Titan Quest

The final two skill sets are the poison-loving, assassin-y 'rogue', and 'nature', with which you can cast healing spells and summon forest creatures to guard you. There are also modifiers to the individual skills. For example, one player might have a fireball, but another might choose a blast with a shorter range, but that explodes into a mess of fiery splash damage.

In-game monsters are just as varied, with the designers promising more than 100 unique beasties to battle, many with multiple variations. Combat is the typical point-and-click variety, however realistic physics apply - in other words, don't be surprised when defeated creatures go flying. It is even possible to kill an opponent by knocking it off a cliff, though doing so typically means that you forfeit any chance to loot whatever the creature is carrying.

Another very welcome bit of realism is that enemies will drop the actual gear that they are using. So, if you're fighting an enemy with a particularly desirable fire sword, chances are good that it'll drop that exact one when you kill it. It's much more rewarding than the typical situation, in which mutant flamingos belch forth chain mail and some ogre king whose battle axe shoots lightning while you're fighting him drops only a rusty letter opener once you've chopped his head off.

Though the world of Titan Quest is vast, it is going to be released with the same editor that developer Iron Lore used to create the game. Iron Lore is hoping that some players will use the tools to create everything from simple levels to full-on quest modules, complete with original voice acting. It's everything a budding level designer needs.

This time of year, we hear a lot of hype surrounding new games, but Titan Quest looks to have some substance behind its flash. Sure it's pretty and shiny, but with a solid gameplay pedigree it should provide hours of entertainment when it's released this summer. And its ease-of-use features should make it, as the developer hopes, perfect for players who loved The Sims, but didn't quite make it to more hardcore fare.