Some of that old fashioned tower power.
Developer: Event Horizon
Publisher: Event Horizon
Released: July 14, 2017
Now this is what an Early Access game should be. Tower of Time is being developed by Event Horizon, and has bravely tread the dangerous terrain of RPG Early Access. Despite this immediately raising my concerns, I’ve completed much of what has been provided so far, and now find myself waiting eagerly for the rest of this innovative game.
Tower of Time is laced with familiar fantasy tropes, including mystical elves, long-dead advanced civilisations, and mystical destinies. It takes place in a world slowly dying, with the sun going dim and the land in decline. The young protagonist stumbles across an ancient magical tower, upside down and thrust deep into the ground. A mysterious voice urges you to leave and return when ready to face your destiny. Returning years later with several close companions, your goal becomes to travel into the deepest levels in the hope it will contain the power to undo the damage wrought to the world. Though these basic ideas aren’t anything terribly new, they’re held together by some pleasingly high-quality graphics for an indie game, well thought out writing and solid voice acting. Many RPGs stumble due to poor writing but if Tower of Time’s first third is anything to go by, it shouldn’t have this issue.
To complement your underground adventures, you have access to a town above that is slowly upgraded as you explore deeper into the Tower. You’ll find the usual RPG shops here, including a blacksmith to forge and upgrade equipment, specialist buildings to level up your heroes and even a building that stores details of all the monsters you’ve fought and secrets you’ve uncovered. It also serves as a resting place for the player as much as the heroes, giving you somewhere peaceful to clean up your inventory while you plan your next move and which characters to bring.
This is where I should point out Event Horizon’s strategy for utilizing Early Access and how it actually benefits the game. Unlike so many other games, this early release has more or less fully completed assets, gameplay and story. I’m extremely pleased that they worked to fully complete their vision for the world and story before even thinking to release a part of the game to the public. Tower of Time cuts you off after about a third of the total planned game, but every moment up to that point feels fully realised. This isn’t a situation where the story and lore are going to undergo drastic reinvention before the full release, in fact the developers have gone out of their way to explain that their primary purpose of using Early Access is to improve and polish the combat portions of the game.
When your party of adventurers encounters a group of enemies, you’re taken to a randomly generated field of combat, separate from the map you explore. On this battlefield, your party will come under attack by waves of enemies appearing from evil glowing doorways, while you control your heroes rather similarly to the classic Bioware RPG, Dragon Age: Origins. Like many real-time strategy games, you issue orders and activate spells and abilities in real-time. What makes this wave-based combat unusual is that you can’t fully pause the combat to issue commands to your party and consider the situation, but can instead only slow down time. This makes managing your party mid-fight a tense affair, as spells continue to fly and enemies slowly advance while you try to prepare your own counter-attack. When time is slowed you can see which of your heroes are targeted, allowing you to know when you need to draw fire from your weaker characters, and when you can lure enemies into traps or carefully prepared killzones.
Being an avid strategy game fan, I enjoy this combat style immensely. Having said that, I can also understand why the developers would be so concerned about making the combat as balanced and enjoyable as possible considering many RPG fans might be less comfortable with this aspect of the game. To offset this, there’s plenty of warning given on Steam that the combat may not be to everyone’s tastes, plus a pleasingly low price tag certainly helps.
It would be remiss of me to not mention that there are definitely some aspects of the game that aren’t exactly fantastic. Your heroes you control aren’t very fleshed out, particularly the first two you start with, though their personalities are far from the worst I’ve ever experienced in a game. The combat itself feels like a little more polish would do wonders to smooth out the experience and make the first few fights a better learning experience. I’ll gladly admit the tutorials themselves are certainly useful but some areas, like the town, could do with extra explanations early on to guide you on how best to make use of all the options at your fingertips. These few issues feel like they should be resolved once Tower of Time is out of Early Access, but I do hope the characters get a little more personality as time goes on.
As much as I want to warn people to be wary of the innovative combat system and the slight teething issues, there’s still so much to love about Tower of Time that I would eagerly recommend it to any RPG fan, old or new. I would definitely advise waiting for the full release if you want to experience the whole story, and only try the Early Access if you don’t mind playing through the game piece by piece.
Writer: Jack Soric
Editor: Joseph Diskett