Big AAA-shooters are all the rage these days, with Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Titanfall, and Destiny grabbing all the attention on the show floor today at E3. However, sometimes you just want an old-school experience, one that harkens back to classic shooters such as Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein. Thankfully, this year’s Indiecade has offered such a game, and that game is Tower of Guns.
Developed by Terrible Posture Games,Tower of Guns is a fast-paced, twitch first-person shooter that immediately evokes nostalgia for the ‘90s classics. Levels take place in foreboding yet wide open industrial interiors, almost immediately beginning with a relentless assault from a wide variety of robots and other death machines meant to kill you as efficiently as possible. Unlike today’s cover-based first-person shooters, however, Tower of Guns relies on quick movements, solid reflexes and lots of strafing to make it out alive.
Tower of Guns’ retro sensibilities were enough to sell me on the product, but its rogue-like design elements and randomly generated levels and enemy placement add a whole new layer of uniqueness and replayability. Like other rogue-likes such as Binding of Isaac, FTL, and Dwarf Fortress, death is permanent in Tower of Guns, prompting the player to restart with a whole new set of levels to try it all over again. Terrible Posture Games' head Joe Mirabello was quick to clarify that the levels are not fully randomly generated, instead composited from a selection of 30 already designed maps, but the levels felt different and distinct enough to keep me engaged during my time with the game.
One of the most refreshing things about Tower of Guns is its challenge. This is not a game that holds you by the hand. At first, I grew frustrated at the multiple deaths I faced early on in each playthrough, but I quickly found myself not only growing accustomed to the game’s high level of challenge, but having fun in my failure, and pushing myself to try even harder.
This was easy to do with the wide variety of weapons and perks to choose from at the beginning of each play-through. My demo only had three weapons available: a standard pistol, a standard shotgun, and a gun that shoots buzz-saws (think Dead Space). However, the final product will feature 10 weapons to choose from, all of which can be upgraded to be more powerful and gain new abilities in each playthrough. On top of that, second “attributes” can be found and attached to weapons throughout the game. For example, a shotgun’s “scatter” attribute can be applied to a pistol, keeping the pistol's range but adding the power of the shotgun. I didn’t get the chance to see all the combinations of weapon attributes the game has to offer (though the official description states that you can have a "rocket-launching shotgun"), but depending on how it’s implemented, this simple mechanic can provide near endless variety to the gunplay in the game.
Tower of Guns is currently being developed exclusively for Windows, though Mirabello hopes to be able to port it to Mac if the project proves to be a success. Mirabello also stated he’d like to explore the possibility of bringing the game to home consoles in the future, but it’s not a focus at the moment. Of course, one of the most revered aspects of '90s shooters is classic deathmatch, but Tower of Guns is being developed as an offline, single-player experience. "I think [multiplayer] is a bit over my head at the moment," said Mirabello, who is developing the game all by himself. However, Mirabello did not rule out perhaps bringing multiplayer of some form to the game post-release (although it's unlikely).
I’ve grown cynical of first-person shooters over the last few years, but Tower of Guns has reignited my enthusiasm for the genre. Tower of Guns is currently only about 20% complete, according to Mirabello, but is currently available for pre-order and is playable in its "pre-pre-pre-alpha state" from Terrible Posture’s website. Also, the game is currently up on Steam Greenlight.
Tower of Guns currently does not have a set release date, but Mirabello does have a deadline at least: “I plan on getting it done before the new Thief game comes out. So I won’t feel bad when I stop everything to start binging for four days on that.”