Tower of Time review (PC)

Tower of Time is an excellent PC-exclusive action RPG which blends turn-based and real-time combat and feels very polished. Here’s our review.

Tower of Time, by developer Event Horizon (okay, now I need to re-watch that movie again), spent quite a bit of time in Early Access but looks like an example of Early Access done right. I didn’t dive in until the very end, but with tons of players in Early Access and very positive feedback, it’s clear that this is a game worth checking out.

Heavily influenced by fantasy and magic, Tower of Time takes place in a deteriorating kingdom where the protagonist and narrator of the story has a lifelong fascination with a magical and mysterious tower. He returns to the tower as a military captain and hopes it will provide a key to the downfall of the world he lives in – and thus the story is set for dozens of hours of exploration and combat.

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Tower of Time is story-driven, which is always a plus for me, though it’s worth pointing out that most of the narrative is delivered using text only. Having grown up with games where typing text and using cursor keys was the only way to interact with adventures, this wasn’t an issue to me, but those who like to lean back and listen to spoken narration might have a harder time. In that sense, I’d definitely call it geared towards PC gamers more than console gamers – although that line is blurring as PCs are increasingly connected to the living room TV.

I don’t know if it was a part of the Early Access phase, but the writing was excellent for a small indie studio production. There’s not just the main plot and its side quests, but there’s plenty of character development in Tower of Time as well. It’s not the most riveting or surprising story I’ve played through in an RPG (I would prefer Obsidian’s titles in that sense, for example), but it’s extremely solid writing and some of the best I’ve seen in an indie title.

Visually, Tower of Time is a very polished game – somewhat similar to Torchlight in ways but with more of an HD finish to the graphics. In that sense, it’s remarkable that the small team at Event Horizon has managed to get so close to something like Diablo III, because even though Blizzard’s title is about six years old now it’s still a benchmark for the genre. Tower of Time also doesn’t skimp on content, and keeps up its level of polish over the entire course of the campaign – though the environments aren’t as diverse as those in RPGs that feature a lot of outdoors exploration as well.

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The biggest standout feature in Tower of Time, however, is its combat system. Far more involved than the hack ‘n slash mechanics we see in other RPGs and deeper than the clickfest that is Diablo, the game blends real time combat dynamics with the ability to enter a kind of planning phase right before combat starts and prepare your party and the battleground. This allows you to make clever use of obstacles to split up attackers or lead them into an ambush, or it could backfire and see your party suffer heavy losses. It’s not as deep and multi-layered as the combat that some turn-based titles offer, so the game is still accessible to less experienced players. It’s great for those who crave a little more thought than you typically get in multi-platform RPG releases, even though the lack of diversity in dungeons/backdrops made me feel that the combat system has some unrealized potential.

Perhaps I’m being overly picky, because Tower of Time is an excellent RPG at a very pleasant price point. It has tons and tons of content in terms of levels, enemies, skills and objects – so there are numerous ways to play despite a relatively linear campaign. But that never stopped me from enjoying Diablo and it certainly didn’t stop me from enjoying Tower of Time.

Score: 8.0/10

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