by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
Artara is in a bad way. The land is plagued with natural disasters, floods, droughts, famine, and the kingdoms grow ever smaller as more and more land is abandoned as untenable. So the narrator tells us in Tower of Time, first-time developer Event Horizon’s new RPG. As a boy the narrator happens upon a mysterious upside down tower, uncovered by one of many unexplained earthquakes. He travels inside and discovers a strange spirit who tells him of his destiny. The boy leaves, but he can’t take his mind from the tower. He pursues a career and becomes a militia captain in one of the remaining kingdoms, but he feels the tower calling him back, and so returns with a contingent of troops, hoping that the tower might somehow explain Artara’s gradual decline.
All of this was explained in narration, which reminded me a lot of Darkest Dungeon, in that it’s quite melancholic and focuses around the character’s obsession. While somewhat weighty in its exposition, it does act as a good intro into the game, getting you involved in the central mystery. Also accompanied by a soundtrack that reminded me of Endless Legend, in that it didn’t feel explicitly fantasy, and is kind of reminiscent of some sci-fi soundtracks.
POINT AND CLICK
Tower of Time is a point and click RPG; you navigate the tower with your party of characters, uncovering lore, examining objects and fighting enemies. All the information you receive in game (apart from the narrated cut-scenes) is through text. This text is used to give descriptions, to show dialogue between characters, to explain their thoughts and feelings and they descend further into the tower.
The sheer quantity of text-based info was a little overwhelming at first, but once I adjusted I was actually really impressed by not only the sheer quantity of detail, but how carefully it seemed to have been constructed. I didn’t notice a single mistake, which is great work with this amount of written text. The written aspect actually began to remind me of the RPG text-based adventure books I used to read, using detail to immerse you in the story.
In terms of the most original aspect of the game, the real-time combat system stands out. When beginning a fight, you approach the enemy (or they approach you) and instead of jumping straight into a battle like a classic RPG, you are given a screen summarizing the enemies you are going to face, allowing you to tailor your party to the fight. The combat almost plays out like a tower defence game, enemies will approach your party and you must deal with them, using a variety of combat abilities, but also by using obstacles to separate them, protect your party, or slow their approach. It’s a simple formula, but it adds a surprising amount of variation once you factor in abilities. We’ve seen a lot more party based strategy games delving into real time recently, Wartile for example, and this is another welcome innovation. The combat didn’t bowl me over, but it’s interesting enough and I do appreciate their use of real-time rather than just opting for traditional turn-based.
There’s a lots to like about Tower of Time; for me something I appreciated was the way Artara’s descent into destruction was described and seems almost inevitable, which reminded me fondly of The Banner Saga. And like The Banner Saga, I will be curious to see how Tower of Time develops over the course of its series; to see the ways that it might innovate further, but a part of me can’t help but hope Artara is another doomed world, like Aurelia from Endless Legend. Tower of Time isn’t a massively ground-breaking game, but is a solid addition to the RPG genre, consistent with itself and impressive for a first time development. So if you’re looking for a new RPG, don’t mind reading or point and click dungeon crawling, then Artara might just be for you.
Original combat system, good level of detail, good soundtrack.
Perhaps too heavy in text-based exposition, point and click dungeon crawling feels a bit clunky at times.