Traditional dungeon-crawl Tower of Time launches today

Tower of Time

As much as we love being told a flexible, involving story rich with flowing prose, sometimes all you want out of an RPG is the chewy, meaty exploration and combat. Tower of Time offers just that: A vast subterranean world of traps, caverns, party management, monsters, loot and all the stats you can eat. It’s been lurking in Early Access for some time, gathering unholy power, and today it threw off its shackles, launching itself upon an unsuspecting world. Word is that it’s really rather good.

At its heart, Tower of Time is a realtime-with-pause tactical RPG in the style of the classic Icewind Dale series. Less story-focused than adventures such as Baldur’s Gate or Pillars of Eternity, but this allows extra focus on the combat mechanics. Tower of Time in particular has larger-scale battles than many RPGs of this sort, with some encounters playing out over near-RTS-like scales, with massive swarms of enemies requiring dividing and conquering in equal measure.

John went for a spot of dungeon-spelunking with Tower of Time back in August of last year, and returned to the surface with a grin on his face. Going in with little in the way of expectations, he found a genuinely rewarding and complex game that you wouldn’t expect from a debuting independent studio still hard at work on development. He was especially fond of the JRPG-esque decision to have battles take place on separate, semi-random combat maps.

So pleased was he with this early, unfinished version of the game that he slapped a shiny gold RPS recommendation sticker on it. Even as it stood back then it was well worth playing, and skimming the exhaustively massive update notes for the game since last year, it seems safe to assume that Tower of Time is significantly bigger, better and more polished now.

The past year has brought a lot of change to the game. Notable milestones since the review include a major graphical overhaul, new core types of combat encounter, many more hours of story content and the addition of slow or pause-time modes, which were absent at the time of John’s initial review although he found himself able to keep up with the game in full real-time mode.

We’ll see if we can’t coax John back into the mega-dungeon for some sort of official review revision sometime after Rezzed, but considering the high praise he had for the game even back then, this seems like a solid pick for folks who wanted something a little more chunky and systems-driven than recent RPGs like Pillars of Eternity or Torment: Tides of Numenera.

Tower of Time is out now via Steam for £19.50/$25.

21 Comments

  1. DeepSleeper says:

    I wasn’t sure about this at first, as I like my dungeon crawls first-person. But something about that trailer just makes me want to give it a shot anyway. I’ll wishlist this for later I think.

  2. Scrote says:

    This looks like it is so up my alley it could rip the pearls off my mother’s neck and then shoot her and my dad, leaving me a very angry orphan. Based on John’s impressions, and how it seems to have turned out I am adding this little batarang to my collection.

  3. Nolenthar says:

    Shame about the JRPG elements, god I hate JRPGs. Look solid otherwise, I’ll wait the full review as I understand a lot have changed since the initial wot I think

    • LexW1 says:

      There are no “JRPG elements”.

      The only thing even vaguely comparable to a JRPG is that the battles take place on a different map to the main map, which is not something unique to JRPGs, it’s just an easy comparison to make.

      The article is a bit misleading in another way though:

      “Less story-focused than adventures such as Baldur’s Gate or Pillars of Eternity, but this allows extra focus on the combat mechanics.”

      “this seems like a solid pick for folks who wanted something a little more chunky and systems-driven than recent RPGs like Pillars of Eternity or Torment: Tides of Numenera.”

      First-off, comparing Pillars of Eternity and Torment is utterly bizarre. They’re chalk and cheese mechanically, so I’m not sure why they’re mentioned together.

      Second-off, mechanically, in terms of characters, abilities, enemies, items and so on, Pillars and particularly Pillars 2 (out in May) are more complex and in-depth than Tower of Time, and I would say thus more “chunky”. Tower of Time is quite comparable, mechanically, to another recent Obsidian game, Tyranny.

      HOWEVER, the big difference absolutely isn’t complex mechanics as the article implies, it’s the complexity of the tactical situations, number of enemies and sustained length of the fights, combined with more-limited resources. What ToT does use more simple enemies, but more of them, and they keep coming, and you have quite limited resources to stop them, so you have to get it right.

      The article is also wrong in that it’s not (unless they patched it very recently) Real-time-with-pause.

      There is no pause.

      Instead there’s a super-slo-mo, which again makes it distinct from the other games. You cannot just stop and think about things and queue up a ton of stuff then say “GO!”. You need to actually manage things on the fly.

      ToT is an excellent game, note, to be clear.

      • Cranleyboy says:

        LexW1 – Good news is that they did add a full pause feature in the final version so there is indeed Arrow-Time slo-mo AND the ability to completely pause.

      • ColonelFlanders says:

        RPS isn’t the only one drawing those same comparisons with PoE and Torment etc – they are all over the place, so there must be something there that warrants it. I’ve not played the game yet but I’d say it looks a lot like a CRPG to me.

        Also the “JRPG mechanics” thing was clear enough that I knew what he meant straight away. Most (read:almost all) JRPGs commence battle on a different plane to the overworld. It may not be a u ique characteristic to them, but that is pretty much the first thing one thinks of when they’re mentioned.

      • Ergates_Antius says:

        “First-off, comparing Pillars of Eternity and Torment is utterly bizarre. They’re chalk and cheese mechanically, so I’m not sure why they’re mentioned together.”
        They’re mentioned together to highlight the differences, not to suggest they’re similar.

        • Dominic Tarason says:

          Exactly. Those are arguably prose-first games (right down to having big illustrated Choose Your Own Adventure segments) whereas this is a bit closer to Icewind Dale in structure – a complex party-driven dungeon crawl where story takes a backseat (not that there’s a shortage of lore) to mechanically interesting encounters.

  4. TormDK says:

    Oh, nice! I hope they fixed the bug I encountered in the Early access that stopped me from progressing.

    Will have to get back into it :) It was a pretty decent experience so far.

  5. Bombuzal says:

    Reminds me of the original Dungeon Siege, which I loved.

    If it’s less than £10, sold!!

    Ps.. I wish login didn’t take me to profile page but rather brought me back to the article I was reading.

  6. Maxheadroom says:

    got a well earned week off coming up and looking for a decent RPG to chill out and lose myself in.
    Figured id pick up Pillars of Eternity II but the more i see of it, namely the very stop-start micromanagement heavy combat and frankly tedious looking ship to ship combat, is putting me off.
    Should i give this one a shot instead?

    • Maxheadroom says:

      edit just to clarify, im not after a Diablo 3 style click fest, a more tactical approach to combat is fine but all the PoE2 videos ive seen consist of someone pausing the action every 0.3 seconds to click on a bunch of abilities and it totally ruins the flow of combat

      • Troubletcat says:

        PoE played very similar to Baldur’s Gate in this regard. You can pause every round if you want, but you don’t necessarily have to. I haven’t played PoE2, but I’m assuming mechanically it’ll be fairly similar to the first and to Tyranny, in which case…

        If you played BG or BG2 and were fine with how combat flowed in those games, you’ll probably also be fine with how combat flows in PoE.

        If you haven’t played BG or BG2 and are looking for a good RPG, for goodness’ sake, pick up Baldur’s Gate! (Beamdog’s Enhanced Edition is fine, although purists would recommend you get the original version)

        • Maxheadroom says:

          oh yeah im old school, played and finished Baldurs Gate the first time round :)

          Thanks for reminding me Tyranny is a thing too. Liked what i saw of that in a preview ages ago then forgot all about it. Can probably pick that up for cheap now i imagine so thats another option

          • Troubletcat says:

            Personally I’d recommend Tyranny over PoE – it’s a lot tighter and more focused story-wise, and for me was just the right length, whereas PoE felt like it dragged a fair bit in the second half. But I think it’s mostly a personal preference thing. Either way, both games really feel quite similar to BG mechanically – they’re true chips off the cRPG block.

        • PuppySwarm says:

          Stop saying PoE… PoE = Path of Exile which has been around long long before Pillars.

          • Troubletcat says:

            I also play Path of Exile! They share an acronym by coincidence. I’m sorry if that annoys you.

          • ColonelFlanders says:

            2 years isn’t long long in my book. I’m afraid you’re going to have to let go of your acronym, because the Pillars PoE People (The PPP if you will) will not back down.

          • caff says:

            Plunkbat.

  7. Jdopus says:

    I have to say, this game didn’t really scratch the CRPG itch for me in any way. It’s not a bad game, but I found it to play not at all like Icewind Dale, Baldur’s Gate or any of their successors.

    The best way I can think to describe the combat is that it almost ends up playing out in a way closer to a defence game than an RPG. Your heroes have 4 active abilities and auto-attack within a circle around themselves. Combat involves fighting off lots of waves of repetitive enemies in an arena map coming from different angles and moving your heroes and using their abilities in a way to respond to each new wave.

    I didn’t really enjoy the combat, so the game unfortunately wasn’t for me. It’s well made, but it doesn’t play much like a CRPG.

  8. Archie Lock says:

    Tower of Time drew me in like few recent crpgs managed to.

    Yes, it’s very combat-focused, and you’ll spend most of your time playing a strange but efficient rpg/tower defense hybrid, but the exposition and world-building are remarkable. More focused and organic than Torment ToN in that regard. There is a genuine sense of mystery and progression, and a few choices along the way, so for me it scratched that story-driven rpg itch in a very unique way.

    Its balance of story and combat reminded me of Icewind Dale, but the devs managed to make a game with its own distinctive feel, good focused writing and original mechanics. I’d recommend it to any rpg fan.

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