If you’ve been following coverage of Tower of Fantasy and, most especially, if you’ve read and watched my gameplay previews, there is no secret that I, along with many others, have become enamored with Tower of Fantasy. However, a preview is not, nor should it be, a review. Multiplayer online games change drastically on launch, and while I’ve had ample experience in Tower of Fantasy in the preview build, nothing could have prepared me their launch experience.
I still have a long way to go in Tower of Fantasy. As of this article, I sit at a developer-mandated level 24. Yes, you read that right. During my preview test, time-gated progressions was prevalent. Due to the solo-nature of the preview, and lack of any urgency to experience all of the content, it really wasn’t much of a detriment. In the live game, time-gated progression is nothing if not detrimental – at least to those that wish to play the game. The time-gates are broken up by story arcs initially. After the first story arc, you’ll be stuck at level 18, and you’ll have to wait about 8 hours before you can continue leveling your character. As you progress through the game the gates get shorter, to the point where you're leveling one level per day.
You notice the first time-gate once you are at the level cap of 18,. Once you hit the cap, you can continue to play. You can run around the world and open supply pods, or complete side missions and bounties. You could do that. However, the experience you earn during this time is wasted. Once your time-gate has passed, you don’t regain any of the experience you earned from those supplies and chests you opened, or from any of the enemies you killed. Of course, there are other reasons to find these supply pods. You can earn gacha rolls, materials, and money along the way. Many people may consider simply logging off, and waiting until they can progress further. Unfortunately the long queue times can hinder that, with some players queuing with multiple-hour estimates just to get into the game on their server. there are no server transfers at this time, so if you've chosen a server, you'll have to stick out the queue if you want to continue where you left off.
There are a few ways you could look at the time-gates. On the one hand, the main story essentially boosts you through the levels fairly quickly. That means that there is an overabundance of experience to be earned at any given time. When you are low level, you gain experience very quickly, so it’s easy to hit the cap, so you could surmise that the experience loss from throwing your remaining XP into the bottomless level-cap pit isn’t really that much of a loss at all, and it’s far more beneficial to just explore Aida at your leisure. This is probably what the developers envisioned when they created this system. Care less about leveling, spend more time on exploration, but if the time-gating restrictions are correct, players will not hit max level for 3 months. That means that, on the other hand, you’re throwing XP down the drain. That sweet progression nectar that that we all yearn to earn is just going to waste, and that’s never a good thing.
Time-gating the story is not really that big of a deal. While it does suck that you have to wait several hours from one mission to the next, Tower of Fantasy has a lot to do outside of the story. They’ve created a fun world, with a lot to explore, secrets to uncover, ruins to investigate, and plenty of multiplayer missions outside of the main and side quests. It’s really just a shame that level progression is artificially hindered to pace players. Not just for the story, not just for your level, but for exploration as well. Time-release supply pods and natural resources that need time to “mature” will have you circling back hours or even days after you’ve moved on to the next area. It does give you a reason to return later, but it’s just one more thorn in the side of progression, and ruins what could be a very smooth flow for leveling and exploration.
They Gacha Good
During my preview, there were a few things I couldn’t talk about, primarily the monetization. Now that the game has gone live, I’ve not only spent time sifting through the cash shop, but I’ve even purchased a few items myself. With the press account during the preview, I had ability to test several characters and I never had to worry about not having enough materials to upgrade my weapons. Going into the game with substantial experience did give me an edge when it came to earning gacha rolls, and it wasn’t long before I had several new characters. The gacha system in ToF is exactly what you’d expect from a gacha system, but as far as these predatory monetization systems go, Hotta is way more forgiving than most. Like Genshin Impact, Tower of Fantasy employs a pity system that triggers after 80 rolls. Every 10 will guarantee you an SR character, of which there are few, and you’re guaranteed an SSR character at 80.
They’ve put this system in place for both matrices and characters (weapons), so even if you’re a poor shlub with terrible luck, you’ll eventually earn a higher tier character. Having played numerous gacha and mobile games over the past several years, it’s hard to rally behind a “good” gacha system. In Tower of Fantasy the gacha rolls are called nucleus, and you have three different kinds. Gold, that can be used for the main SSR tier banner and Black, that are used for the SR banner, can be earned easily in game. Red nucleus can only be bought with cash currencies, and are only for the temporary character banners.
Dark Crystals can be earned through normal play as well as purchased, while Tanium can only be purchased with cash. You can buy Gold and Red Nuclei with Dark Crystals or Tanium, and they have equal counterparts for the “Matrices” banners. Essentially, you have a lot of gacha built into the shop. No matter how you look at it, you could play and pay for months or years, never to completely max out the character of your choice. If we hide that fact away, and put this system up against something like, say, Diablo Immortal, a clear preference will emerge, but that isn’t saying much.
Tower of Fantasy’s gacha monetization is the lesser of the gacha evils, but the cash shop during launch is not without problems of its own. Several players (myself included) have purchased items from the shop that have not been delivered. Whether these cases are rare or if widespread, it’s unknown as the ToF team has yet to address those having the issue publicly, nor have they directed players on what to do if they encountered the issue, however their support teams automated response provided this information when my request was made to [email protected]
“We have received a high number of inquiries in the past few hours pertaining the issue that after making purchase, the items were not reflected.
Please wait a few moments and check again.
This issue has been fixed as of (11th August 2022 04:25 UTC+0 ), and for players who have experienced this issue, we are sorry for the inconvenience, please kindly wait while the items are sent to you.”
– The Tower of Fantasy Support Team
Undoubtedly the team is slammed with login issues, and queues that are telling players to wait more than 24 hours to login, but this means there may be other issues out there that have yet to be addressed. We've reached out to the development team for comment and will update the article if we hear back.
There is a lot more to cover when I round out my final review of Tower of Fantasy. In this review in progress, I was able to get many of the major detriments the game has experienced on launch, and some of these issues are just part of the design of the game and likely won’t change. Yet, Tower of Fantasy is still captivating and I’m looking forward to rounding out my final review, complete with score, in the next couple weeks.