Tower of Guns is a first person shooter roguelike game that aims to let the player spend hours running, jumping and shooting through randomly generated rooms and enemies. It is quite remarkable how this game, which was developed by one man, achieves this goal.
What Are We Doing Here?
If you are looking for a narrative experience, I cannot recommend Tower of Guns to you. Each time a new game is started or a new floor is reached, a small text window pops up with various characters interacting through dialog text that hints at a story. I honestly tried reading these text boxes during my first several playthroughs, but eventually started jumping right into the action of the game. There is even an option to turn off these “story” instances and I cannot say you would be missing out on the best part of the game if you turned them off.
The story does its best to explain why the player is fighting up floor by floor through the aptly named Tower of Guns. Why the player does this is of little matter, and the reason that I continued to do so myself had everything to do with the bombastic level design and throwback controls and nothing to do with the motivations of the character I played.
I can’t even tell you honestly whether the protagonist is a human, robot, or amorphous gelatinous beast because you never get to look at your character model. There is a metallic clanking noise as you walk, so I am inclined to believe that you might be playing a robot but your guess is as good as mine.
Before each game, the player selects a weapon and perk before starting a new game. There are many different guns to choose from including a pitiful starting pistol, a bouncing buzz-saw firing gun, a slow heavy explosive round cannon, a scattershot weapon, and many more. These weapons promote specific playstyles and unlocking new guns and playing with them adds variety from game to game. I found that guns start off firing very slowly with very weak damage. Killing enemies will cause them to drop weapon XP which levels your weapon over time. Reaching the max level of 5 doesn’t take very long and I was able to max my gun before clearing a single floor depending on the perk I chose. A maxed out weapon will fire faster, bullets will move faster and also cause much more damage.
There are many different guns to choose from…
Perks range in effect from the simple “start each game with triple jump,” to the powerful “upgrades drop more often and are more powerful.” It is important to choose a weapon and perk that compliment each other, though there seem to be some perks that simply outperform others. Not taking fall damage pales in comparison to being able to max my weapon before reaching the second room on the first floor.
Kill All the Guns!
Once you have picked your loadout, you are set loose on the Tower of Guns. You enter a room which locks you in after entry with a variety of enemies, the most common of which are turrets of many shapes and sizes. Other enemy types include flying saws and mines that will chase you around the level trying to damage
you, flying gun turrets that will surround you and end your life quickly with a barrage of purple gunfire, and flying tanks that can take and dish out heaps of damage before being destroyed. Once the player defeats or runs past the enemies in a room, a locked door to the next room can be shot open and the process is repeated. After clearing several rooms, the player will engage in a boss fight that signifies the end of a floor and then rides an elevator up to the next floor where the player begins again.
This sounds simple because it is, but remember that each playthrough of Tower of Guns is different. There are several different themes that a floor can have including a forge floor with molten metal pouring down the walls that will kill you, a mechanical floor with rotating cogs and elevator platforms that make traversing the levels interesting, and more. Even when elements of certain rooms are used again at a later time, enemy type and placement is different, making clearing the room feel different though familiar. Hidden items can vary from badges that will increase the difficulty, to weapon effects like autofire and vampiric rounds. The bonuses that the player finds or doesn’t find during a playthrough will have a large impact on how far or quickly a session lasts.
…remember that each playthrough of Tower of Guns is different.
Some rooms have platforming sections requiring the player to use jump boosts, lift beams, and blocks that slow the player without causing fall damage. These elements are often enjoyable but I did find that rooms with heavy use of these items were sometimes more frustrating than fun, especially when these jump boosting blocks rotate or are used in areas that make them blend into their surroundings.
Clearing the entire Tower doesn’t take much time if beneficial bonuses drop from enemies and most rooms don’t have particularly difficult spawns. The game can be beaten in well under an hour, though in my experience you will likely die more often than completing the game, at least in earlier playthroughs. This is where the game shines. It rewards skilled play while also adding a random element, making each game dynamic and interesting.
There is also an Endless mode which automatically spawns the player at the start of the Tower with all upgrades in tact after finishing the final boss to begin climbing the tower again until the player dies and a Roll the Dice mode where each room has a modifier like “no XP dropped” or “quad damage.” These extra modes are interesting enough, especially Roll the Dice mode and will offer players another way to play if mixing guns and perks in normal mode loses its allure.
The controls are enjoyable and harken back to early FPS titles like Quake and Doom. Movement is fast paced and is not impacted by whether or not your feet are on the ground or you are falling through the air. Jumps feel floaty, especially as jump height increases. The controls feel very responsive. As best as I can tell, there is no aim assist in the game, or at least it is so little as to be difficult to perceive. This initially felt strange to me, but given the high number of erratically moving targets present in the game, I think that fighting aim assist would have been much more of an annoyance than a helpful tool. Also controller rumble integration, something console gamers very much take for granted, is not especially refined. I found myself jumping during intense encounters when my controller shook to the point of being noisy as I was hit by projectiles. This has not been an issue for me previously.
Lights and Sounds
The art direction in Tower of Guns is saturated cell shaded, low poly, and industrial in most areas. It reminds me very much of Borderlands, probably helped by the fact both are built in the Unreal Engine. I am a fan of the look and it is consistent throughout the game. Thematically, each floor theme is consistent to the overall tone of the game.
The sound design leaves a bit to be desired however. There is not a lot of variation to the sound effects that you will hear over and over again through a single playthrough. Gun sounds are competent, but certainly not remarkable. I found myself turning down the music volume pretty early and listening to my own music instead.
There were noticeable performance issues during particularly intense enemy encounters where dozens of projectiles and enemies are moving towards you at one time. Frame rate was steady otherwise, even during several chaotic moments. It seems that only rooms with extremely high numbers of projectiles and enemies caused drops. I did occasionally notice clipping issues as well when running into walls etc. I also had one game crash on stage 17 of an endless mode playthrough.
Tower of Guns is a game that grew on me. My first few playthroughs I thought the game had an interesting concept and controlled like games that I had not played in many years. I actually didn’t think that I was going to enjoy the game at all. But each time I got a bit further and found a few new upgrades, my enjoyment of the game grew. The first time I made it to the final boss was exciting, and perishing there did not dissuade me from picking up the game again. It may lack the polish and flash of most console shooters, but it is not without its charm. It is incredible to me that one person created it. Tower of Guns may not be for everyone, but if you have fond memories of the FPS titles from 20 years ago or are looking for a challenging but rewarding shooter experience that can be started and finished in a single evening, you might want to give this game a shot. I know that I will be returning to the Tower soon.
No story, just Guns. Get Shooting
A New Experience Every Time
On Release if you are an FPS fanatic, on sale if you’re a roguelike fan
This review was written using a review code provided by the developer/a PR agency.
** When is it worth the price? — In lieu of review scores, we opt to give our opinion on whether the game is worthy of it’s release day price, or if you should wait for a patch or a sale. **
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