Tower of Fantasy Review
There’s an expectation with games to sell themselves with a title. Never judge a book by its cover? Well, never judge a videogame by its title, because Tower of Fantasy would make you assume it’s swords and magic, when it’s actually science fantasy, rather than high fantasy. You’d get that from the screenshots, but certainly not the name.
Tower of Fantasy is a free-to-play open world, role-playing game with an optional multiplayer element. You’re perfectly free to run around doing things by yourself, but you can also have others join you if you wish. While I saw other players wandering around doing things in the world, I didn’t join up with any of them. That did hinder me in some ways, however, as there are multiple world puzzles that require more than one person to solve.
The story is that these giant towers were constructed long ago to gather an element called Omnium. Unfortunately, something went wrong with them and the Omnium began turning humans into monsters. Some people left the surface, but others didn’t. To survive in the environment, special Suppressors were developed which protect people from the effects of Omnium, so long as they’re charged and functioning properly. You play someone who has amnesia after their Suppressor ran out of power, and shortly after being helped by the people of Astra Outpost the Omnium towers are reactivated…
You’re slowly introduced to Tower of Fantasy’s world and various missions will send you to all corners looking for a rare element needed to shut down each tower. There are a variety of biomes to explore and you gather relics to help you do just that. You also unlock vehicles such as a motorbike which you can use whenever you’re not in combat. All vehicles handle the same, but speeds seem to vary in races — although that may be due to players upgrading their vehicles more than I had.
Relics have cooldowns between uses, but you can upgrade them to give you more uses or decrease the cooldown time. The first one you unlock is a jetpack which can launch you into the sky, but also slow your descent — ideal since there is fall damage in this game. It decreases your stamina as you glide, but so long as you have enough stamina you can keep equipping it in midair. Other relics include combat items such as a mech suit and lava bombs, but not all of them can be unlocked very easily. You’ll need to collect relic shards through completing challenges, doing training, or doing one of the seven different types of “go somewhere and fight”.
I’ll admit that while there’s quite a variety of things to do, most of them are just going somewhere and fighting. Sometimes solo, sometimes with a team, and usually with a different type of loot or reward at the end, but it always involves a fight. They all have different names; Bygone Phantasm, Apex League, Dimensional Trials, Spacetime Domain, Void Rifts… Some of them are arena fights, others require a bit of running from point A to point B before (or whilst) fighting. You really should try them out, if only for the weekly rewards.
Another thing you’ll find when exploring the world of Tower of Fantasy are the number of treasure chests. While I haven’t been able to confirm it, I’m almost certain that the normal chests reset every week, because I’m sure I’ve collected some of them multiple times. That’s not a bad thing, I like loot, but it is just the normal chests. There are special chests that only unlock when you’ve defeated a guardian, but those are definitely one-offs. A third type of treasure chest is locked and requires a “password device” to unlock, and those definitely do respawn as there is a weekly challenge to open 10 of them. I’ll usually explore and open treasure chests when I’m playing on my phone, because I prefer combat when playing with mouse & keyboard on my PC.
One of my favourite things to find in treasure chests are Dream Machines. These give you a random challenge and a time limit to complete it in, though if you fail you can just retry it whenever you like, as from what I can tell Dream Machines stay there until you go back and finish them. Why I like them is because they are a challenge that isn’t just a fight. Before sitting down to write this I had one that was a side-scrolling platformer — collect the shinies before reaching the end — it was great. Another favourite is a maze which I’ve had multiple times and I think I’ve got the routes to the shinies down to memory now, but there’s a second type of maze where you have to find a route around falling floor tiles! Clearly, I quite like the Dream Machines. But some of them do have combat challenges…
Alright, I’ll talk about it, combat in Tower of Fantasy is a bit of a mixed bag for me. This being a free-to-play game from Asia, it has a gacha element. This takes the form of weapons, and some weapons come with a Simulacrum (more on those in a moment). There are multiple (at time of writing, six, but usually four) gacha running at any one time, each requiring different tokens that can be bought with in-game currency. Some tokens can be found or obtained in game, but those gacha obviously don’t have the best drop rates. This is a long way to say that finding a decent weapon isn’t an easy task.
You can equip three weapons at once and switch between them freely. Attacking enemies will build up a special meter which allows you to unleash a devastating attack. Dodging just before an enemy attacks will create a field of paused time as well as charge your special meter. Each weapon also has a special attack which has a cooldown. I’m probably making it sound more complicated than it actually is, things go pretty smoothly and each weapon type feels distinct. In fact, my main issue is probably that it never seems to get easier. My secondary issue is that performance could be improved on PC, but it's a fairly minor gripe.
As your character levels up, so do the enemies. In some of the side stuff you encounter lower levelled ones, but if you head over to the distant Warren Snowfield as soon as you start the game you’ll encounter enemies the same level as outside the starting area Astra Shelter. The higher your level, the higher you can upgrade your weapons, but it’s always a struggle to obtain enough materials to do that, so you have to pick and choose which weapons you improve. You also have equipment such as helmets and bracers that can be upgraded to improve your base stats, but again the materials required aren’t exactly in abundance.
While Tower of Fantasy boasts some pretty good face and hair customisation options, your clothing options are limited. You can dye certain parts of the clothing, but you’ll only have access to a handful of options. However, these are augmented by the Simulacra which give you access to the decent weapons. They make you look and sound like some of the different characters you’ll meet around the world which can be a nice change — as a fan of Melissa Fahn I do enjoy using Ene, if not her ice hammer weapon. The Simulacra aren’t only for looks, however, as you can awaken them by giving gifts, which unlock abilities. For instance, Ene’s first awakened ability at 1200 points will slightly reduce how much stamina is used while climbing. The highest amount of points one gift can give is 60.
I’ve just mentioned Ene’s voice, so I might as well comment on Tower of Fantasy’s audio next. All of the voice acting is excellent and suits each character well. The music is decent with some memorable tracks as well as one slightly annoying one you will encounter as part of the story.
The graphics do pretty well for themselves, especially since they have to look good on PC and mobile devices. Having played on both, I have no complaints. There is some slight pop-in of certain graphics on PC, but since you can see glowing crates from a distance on mobile I’m perfectly happy with how it all looks. If you hate anime-styled games, honestly I’m surprised you’ve read this far, because this is not the game for you.
Honestly, I’ve kept putting off writing this review because I kept wanting to play Tower of Fantasy. It scratches an itch that similar free-to-play games haven’t managed, and I put that down to the open world. There is treasure hidden all over the place in this game, I cannot stress that enough. I avoid using fast travel because I know I’ll probably miss 3-4 chests along the way. While combat isn’t my favourite part, there is plenty to do without having to fight, and you can upgrade past level 50 without spending any money. I know that from experience, as I didn’t get any special perks while writing this review.
Tower of Fantasy is a fun time with a good story and some spectacular open world settings. If it didn’t stutter so much when loading after a fast travel or exiting an arena, it would be impossible to not recommend. As it stands, it’s just highly recommended, especially since it’s free-to-play and doesn’t aggressively try to make you pay for things.
Tower of Fantasy (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
A really good free-to-play open world game that’s easy to recommend to solo players or groups of friends.