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Tower of Guns Review: Building A Better Roguelike
Roguelikes are all the rage these days with their randomly generated quick burst of gameplay formula finding great popularity through both mobile gamers and PC audiences. In spite of being a subgenre with a history of being neglected by developers, more and more roguelike games are showing up on Steam each week. Everything from roguelike space games to roguelike platformers have found their way into gamers hands over the last few years and Tower of Guns is the next logical step in this trend with Terrible Posture Games’ self-proclaimed “lunchbreak shooter” aiming to marry the quick-burst first person shooting of old school FPS games like DOOM with the length and difficulty of roguelikes like The Binding of Isaac.
Much like the older style of first person shooter the game throws homage to, Tower of Guns is relatively light on setup. Whichever one of the game’s randomly assigned storylines you end up with, the goal is the same – fight your way up the titular Tower to reach and defeat the final boss at the top. There’s a good amount of variety and quirkiness to each of the plotlines (one of them begins with a delivery boy called out to the tower while another takes the form of a conversation between the game’s developer and his brother) and while none of the possible storylines are particularly dramatically or emotionally gripping, they are all quite well written and help cultivate the desire to see the Tower of Guns through to the end – crucial for a roguelike.
While at its heart a first person shooter, it would be best to sum it up as a fusion of DOOM 2 and The Binding of Isaac with a whole bunch of gun modification thrown in. Before starting a game players pick a starting weapon and perk. While there’s nothing super original in terms of the weaponry in Tower of Guns, each weapon is fun to use and comes with a fun name and description to it. The more time players spend with Tower of Guns the more guns and perks they gain access to, however it’s once you pick up momentum and start improving your weapon by leveling up and equipping weapon mods that the combat really takes off. It’s usually by stage four or five that the power of your weapons truly begins to snowball and the action becomes really empowering from there on. This later stages where you feel truly powerful becomes all the more compelling as even a string of the most simplistic mistakes could send you back to the tower’s foyer.
You don’t just improve your character through weapon mods but also power-ups that improve and build on your base abilities in fun ways. There’s a ton of variety here with power-ups ranging from statistical improvements like health and speed improvements to more mechanical boons such as the coveted triple jump and deployable shields. While the levels, enemies and loot you find in the tower is all randomly generated, the room layouts themselves aren’t randomized, so the more of the game you play, the much quicker you get at progressing. Power-ups, items and weapon mods are all far from scarce and this combines to give players a fun experience that marries the quick burst gameplay of old school shooters to the “high risk, high reward” mechanics of roguelikes.
While the visual elements of Tower of Guns aren’t exactly going to become the new standard for graphical fidelity, they do have a nice quirky consistency to them. Everything has an excited and exaggerated cartoonish look to it and works well in combination with the writing and soundtrack. The sound effects on the weapons are a good example of this – they don’t sound like you would expect them to but still manage to sound recognizable.
Like many of its roguelike brethren, Tower of Guns isn’t an especially long game but it makes up for this in difficulty level. Enemies move and shoot very quickly and if you don’t move faster, Tower of Guns can be quite difficult to make any progress in. Similarly, the design of the enemies and levels also hearkens back to an older time where there was no such thing as too many spikes or lasers. The boss battles show this off just as well as the more mundane foes and they also often incorporate arenas that are constantly shrinking in size – which can make the boss stages quite compelling.
A review copy of the game was provided by the developer.