Tower of Guns – Review

Title   Tower of Guns
Developer  Terrible Posture Games
Publisher  Grip Digital
Platform  Xbox One (reviewed), PC, PS3, PS4
Genre  Shooter/Roguelike
Release Date  April 10th, 2015
Official Site

Look. I like a deep narrative, interesting characters, and a focus on exploration and possibly even self-discovery as much as the next guy. I like being on the verge of tears playing a game, either because I’ve developed such a personal attachment to my character, or because the sunset is just so beautiful. But at the same time, every now and then you just want to go berserk and kill everything in your way. Sometimes, all the justification you need for violence is “because there’s a gun in your hand.” In video games, of course. Don’t kill people in real life. Maybe consider killing robots in Tower of Guns instead.

Tower of Guns is exactly what it says on the tin – a game about a tower made up of guns, filled with guns, and robots who have guns. Your aim is to reach the top of the tower, destroying everything your path as you go. Simple as that. Each run-through provides you with some silly story that casts you as a variety of characters from “80’s bro” to “faithful janitor”, which provide a few solid laughs to go along with the shooty-gunny gameplay, but if you can’t handle doing a spot of light reading while you kill things, the story is easily turned off. And from there it’s just pure robotic violence.

The big draw of this game is its randomly-generated levels, although that’s something of a misnomer. What is randomised is which section of the tower you go to, what order the levels are in, and some variations on the enemy types along with the numbers and item drops. You can expect a certain amount of progression from level to level, rather than finding the difficulty spiking and dropping from room to room, but the level’s layout will remain the same. This is useful because it means that, should you die, and you will die, you can at least learn something about each level and use that knowledge on your next run.

Which isn’t to say that you’ll be allowed to ease yourself into the game at all. Before each run you can choose which gun you want to use, as well as a perk to alter the gameplay. You start with a terrible pistol and the choice of triple-jumping or not taking fall damage, and from there it’s up to you to get good or get dead. The first section isn’t too hard to handle with your initial loadout, but within seconds of entering the second section I was overwhelmed and killed, my corpse left to spin forever as a death-count appeared on screen and took note of the first of my many failures. You’re greeted with some stats of your run, and then you’re booted back to the title-screen. It’s a harsh, sudden move that is initially quite jarring, but then you understand. Tower of Guns is goading you back in. It wants you to hate it so that you’ll dive back in and try again.

And you will, again and again. It’s a pretty simple game to pick up, and quite fun to play. The aim is to move as much as possible, making use of as many jumps as you can and firing endlessly until everything is dead. It’s frantic and often pure silliness, as the number of bullets on screen grow almost endlessly. Huge turrets line the walls, firing homing missiles, giant spike balls, and massive bullets in a constant, thumping rhythm. Flying bombs come soaring from the sky alongside mobile turrets and giant machines with sawblade bodies, all trying to make you bleed. Standing still for more than a few seconds almost always leads to your death, so the best method is to jump and run, praying you don’t run into any number of deadly things lying in your path. You don’t have to stay and fight if you don’t want to – the doors out of each room are opened simply by shooting them. But the rewards you reap make the game so much easier. Your gun can be levelled up by picking up enough XP dropped by enemies, improving both your firing rate and damage. This makes the onslaught of enemies waiting for you that bit easier to take on, but if you take damage, your experience meter drops too, so avoiding bullets is always a priority.

Enemies also drop health pickups, cash, yellow orbs that charge your items, and sometimes new perks and gun mods to turn the tide in your favour. The perks give you extra jumps, better jump height, more damage, and a variety of other useful improvements to make things easier. You can sometimes buy these from containers randomly generated in levels, but all too often you’ll either not have the cash to buy them or not enough jumps to reach them, so it’s generally a bad idea to rely on their appearance. The gun mods are often so ridiculous they become nearly useless – too often I found myself wielding a machine-gun whose every bullet laid down mines, making every path inaccessible unless I wanted to be blown up. And the items range from totally useless, such as the ability to spawn bomb-bots to kill you, to weirdly quite useful, like the cat spam, which attacks everything on screen with a picture of a cat. Finding out what works for you takes time, experimentation, and a lot of dying, but eventually you’ll find out how you play best and be heading straight to your first win… before you die against the final boss.

That said, the relentless pace of the game and the huge number of bullets and enemies eventually become a normality after a few runs, and you’ll stop panicking at the sight of twenty turrets spawning in pretty quickly. At that point, Tower of Guns loses some of its appeal. Its key selling point is the fear of death, but once you’re over that, it’s just a paint-by-numbers shooter that tries to impress you by changing the level order each time you play. You can alter your experience by playing in Endless mode, a fairly self-explanatory option, or Dice Roll, which randomly applies a different state to each level to either help or hinder you. But even these variations don’t change the core game too much, which ultimately becomes almost routine in nature. You expect the unexpected and are rarely surprised; you learn what works best and just do that to win. The desire to mix up your loadout and try new things is never really there because you spent the initial time struggling to even reach a passable skill level, and once you hit that point, you don’t want to feel like a failure anymore.

Even making it to the end of the game is something of an anti-climax, since you’re rewarded with a piece of text providing a conclusion to whichever story you were given, a stats screen, and are then booted back to the title-screen. Masochists looking for an extra challenge can go for the uberwin, which requires you to take on the real final boss in a spectacularly tense and incredibly challenging battle that acts as a rewarding if near-impossible finale to the game. But slogging through half an hour of the normal game, only to be utterly destroyed by the behemoth waiting for you at the end, is too soul-crushing for the likes of me, and I personally couldn’t face that battle again. Still, for those who enjoy being beaten again and again, playing through Tower of Guns will no doubt be a blissful experience.

What drew me in the most was the visuals, which, although basic and blocky, have a certain charm about them. There’s a very indie feel to the world, like it’s been meticulously crafted by someone who really cares about what they’re making but doesn’t have the hours to spend fine-tuning every aspect to make it perfect. The environments are mostly grey expanses, but the layouts are well-thought-out and allow for plenty of experimentation, especially if one is searching for secret rooms hidden in the walls. My personal favourite section is Storage, which casts the world in almost complete darkness, making the hordes of enemies harder to see until they’re almost on top of you, as well as making finding your way around a true challenge. It’s a stark contrast to the brighter, more open areas that populate the world, and forces you to rethink your strategy lest you fall into a bottomless pit. The enemy designs are also lovely, with each robot looking more menacing than the last, and the enormity of some turrets making you gasp in awe even the tenth time you’ve seen it spawn in.

The sound design is neither here nor there. The soundtrack is made up of one loop for each section, which is enough to fill the void but forgettable enough that you won’t be humming it the next day. The main sound that will reach your ears is that of your gun firing, which is subtle enough not to be annoying but still manages to make an impact. There’s your regular bunch of explosions and cannon-firing noises as well, but it’s all fairly standard stuff. It’s not necessarily bad, but the audio in the game doesn’t create much excitement either.

And really that’s the main flaw of Tower of Guns. It’s big and crazy and fun the first couple of attempts, but after that the novelty wears off and it stops being quite as exciting. There’s still enjoyment to be found in blasting away thousands of enemies in half-hour chunks of gameplay, but once you’ve found your favourite weapon and favourite perk, it can be hard to find much of a challenge. The random level order and item drops do help to keep things interesting, but you soon learn enough tricks of your own to not need to rely on the drops to help you out so much. It’s strange, but the random changes and variations become almost mundane and routine, and the excitement is lost. It’s still a very playable game, and one which will draw you back in for another round or so even after you’ve stopped being totally enthralled by it, but ultimately it won’t hold your attention for long.

  • An endless onslaught of mechanical violence never gets old
  • Charming graphics and overall feel to the game
  • Clever level design with plenty of secrets to find
  • Novelty of random generation wears off quickly
  • Lacklustre soundtrack
  • The reward never feels worth the risk

I want to like Tower of Guns. It’s a charming little game with plenty of fresh ideas to keep things interesting. There’s tons of enemies and an infinite number of bullets, and if you’re looking to just kill half an hour destroying everything in sight, then there’s few other places that will deliver in such numbers. But after just a few runs, the novelty wears off and you’re left with an ultimately shallow game that quickly becomes a little tiresome. There’s still plenty of fun to be had in the early days, but if you’re looking for something to keep you entertained for longer than a weekend, this might not be your cup of bullets.

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