Tower of Guns is a ‘randomized’ fast paced first person shooter from developer Terrible Posture Games. Tower of guns, due to the nature of its design, is a refreshing and fun experience that deviates from so many modern first person shooter tropes that usually decrease the difficulty of the game and also making them predictable. With so many titles in the genre copying the same corridor and quick time event ridden design blueprint set by FPS juggernauts like Battlefield and Call Of Duty the first person shooter genre has grown, for the most part, stale. But with a few exceptions like the recent Wolfenstein: The New Order.
Tower of Guns is a game that allows itself to not be restrained by the idea of realism, unlike some, concentrating only in putting players in exciting game play sequences in turn making the experience more delightful as it’s developers have gone wild and used every tool in the box to create a more varied and unpredictable adventure.
The narrative of Tower of Guns consists of tongue in cheek humor that had me smirking and laughing at times. It’s story line is mostly left up to you with randomly rotated dialogue you could either be saving scientists or looking for an adventure as a robot. It’s no high brow story line, consisting mostly of lines poking fun at industry tropes. It’s a game obviously made to concentrate and sell on its game play aspect proven with the existence of a button to turn off story.
The game uses a randomized system that rotates arenas which make up each level in the game. This always makes repeated playthoughs fun and in turn unpredictable as you might not know what’s coming around the corner. Usually each level consists of a few arenas that challenge the player in some way, without the shackles of ‘realism’ that big AAA developers latch on to on marketing materials, the arenas use a mix of platforming and shooting to make sure the player is always on the move and not a second is wasted on just the ground. Game play scenarios are varied and have multi layered level design that promotes’ verticality’ and fast movement.
The variety in which enemy types is the pillar which hold up this idea of a multi layered design. Automatic turrets that shoot what basically are bullet bills in huge numbers keep the player moving and constantly dodging. While this happens a swarm of homing robotic saw blades chase after the player. Also as they chase the player character, you’ll mostly likely want to destroy some of them to regain health. In some cases while all this is happening the player will be platforming and launching himself in ‘jelly launchers’ that shoot the player character to the pointed direction. As chaotic as this may sound it’s a good design, for the most part, as it keeps the player engaged and always doing an activity. The idea of overwhelming numbers and the idea of constant threat makes sure the player is continually focusing in the heat of battle making combat fun as it’s never dull.
In some ways Tower of Guns can be considered a kin of the old school shooter like Id Software’s Doom (1993). Borrowing some elements from Doom, Tower of Guns has reminded me why I’ve always preferred the design philosophy of FPS games in the past rather than what we have today. Simple use of game play elements like ‘health packs’, which may also take the form of red orbs in Tower of Guns, creates speed and tension in the heat of battle which I haven’t experienced in any of the Call Of Duty or Battlefield single player campaigns. By taking a necessary ability to survive, like health regeneration, away from the player and offering them as rewards for bringing down foes it encourages the player to take a more aggressive play style. Making sure the player is always in the middle of combat and shooting down enemies as fast as he or she can. This helps keep the combat fast-paced and exciting as there is no pause this in turn keeps the player engaged until the end of a level. This makes every level feel like a roller coaster ride as there is no moment which the player is forced to hide and recover health. If done, this can break the pace of a combat scenario as there always is a stop and play aspect to it. Breaking the rush and engagement of the player.
Other resources such as coins, experience, ability upgrades and other items reinforce the aggressive and fast-paced play style as the more foes a player kills, the more of these rewards they can accumulate. Which in turn may help them overcome upcoming challenges as they progress through the game. They aren’t just plastered and cosmetic rewards either.
Coins can be used to accumulate more items or ability upgrades which may change your play style. Ability upgrades help improve your player character and how much he or she can do. For example you may pick up an upgrade allowing you to jump higher and reaching heights you couldn’t before. This rewards the player by allowing them to get to secret areas left unexplored in a previous run to accumulate more rewards. Items gives you certain abilities which may prove useful in later or current challenges, such as the ability to trade experience points for health point which in turn makes the accumulation of experience points more of a priority. By having adding relevant upgrades to the players arsenal that allow them to change-up the play style or widen their ability to explore levels for more rewards. Players will be more inclined to adopt the aggressive and fast-paced play style that ultimately gives more of these rewards in turn making the whole kill and gain game play loop fun and as the rewards are randomized it can be unpredictable. Making sure players experience isn’t dulled by the feeling of familiarity.
Tower of Guns takes a page from the Wolfenstein 3-D book and also rewards player who engage in level exploration. There are many hidden secret areas peppered throughout the levels of the game in which they contain rewards for those who find them. They can be rewards like: coins, experience, health, items, gun modifications etc. This adds another layer to the game play making level exploration rewarding for the player and in turn making the game more re-playable as there are rewards given to the player for finding all of the secrets in one level.
In fact the idea of replayability is one of the strengths of this game. As well as having randomized arenas and set pieces (enemy types). The game also has another progression system outside of the arenas in the form of perks and guns. These are variable led rewards in which you must perform specific tasks to unlock each piece giving players secondary personal missions as they might desire to unlock a new perk or gun.
Perks allow the player to control certain variables when starting a new game. For e.g. turning on the ‘TOOYOUNGTODIE’ perk decreases difficulty and increases: player damage, armor, loot and experience gain. If the player is having a hard time trying to complete the game they can simple turn on one of the perks to give the player an edge in the middle of combat.
Gun variety in the game is great and are worth unlocking just to find the perfect gun for a specific player. While certainly distinguishable in looks and function all of them have one unanimous negative aspect. They’re all not satisfying to use. This is partly because the sound effects for each gun are lackluster and don’t sound particularly satisfying. Also as they’re recoil is so weak that player doesn’t feel the power of these guns. Compare these guns to the previously mentioned Wolfenstein: The New Order. In which the guns felt terrifying powerful as their sound effects were loud and thunderous. Even the little details like the vibration of the controller helps. They can help the player feel the blow back of the gun which in turn you feel the satisfaction of every shot. In Tower of Guns some of the weapons literally make the sound ‘Pew, pew, pew’. Making the whole aspect feel flaccid.
Another negative Tower of Guns has in the game play department is that it’s boss fights consists largely of pure spectacle with little substance and depth. Most just stand there waiting to be shot with its minions chasing me throughout the arena, the type of minions that I’ve been battling in other parts of the game. Which can reinforce the feeling of familiarity in turn making the experience feel a little bit dull. There was only one stand out boss fight in which I had to truly make use of all the game mechanics. As the boss surrounded itself with a barrier that only had tiny gap to fire from. I teleported above it, where it was left open for me to bring down fire from the sky. Whilst also using my upgrade jump abilities in mid-air to increase my time above my enemy. This was a great and memorable moment as with most the bosses I just stood there firing while occasionally dodging attacks. The other boss fight had me using every tool in the box to defeat it and actually took any effort. It felt like a challenging test to see what I’ve learned so far and how well I can apply the tools I’ve gathered in practice.Which made that specific boss fight more fun.
There is also the issue of a few technical issues within the game. At times the frame rate drops to what felt like below 20 frames per second due to battles becoming too chaotic and having countless enemies on-screen which resulted in me dying unfairly. This may detriment the experience of some players, like me, as it sneaks up on you no matter where you are in the game.
The game also suffers from some low resolution textures which appear in the game from which I don’t expect from a game on a Playstation 4 to have, a next generation console. Especially when The New Order looks better and doesn’t drop below 20 frames per second, even in the craziest and spectacle filled parts of the game.
Even though the technical issues did detriment my experience just by a little bit. I did still have lots and lots of fun with this good and refreshing first person shooter. With elements new (randomized arenas) and old Terrible Posture Studios have created a game that had me laughing at its quirky and self-deprecating dialogue whilst also had my heart racing at it’s best and fastest game play moments.
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