I once built a tower of guns when I was around 8 or 9. Taking every action figure in my (frankly mammoth) collection and stripping them of their accessories, I created my own little weapons cache in a corner of my bedroom. There was no real point to it, I just wanted to see how high all the little guns would reach when stacked on top of each other – not very, was the answer. In a weird way, Terrible Posture Games’ Tower of Guns feels as though it was built on the same principle of piling a load of fun elements together (guns, loot, stuff to blow up) and then seeing what happens. There isn’t any consistent back-story to it, in fact on one play-through the narrator made a great nod to the overblown exposition of more naval-gazing FPS’s like Bioshock. Instead, the tower just seems to exist to be conquered. As with many rogue-likes, you find yourself starting afresh as a new character each time you die (and by God will you die a lot!) with your choice of gun and one perk (your only tools) with which to shoot, run and circle-strafe your way through the tower.
It’s a tower that is never the same twice though. Each level consists of a series of rooms to traverse before tackling a boss robot. Every one of these rooms is randomly generated, not just the inhabitants and loot, so no two sessions are the same. It can take a little getting used to, particularly when doors are placed in unexpected positions, but I’ve yet to encounter a broken room that I cannot escape. When you see the complexity of some of the environments, it’s really quite amazing.
The gunplay itself is clearly influenced by the PC shooters of old with the handful of guns initially on offer each providing satisfying feedback and the ability to upgrade them as you make your way up the tower. The speed you charge around the levels with harks back to the glory days of Unreal Tournament while the drab and oppressive interiors feel like the demonic offspring of Quake and Borderlands. As someone who misses this old style of shooter tremendously, the game is a joy to be let loose in and some of the weapon upgrades (not to mention hidden weapons) give the Cerebral Bore from Turok 2 a run for its money as my favourite method of death-dealing in an FPS.
There are a few issues on the performance front though. ToG relies heavily on sheer weight of numbers in order to provide spectacle, and it largely succeeds. Unfortunately, once you reach points with dozens upon dozens of enemies charging about, using certain weapons that release insane numbers of projectiles can result in quite a bit of slow-down. It’s not game-breaking by any means but it can become a little frustrating.
The music did start to grate after a little while as well and is a slightly missed opportunity. A game as bombastic as ToG feels as though it should be set to some kick-ass power-rock anthems. Instead, ToG goes for slightly unsettling synth background music which felt like a good fit at first when I had no idea what was going on, but eventually doesn’t match up with the action on screen once you settle in to the game’s rhythm and are more tooled-up than John Matrix.
They’re minor quibbles though and only stand out because the core mechanics of the game feel so right. I’ve just ended my 11th run and have yet to break the beast, but I’m keen to go back for more. There’s always the promise of a random weapon upgrade that changes everything being just one loot drop away. In fact the developer themselves describe it as the perfect lunch-hour game and it’s hard to argue with that. After a testing day at work, a quick 20-minute blast through a few levels on ToG can be just the thing to unwind. Hell, after a particularly bad day at the start of the week, many of the Hug-Bots felt my wrath. I felt no remorse but did soon pay for my brutality as the difficulty level goes up for every one of the lovable little droids that you slaughter. It’s this combination of depth and dark humour that separates ToG from a lot of the other rogue-likes out there and I recommend that anyone who’s a fan of classic PC shooters to give it a go.