemed to be way ahead in Rhodes, making teaming up a little tricky.Despite the issues apparent in the multiplayer games I was still able to have a decent game with a friend over a LAN connection with little or no issues. The difficulty is still ramped up a notch to take into account the extra players, yet it is much easier to co-ordinate attacks when you can all actually play together! I still feel that communication in multiplayer is a little simplistic though, and find myself relying on Teamspeak or other such audio communication to team efficiently.Overall, Titan Quest: Immortal Throne is an expansion that vastly improves the original outing whilst also introduces enough extra content in the new act to keep even the most die-hard hack n’ slash fan content. There are still a few technical issues to iron out and the multiplayer games over the Internet may benefit from some closed servers (this may be a tad unrealistic though), but hopefully these will be addressed in later updates. Bottom line is, if you have the original game then the expansion is an (almost) must-have for you.