Many arena games have come and went across a multitude of platforms. Although hardcore fans of the genre will find plenty of intricacies to soak up over the course of many months, the problem with a number of them is the fact that casual fans have nothing to do outside of multiplayer.
Although TowerFall: Ascension doesn’t have online capabilities, it still has plenty of legs even if you’re going at it alone. Oh, and it’s also a damn good arena game.
You may recognize the name — and that’s because it began as an Ouya exclusive. Now, it’s exclusive no more, in the form of Ascension, a souped up version with more content for the PC and PlayStation 4. To say this is the definitive version is an understatement.
So what is TowerFall? Well like many arena games it follows the “easy to pickup, difficult to master” mentality. Basically, all you have to do is shoot enemies with arrows as you manuever around various 2D arenas with built-in hazards. Sounds simple right? Well add in the fact that you only start with a few finite arrows, and things start to get more complicated.
In TowerFall, if you want to replenish your stock, you have to grab ammo from around the map — whether it’s form a corpse, wedged into a wall or what have you. You can also dash, which allows you to either slide on the ground to dodge arrows, or fly right into them to grab them out of the air. Dashing is extremely technical as you can do it from pretty much any angle and in the air — and when you master it, you start to see how deep TowerFall really is. The “Break the Target” mode from the original also returns, which helps you learn the ropes as well as provide a significant challenge with timed obstacle courses. In short, it’s a cherry on top of an already complete package.
Once you’re acclimated, you can engage in deathmatch or team deathmatch modes, with a host of options at your disposal. If you want to turn on certain power-ups, change round parameters, or turn off instant replays, you can do that — pretty much anything you can think of is an option here. As such, it prevents the game from getting stale with a group of friends, as you can custom tailor it to whatever setup you want.
The major addition to Ascension specifically is the added cast of four new characters, and the expanded Quest Mode for one or two players. The extra fighters are mainly just for aesthetic value, as everyone functions the same, but Quest Mode is a massive addition that’s worth double-dipping for. Although it’s far from a fully fledged “adventure,” this new gametype features a ton of different AI enemies within confined arenas.
While it would have been easy for TowerFall‘s developer to just mirror like-minded AI opponents to fight over and over, the game goes a cut above the rest and offers up different creatures to fight, like mindless slimes, agile ghosts, and creepy grim reapers who have a penchant for stabbing. You’ll have to develop completely new tactics on the fly in this mode, and it’s a blast to play, even by yourself. There’s a ton of content here on top of an extra difficulty mode and co-op, which gives you quite a bang for your buck.
Although I’ve played a good amount of the PC version, the PlayStation 4 port is on the block here, and I’m pleased to say that it works wonderfully on the new console. Everything has translated well visually, and the Dualshock 4 works perfectly with twitch-based games like this. If you’re looking for something to play on your shiny new system, this is a safe choice.
The magic of TowerFall is that it offers up a compelling amount of options for everyone, even if you’re going at it solo. Add in the fact that there’s a ton of multiplayer customization options and levels, and you have a winning formula for any house that has a couch and people willing to game.
This review is based on a digital copy of TowerFall Ascension for the PlayStation 4.