First person shooters have undergone many changes with their growing popularity since the 1990s. Games like Halo, Borderlands, Call of Duty, and Portal have all pushed the genre to grow and evolve past the tropes that were rampant among many 90s shooter shooting games. But sometimes it’s good to just fall into the simple nature of just shooting everything in sight. Games like Doom 3, Bulletstorm, and Serious Sam have all maintained the likeable elements of the simple “shoot everything” approach to the genre with some first-person platforming. But not every game does well in replicating what these classics have done for us before, as is the case with Tower of Guns.
Tower of Guns is a first person shooter with a setup that is exactly what the title implies, ascending up a tower of guns. And that is that… nothing more or less to anyone’s expectations. There is barely a story here to take in, despite the game’s humorous text that appears every now and then. The pull here is the fast paced and over-the-top shooting most would find in PC games, notably in titles like Unreal Tournament and Quake. You begin your game on the ground floor of a tower and begin moving through level after level towards the top, destroying all sorts of gun and turret machinations along the way. Along the path you can pick up various power-ups that modify your abilities, such as how much damage you deal with your gun, how high or how many times you can jump, and even secondary abilities that manipulate the physics of the environment.
The controls of Tower of Guns are much like modern shooters, but yet have the smoothness and rapid reaction of PC games in the genre. Unlike other FPS games however, Tower of Guns is constantly changing each time you die or boot up the game. There is an RNG style generated level design, where things randomly change every time you play. Don’t expect to have continuous progress as other FPS games however, as there are no checkpoints in any of the stages. Once you die, you go right back to stage one and have to work your way up all over again. Your death count is tallied by a counter at the end of each game while any guns and abilities you unlock are saved for each time you start anew. This approach is very reminiscent of games like Rogue Legacy, which have a similar approach to failing and restarting a game. For those who are unaccustomed to this, it can be very frustrating to be put into situations where you are killed in a cheap fashion and then lose all the progress you’ve made over an extended period of time.
This all leads to Tower of Guns’ issue of unbalanced difficulty, mostly due to confusing and unfair level design and poorly programmed enemies. There are moments where facing groups of enemies will be super easy and require almost no effort at all, possibly due to glitches and bugs that will pop up every now and then in some areas. But as you continue through a stage, the difficulty can ramp up incredibly high without warning and leave you at a huge disadvantage. Even more so is the frequency of some power-ups that end up being completely unobtainable due to a stage’s layout. Some important power-ups will appear when you destroy an enemy on a very high platform you just can’t reach.
Tower of Guns has more than a few graphical problems that are just embarrassing. You will end up finding yourself getting a game over and having to restart many times because of the game’s visuals. Some areas have invisible barriers that prevent movement and cause a weird glitch that repeats the walking audio over and over again. It’s incredibly annoying and awkward when it happens. There are spots in levels where you can view through solid walls and see nothing but empty space and cropped off textures in the distance. The character models of enemies you fight are poorly rendered out and sometimes can resemble the stage around you way too closely, causing you to mistake them for a pipe or platform in the stage. In one section of the game where the lighting is darkened for dramatic effect, enemies will kill you from a far distance because of no visual cue to recognize, due to the poorly lit area and terribly rendered out models.
Tower of Guns is a benchmark of what has come and gone with the first person shooter genre. We all love games that give us a chance to simply have fun shooting everything around us, but only when most of its aspects are handled well. Too many issues hamper Tower of Guns from being something to enjoy, let alone want to play through over and over again through its randomly generated stages. There are plenty of collectibles and secrets to unlock and discover as you play, but you may not find yourself wanting to do so after a few sessions. If you like shooters then you may find something to like playing through Tower of Guns. However, there just aren’t enough good things here to love about the game to make anyone want to come back.
This review was based on a digital copy of Tower of Guns on the Xbox One provided by Terrible Posture Games.