Review – Tower of Time
Tower of Time is a classic-style roleplaying game (RPG) blended with more modern real-time combat that emphasizes tactics and positioning. It hit PC in 2018 and finally made the jump over to PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One recently.
Players spend the tutorial level as a child, exploring a bit of a ruined tower that has been inverted and smashed into the ground and ends with the player discovering you’re not yet ready to harness the power available here. The game proper opens with you returning years later with some friends to explore it in earnest and try to use that power to save the world, but in an interesting twist it takes you out of the gameplay and places you in an oversight role in control of your partners, Kane and Maeve.
At the game’s outset only those two are in the party, which allows players to have the innovative combat introduced at a bit of a slower pace. Exploration is in the classic three-quarter overhead isometric viewpoint familiar to fans of past RPGs like Baldur’s Gate or Diablo, with combat maintaining that perspective.
What changes is the passage of time, with real-time control over each of your party members augmented by the ability to slow time to a crawl to queue up commands when things get hectic. This is unnecessary early on with only a pair of party members to control, but you quickly gain a third and eventually have a roster of seven, of which four can be in the party at once.
Combat is intensely strategic, with the need to use each character’s skills not only to kill enemies but also to slow and harass them prior to engaging in direct combat. In most battles, enemies will spawn at set points around the map, often two or three at a time, and your group is not strong enough to handle them all at once so you’ll need to use skills to slow them down. One character can create temporary stone walls that can close off chokepoints, forcing enemies to backtrack, while another character drops traps to slow enemies down, and another can summon a tree-like guardian that’s surprisingly durable. Each skill is tied to a cooldown, so you can’t simply go all Bob the Builder and wall in enemies until it’s convenient to deal with them.
If that wasn’t enough, you’ll also need to constantly manage your group’s positioning – not only to move them out of the ‘bad things are about to happen here’ giant red dots that indicate an incoming attack, but also to break line of sight with enemies or make them choose alternate routes through the environment. If the battle hasn’t gone your way and a few party members have fallen, you can even use the environment to keep enemies pursuing you while you whittle away their health – a tactic from real-time strategy and massively multiplayer games called kiting.
The game isn’t all spent in the depths of the tower, however, with a hub area that contains buildings like a blacksmith and barracks. Along with the typical equipment crafting and enchantment, this area also allows you to manage your party upgrades – each skill has a skill tree associated with it to let you tweak them to how you want to play. The stone wall, for example, can be modified to be a longer half-wall that no longer blocks line of sight or ranged attacks, or to have a magical slowing effect added.
I had a blast fighting my way through the tower, running into difficulty spikes that forced me to learn new combat tactics, and winding my way through a storyline – told in a combination of in-game books and encounters with the Tower Avatar that often left me with more questions than answers.
What I Loved:
- Great combat system with tons of strategy
- Skill system adds depth and variety
- Solid story
What I Liked:
- Graphics are serviceable, with some high points to balance out the lows
- Town management adds some ‘out of combat’ depth
- Good character management/development
- Well-done port to controller-based controls
What I Disliked:
- Some minor performance issues
What I Hated:
Tower of Time reviewed on Xbox One X using code provided by the publisher.