Newly launched on the Xbox, with a PS4 version currently on Playstation Plus and a PC version having launched on Steam early in March, Tower of Guns is somewhat of a roguelike FPS with randomised battle rooms, a choice of ten weapons and many different perks, and permadeath.
As you load up each game you choose a weapon and a perk. The weapons are mostly what you’d expect from any FPS, just with more exciting names. You only begin with two but after completing some (unfortunately not too exciting) challenges you can unlock up to ten. The perks include things like the ability to triple jump or be immune to lava. Once you’ve decided on a setup for this run, you load into a familiar looking room, shoot the door and head out into a randomised level. In your path will be floating spike orbs, giant cannons, turrets that fly like Daleks and even little robots that just want to hug you. You don’t need to kill any of them, you can just run through until you get to the boss room if you like, but if you do kill them and explore a little you’ll be able to upgrade your gun (by collecting blue orbs), get some health, or get money which can be spent at a number of little booths for a single item. The items might give you a special powerup that takes time to recharge or give you a new ability or perk for that run. At the end of each level there’s a boss who’ll drop another item, and then you move on up to the next level to try your luck again.
Should your health run down to zero, that’s it, your dead. Anything you gained is lost with the exception of any weapon or perk unlocks from completing the challenges. There’s also a mocking counter after each life that counts the number of deaths you’ve been through. Sadly there’s no exciting description or replay of how you died, no leaderboards, nothing really to work for other than the push to try and get a little further. Even that’s stifled after a while as you realise you can get to the end after an hour or two and once you have some of the movements down and start recognising rooms as they repeat it’s not a particularly difficult game. This lack of any kind of real progression or target destroys the possible fun that Binding of Isaac managed to capture so well. There’s much less of a reason to have ‘one more go’ in Tower of Guns, especially when the opening levels are so dull and there’s so few enemy types.
The controls feel quite similar to Borderlands with very floaty jumps and a weird disconnect from the world around you. Bits of geometry stick out but can’t be jumped on, grinders clip through the scenery, enemies don’t seem to have any real AI other than point towards you and shoot. We understand this is intended to be a simple mindless game, but it really does take the mindless aspect too far and ends up as meaningless and pointless. The developer suggest it’s meant to be able to be completed in your lunch break but we’re not convinced that this is a selling point for a game. Binding of Isaac can be completed relatively quickly, but then it also has incredible depth to its secrets and item combinations. The original Super Mario Bros can be completed in practically no time at all, but it’s difficult and rewards precise gameplay. Tower of Guns is short and easy which isn’t a great combination if you’re paying for a game.
We enjoyed about an hour of our time with Tower of Guns, then after that it felt entirely like a slog to see if there was any more fun to be had with the game. There wasn’t. If you’re really into old-school FPS games you might enjoy mastering it to try and get the best times or take no damage, but without leaderboards there’s very little point.