Tower of Time Review

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Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2018-04-12
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Whenever someone mentions dungeon crawlers, my mind immediately jumps to games like Might and Magic and Wizardry. First person, party-based, likely to be set on a grid of some kind. And while Event Horizon's Tower of Time is described as a dungeon crawler, it doesn't follow a similar formula. Instead, it's closer to something like Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale with their isometric camera and real time with pause combat.

You have a dungeon, represented by a vast multi-level tower, and you have a party of daring adventurers slowly making their way through said dungeon while uncovering its secrets, learning to work together, and fighting plenty of monsters along the way.

Story and Exploration

Initially, I expected Tower of Time to resemble a real-time version of something like Blackguards where story existed mostly to get you from combat A to combat B. This ended up not being the case, and having finished the game, I can safely say that Tower of Time's story is its main attraction.

The game starts as this fairly run of the mill fantasy fare with abundant humans, tree-loving elves, and Scottish dwarves coming together to explore an ancient ruin that may hold a secret to saving their world. But then, as your party keeps descending the seemingly endless stairways of the eponymous Tower of Time and the story gets a chance to unfold, you first start getting clues that everything may not be as it seems, then you get hit with plenty of shocking revelations confirming this fact, and by the time you're done with the game, you're left with a story about ancient aliens, galaxy-spanning conflicts, and the nature of artificial intelligence, all within the span of eleven expansive floors.

I'm a big fan of stories that combine fantasy and sci-fi elements. RPGs used to do this sort of thing fairly often back in the day, but lately it's been a bit of a lost art. As such I greatly appreciated Tower of Time's return to form, so to speak.

It helps that the game is generally well-written. The typos are few and far between, all seven of the playable characters are oozing personality and get plenty of opportunities to grow and develop, the story is packed with twists that keep you guessing until the very last moment, the ending is anything but cliché, and the limited voice acting we get during cutscenes hits all the right notes.

Now, granted, while the story is fun, well-crafted, and most definitely competent, I wouldn't exactly call it a timeless masterpiece. In my opinion, it really could have used a diligent editing pass or two. If you stop and think about things, you may notice some minor inconsistencies here and there. The aforementioned character development can happen a bit too suddenly. The lack of communication trope is a touch overused. And in general, the game's tone can be all over the place.

To expand a bit on the last point, Tower of Time is absolutely riddled with not-so-subtle pop culture references, and depending on how you feel about those, you can see them as either cute or infuriatingly eye-rolling. From Star Trek and Doctor Who to Warcraft and Knight Rider, the references are pretty much everywhere, and in my opinion, they tend to clash with the game's overall atmosphere and take you out of the story. But if you can get over that, you'll probably enjoy that story quite a bit.

When it comes to actually playing the game, the majority of your time will be spent exploring the expansive caverns and narrow corridors of a mysterious tower. Your main goal will always be reaching the tower's lowest floor, but along the way you'll get a chance to deal with an undead crisis, solve a series of magical trials, and even visit another dimension. All of this is very well represented by the game's visuals that go from dimly lit caves and medieval halls to futuristic golem factories and shiny metal walls.

Each floor has a theme and a series of quests associated with that theme. And while the game progresses in a more or less linear fashion, each floor has numerous side activities you may wish to undertake, a simplistic puzzle or two for you to solve, and quite a few secret passages to uncover. Overall, this combination of activities creates a satisfying dungeon-crawling experience, though it does have its share of issues.