REVIEW: Tower Fortress

Nov
27

REVIEW: Tower Fortress

Ported over from mobile, it translates into a decent game on the PC. However, after beating the game, there’s not much reason to keep playing, in spite of all the unlockable suits available.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-Player
Genres: Platformer, Roguelike
Developer: Nitrome Limited,
Keybol, Mike Studios
Publisher: Nitrome Limited
Release date: 20 Nov, 2017

First Impressions

When checking out Tower Fortress (TF), it looked like a game that I could pick up and play through without much difficulty. The enemies, including what I guessed would be the first boss, looked non-threatening, so I expected a complete cake walk. Since TF is a roguelike, where each run has you start with no advantages in a procedurally generated tower, it wasn’t quite as easy as I first foresaw. However, with enough practice and the right upgrades, it’s more than possible to topple this tower.

Gameplay

In this roguelike, there are 4 zones to play through, each of which is made up of 3 stages and ends with a boss. Each zone has a unique gimmick, though the beginning area is neutral. The 2nd one has walls that’ll wrap you around the other side, the 3rd area has an auto-scrolling floor hounding you the entire time, while the 4th area has diminished light so it’s harder to see what’s coming up ahead. Thankfully, as you progress in each randomized run, you can earn upgrades such as an increased ammo cap or being impervious to floor spikes. You won’t get an upgrade just for making it to the end of each stage though, as they’re locked away, and you obtain keys by killing a progressively increasing amount of enemies. Even if you kill everything possible, you still won’t get a key for each stage, but you’ll earn enough to strengthen your character.

Aside from the main game mode, there’s also a Daily Tower and Hard Mode available. However, I’m not precisely sure what the exact differences are. I believe that the Daily Tower creates a set run that will be available for the day before randomizing the next day. From what I noticed with Hard Mode, the only difference was that enemies take more shots to kill, perhaps doubling their HP, and they don’t drop more gems in spite of being tougher. Even when looking at update logs, I didn’t find any definitive information on these game modes, so I have to take my best guess.

I believe I’m disrupting his meditation. Ah well, at least the books aren’t being disturbed.

Controls

In TF, you’re able to either play with a keyboard or controller, and I stuck with my controller as usual. The controls are rather simple. Movement is controlled with either the ‘L joystick’ or ‘D-pad,’ with ‘A’ being used to jump and double jump. By default, double jumping triggers a spin attack, which is useful for clearing one-hit enemies. ‘X’ fires your weapon, some of which allows you to hold the button down for continuous fire, though the regular weapon requires you to hit it each time. The only issue with the controls I had was sometimes not getting the double jump when I expected it, but I wouldn’t be surprised that it was simply bad timing on my part. Also, you can’t shoot upward, unless the weapon you’re using is angled that way.

Every day it’s the same thing. Carry the drill over to one side of the tower, and then carry it back. This job is the worst.

Story

There’s a short amount of background given for what’s going on in the game’s summary, but none of this shows up in the game itself. Even when you finish TF, you’ll only be shown destroying the source of this damaging smoke, without any sort of resolution. Plus, I only found out the protagonist’s name and the fact that they’re female, from the trading cards.

Probably a good thing that they didn’t make Sara a descending hero.

Graphics

Most of the screen is made up of the background element, showing the dark, rainy environment and the tower walls. Aside from an occasional flag pole that pops up on the tower, and the rain effect, this image won’t change. Since the action takes place in the center of the screen, your attention focuses toward it, and I essentially blanked out the border completely, much like one would while watching full screen movies on a wide screen TV. In spite of looking like it might be an issue, I found that it worked quite well.

Onto how the game looks, TF was made using pixel graphics, and did a good job with the visuals. The imagery is clean and smooth, in spite of using lots of dark colors like browns, purples, and black. However, due to the different background features and platforms having quite a bit of detail, it helps these elements stand out and look vibrant.

What to wear, what to wear? It always seems like you have too many options until you actually have to pick something.

Sound Design

The music of TF has somewhat of a dark vibe to it, due to the sound effects its made up of. It’s hard to put into words, but certain sounds make me think of eerie, ghostly entities. The upbeat pacing doesn’t give it a horror aspect, which suits the cartoony nature of the game’s graphics well. I think the audio is well balanced, because the sound effects of your spin jump and destroying enemies doesn’t drown out the music.

Pros

  • In theory, with the left and right edges of the screen showing the outside environment, shrinking down the room available for gameplay, it should feel small and cramped. However, except for certain patterns that can come up, the space available felt large enough to dodge and fight back against the enemies.
  • Although I think the balancing could have been tweaked, I like that you’re rewarded for killing enemies with upgrades at the end of stages. That way someone who flees doesn’t get the same benefit as a player that fights everything.
  • All of the enemies have a green tint to them, which is good theming and design. In spite of their shared palette, each of them looks distinct and it’s easy to learn what their gimmick or attacks are like.

Cons

  • Although having 40 unique suits to unlock sounds nice on paper, actually unlocking all of them is too costly. I’ve played for about 5 hours, beating the game a couple of times, and only have 12 purchased. When using the suit that doubles the value of gems, a successful run will net about 1,500 and there are several that cost thousands. Also, there’s nothing given for beating the boss, such as a suit unlock or even a big bounty. Making some special suits require unique unlock conditions would have been more interesting and provided some focus on multiple playthroughs.
  • I found many situations to be simple to navigate around, but there are a few set-ups that are particularly treacherous. For example, some platforms are directly below another one, which can be hard to jump through. Plus, the spinning saw blades can be at a height that’s in-between two squares, so you can’t stand on either the ground below or above it without getting hit.
  • Some of the weapons and upgrades are significantly better than others, which makes the game quite unbalanced. A great combination can be incredibly useful, while getting stuck with the rest is underwhelming.

Tips

  • I found ranger to be a good choice of cheaper suits, because it takes half as many shots to kill basic enemies, which is very useful. After getting more used to the game, I used the cash suit to get more gems, so I could unlock the seeker suit. When combined with piercing bullets, it’s completely overpowered.
  • The last boss has an annoying hit box. If you double jump too high, you can hurt yourself, but if you don’t jump high enough, your default weapon can’t hit the boss. You need to double jump just off to the center, and from there you should be able to damage it.
  • Certain upgrades are incredibly useful and should be picked up whenever feasible: Revive, bullet piercing, gun damage, healthbar upgrade, and double spin. Others are horrendous and should be avoided, such as poison, no recoil, grapple, and the spike ball.

Final Thoughts

Even though TF is just a mobile port, it’s a harmless, enjoyable game to dabble with now and again. The inclusion of more suits and upgrades from the game’s initial launch showed that the developers had some interest in adding more longevity to what the game could offer. Although having all of these additional suits does give something to do with the gems you collect, after you’re able to clear the tower a few times, there’s not much motivation to actually keep playing to unlock all of them. The alternative game modes are too similar to the normal game to change up the experience, and doesn’t provide unique rewards for the effort. Some of the suits have distinct properties that would slightly change the gameplay, but it’s not substantial or interesting enough to hold your interest long-term. I give TF a slight recommendation, as it’s alright for a short diversion, though it might be more worthwhile on mobile.

Wait, you’re a girl?! I’m stunned!

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