Regular visitors of SwitchRPG have likely concluded long ago that I am not a fan of the strategy RPG sub-genre. While that is a fair assessment, covering Tower of Time has been a breath of fresh air for numerous reasons, not only because of my previously-established stance towards the sub-genre, but also as someone who has been neck-deep in roguelike shooters. Read on to find out why!
Some games so strongly evoke the mechanics of previously-released titles that it can often seem clear where the developers drew inspiration from. Tower of Time isn’t one of those games, however. Sure, moving and exploring are somewhat typical, as the player still tilts the control stick in the desired direction and so on (a simple action that did feel a little stiff, by the way), but everything else about Tower of Time felt entirely unique, despite never reinventing the proverbial wheel. Developer Event Horizon simply borrowed some mechanics of past SRPG franchises, tinkered a bit, and created something that feels very fun to play.
Enemies are visible on the map, and the player is almost always given an opportunity to pause and make any desired preperations before stepping into battle. Once the battle initiates, things get interesting: the party appears on a new screen in an arena-like setting, in which enemies appear on the opposing side. There are also spawn points that may continuously added new enemies to the field until the battle is won. The player is afforded a few moments to survey the landscape and the patterns in which enemies advance before formulating a battle strategy. Though these battles take place in real time, Tower of Time has a very handy time-slowing mechanic that plays a key role in positioning your party in the most opportune locations to achieve victory.
There are the common SRPG precautions to take, of course. Place archers in the back and let them do their thing from a distance while the tanks close the distance and attack. Beyond that, there are multiple ways to influence the flow of battle. The player must make use of structures in the arena while utilizing the slow time feature. These structures can be natural or crafted by spells which certain characters can learn as you progress. Structures can be utilized for multiple purposes, such as protection from enemy archers or spellcasters, or funneling enemies along a specific path to reach their demise. Mastering the slow time feature almost guarantees success, and in essence gives the game a completely different feel. Tower of Time seemed brutally difficult until I was able to grasp this feature. Afterwards, it began to feel more similar to something like Mass Effect or Mario and Rabbids in a MOBA setting.
Progressing in Tower of Time takes a hefty dose of exploration and currency along with a moderate dose of grinding. The latter of which is more dependent upon which characters you prefer to use in your party. Upon progressing to a certain point, our king and his soldiers will begin to build a city just outside of the tower, where different structures may also be constructed if the proper blueprints are obtained. The level of these buildings carry a direct correlation to the potential level of your party members: upgrade the Armory to increase the maximum level potentials of Kane, Maeve and Baron. Do the same for the Artificer Hall to improve Rakhem and Kaela. The Mage Tower is the equivalent for Whisper and Aeric. Upgrading the buildings requires gold, as does character training. Considering this, you’ll find grinding for gold a necessity on any difficulty level above the easiest (called story mode).
Tower of Time begins with a young hero stumbling upon a tower potruding from the ground. Although he is fearful, the tower emits an irresistable pull on the boy. He reluctantly steps inside to investigate, and what he discovers proceeds to shape the rest of his life… as would likely be the case for anyome that stumbles upon a glowing throne emanating a powerful, telepathic essence. However, the throne informs our hero that he isn’t ready to inherit its latent power and he must return later in his life.
The hero spends the ensuing years of his life obsessed with returning to the throne, though it’s not as dark as it sounds. The World of Arthara has been decimated by an unnamed cataclysm. The land exists in a perpetual state of twilight, so food is scarce. The hero uses his desire and passion to return to the throne as a means to fuel change, and though the hero ultimately claims the title of King of Arthara, the world continues to deteriorate despite his best efforts.
The king knows his only hope lies within the Tower and at long last feels ready to adventure back, but he doesn’t come alone this time. His most faithful warriors accompany him this time around, and the majority of gameplay takes place from the perspective of the warriors while the king watches from the throne as the acting “overlord.” This was confusing at first, but the story later reveals this to be a necessary plot device, which I won’t spoil here.
The main narrative isn’t what one would consider to be deep, but there is a wellspring of world building information to discover if you are patient enough to search for it. A familiar complaint rears its ugly head in the form of the mountains of text the player must sort through to ascertain Arthara’s deepest secrets, however.
What you see visually in Tower of Time isn’t especially unique, but it’s still pretty nonetheless. Floors of the Tower vary in appearance, so nothing feels redundant. The one visual feature that continuously impressed me was the lighting. Tower of Time has a way of making shadows and reflections look absolutely gorgeous.
Spell animations are hit and miss. Baron’s Rock Wall spell in particular is accompanied with a satisfying animation and followed up by the cool sound of shifting earth. Having said this, music and sound are somewhat of an afterthought in Tower of Time. The music certainly isn’t bad, it just goes largely unnoticed. Some players may prefer this, but I would’ve enjoyed a memorable soundtrack while reading all of the text from the game.
Impressions and Conclusion
I enjoyed Tower of Time’s unconventional means of progression even if it did feel a bit tedious at times. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly easy to figure out, as this game hits the player with seemingly endless walls of text. Reaching a certain level can unlock a new “milestone” for the characters, and reaching a milestone opens up a new path on the party member’s skill tree. Things aren’t as simple as arbitrarily choosing a new ability and continuing, however. It takes some time and experimentation to find the right customizations and specialties. I felt completely lost here as I apparently overlooked the text explanation on customizing skill trees. I settled back into a comfort zone after a while, but some of my alterations were death sentences in battle. Did I mention the game has a ton of text to sort through?
In terms of a debut, Event Horizon have made their mark with Tower of Time. The team took advantage of a strategized staged release and made improvements based on player feedback in between each phase of the game’s release. While the finished product may still have a few minor issues, Tower of Time is a solid SRPG that appears vastly underrated among the other big-name strategy releases on the eShop. You can catch it on the eShop at 25% off before August 5th. There is no better time than now for fans in search of a fresh take on the stategy RPG sub-genre.