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Tower of Time, a party-based RPG/RTS hybrid by Event Horizon, has recently launched into Steam Early Access. If its promise of small-scale RTS combat elevated to the next level by RPG elements, exploration, loot, and crafting sounds alluring to you, you can buy into the game right now for $14.99 or your regional equivalent. And if you're still on the fence about it, having previously seen only a few trailers and a short description, we offer you a couple of fresh previews:
Tower of Time offers five difficulty levels, accommodating players who want a story-focused adventure without all the crushing combat. But it seems clear that battles are meant to be central to the experience: Rather than the "real-time with pause" style common in other RPGs, Tower of Time has a "slow-time feature" that demands on-the-fly attention and puts a priority on pre-fight preparation. And in case there was any doubt, the "Epic" difficulty level, where "one mistake will likely wipe out your party," is promoted as a feature rather than just a bad idea.
Maybe it's because I'm getting old, but it's actually the less hack-and-slashy elements of the game that sound more interesting to me. The titular tower features "hand-crafted levels" filled with secrets and puzzles, while the history of the world of Artara, "where technology met magic with devastating consequences," will be related through "hundreds of lore books and scattered pieces of information. " Character progression is actually connected to that story, as instead if earning experience in combat—there is actually no "experience" in the conventional RPG sense at all—new skills are unlocked through the discovery of ancient knowledge.
The initial Early Access release of the game will include four of the tower's 13 levels, which Krzysztof Monkiewicz, CEO of developer Event Horizon, described as "Book One" of the story. Book Two, which will add four more levels to Tower of Time, is expected to be out in roughly three months, while Book Three, slated for the end of this year or early 2018, will complete the tower and the game.
The game explores the buried secrets and mysteries of the Tower. Upon uncovering these secrets, players must find key items to progress further in where hidden scrolls are cleverly placed around the many hand-crafted levels that can be utilized by deciphering their cryptic codes.
Moreover, there are seven classes to choose from, and your party can be adjusted at anytime to help uncover any challenging puzzles. Additionally, each character hones unique skills that can be upgraded and re-trained at will, which those upgrades often change the core nature of certain skills.
Lastly, Tower of Time features a crafting system that allows players to create items of different power. Other ancient enchanting recipes can change the outcome of a battle, granting special attributes like regeneration, immunity and other helpful effects.
After a short tutorial, we find ourselves in the mystical world of Artara. Taking control of Kane and Maeve, we stumble upon a tower full of ancient knowledge (as well as enemies). Kane is your typical brawler type while Maeve is good with picking enemies off a distance, bow & arrow style. As we explore the depth of the tower, we will find new party members, skills and loads of various treasure. Seriously, despite having only 4 levels in the current stage, the game is filled with so much stuff to discover. Secret passages, optional quests and journals giving us more insight into the history of Artara. What’s interesting about the real-time combat in Tower of Time is that you will only gain some gold, upgrade crystals and equipment after every battle. When it comes to accessing skills and upgrade points, you will have to explore every nook and cranny for blueprints and weapon/armor forges. It is a pretty clever way to entice you more into exploring and eliminate the exp grinding, which is usually the mandatory part in other RPG games.
So far, Event Horizon team has put their money where their mouths are. The graphics are indeed good, so much that one character will stop and comment how beautiful certain waterfall is. Considering the game is still in early access, I can only expect even more improvements on that front. However, what I found particularly impressive is the voice acting during the opening sequence. Shame we only experience it on rare occasions, since whoever was in charge of it did a damn fine job.
We have a couple of difficulty levels available to us when starting the game, ranging from easy to epic. Think of that last one as ultra hard mode, since one wrong step during combat will usually end up in a complete party wipe. There is also a special story mode, that is a bit lighter on difficulty and enemies health/damage. Some combat challenge is still involved there, but the focus is more on following and enjoying the story without the combat giving us too much trouble.
One thing I would like to specifically compliment is outstanding controls. Usually in these games, I tend to encounter broken waypoints from time to time. You know how sometimes you click on a specific spot to send a character there and (for reasons only known to them) they tend to get all confused, take the longer road or just get stuck in a loop. It is something I encountered in most of the top down action RPGs. Well, Tower of Time seems to completely devoid of that. Even though it is something I expected, I haven’t encountered a single bug related to character movements and waypoints. It might not seem like a big thing, but considering how common it is in already finished games, I find it impressive how one that is currently in early access seems to be completely devoid of those.
In Tower of Time, the world is slowly crumbling. Each year, the races struggle to survive. Crops fail, devastating weather conditions kill thousands, and disasters can happen at any point because of ground instability. The only hope of returning the world back to what it once was is you.
You follow the adventures of a group of champions and their lord as they explore a mysterious tower. The lord came across this tower at a young age. After approaching the crystal throne inside, he heard a voice and ran away. Now, he returns to the tower with his two loyal champions, Kane and Maeve. Hoping to find whatever it is that lays below to save the planet, you guide the champions through the tower, riddled with dangers and alien technology.
The entire game is based around this tower. While that may sound somewhat boring in comparison to large open worlds, it is anything but that. The world, the tower, and the tower's history all have great depth to them. The story is very well-paced and written, keeping you gripped throughout.
The exploration in Tower of Time gives it that classic feeling you would find in games like Baldur's Gate or the original Fallout games. Every nook and cranny of each floor has something new and interesting to show and tell. You will never be let down.
The combat has quite a twist. When a battle starts, a battle map will load. The map is random, with each one having different layouts and requiring various battle strategies in order to win.
Before the battle begins, you will place your champions where you want them. Combat happens in real time. The player orders the champion's moves -- telling them where to go, what to attack, and what skills to use.
Enemies come in waves. If you don't kill a wave quick enough, another will spawn. Quickly eliminating monsters is essential, otherwise, you'll become overwhelmed. Players can use the environment to their advantage, such as using walls or pillars as cover from ranged enemy attack.
For a game still in Steam Early Access, I was surprised about how well the game ran. Evidently, the game still requires a degree of optimisation, but that is likely to come with the games full release later this year. Tower of Time has a similar style of mechanics to games like Runescape (that takes me back), where you click a location in the vicinity and your character moves there. It is an commonly used old fashioned system - but one that works very well in this game and similar games in this competitive genre. The main goal of the game is to further progress and explore the tower, allowing the characters to fulfil their ultimate goal of restoring the once great Kingdom of Artara to its former glory using the powers of the great tower.
As you explore the tower, you can enter battles, this is where the tactics come into play. Developers, Event Horizon, claim that the game combines a classical styled RPG with a tactical strategic one, and they are correct as battle do make the player think, as one mistake could potentially lead to the downfall of the team. However, the battles can get repetitive as time goes on, but battles with big bosses help keep the game flowing and more bearable.
When you initially start you have two characters a warrior (swordsman) and an archer. You are able to control both characters - who both have unique abilities. As time goes on, and as you progress in the games story, you gradually unlock more characters (as the game gets much harder). Tower of Time also offers difficulty levels from story difficulty to epic difficulty where one mistake can lead to the teams demise. I personally think adding difficulty levels in a game is a fantastic idea - as all players have different skill sets. Furthermore, as you go around the tower you can find 'Tomes of Knowledge' which allow you to upgrade your city, allowing you to construct better weaponry and upgrade your characters.
As with many RPG's you have additional rooms, which are not part of the main storyline, but allow you to gain additional loot, as well as side quests. The player can also find treasure along the way which can be anything from gold to gems. The looting system is fun, enjoyable and quite generous, as chests are fairly easy to find and the so-called 'secret rooms' aren't so secret at all.
Taking everything regarding gameplay into account, the gameplay is superb for a Steam Early Access game, as it offers difficultly levels to suit every player, battles combine tactics with a classic RPG, and they are fun despite getting repetitive over time. Moreover, the loot is generous (probably to generous) but works well in the RPG genre.