Tower of Fantasy is set to release globally on August 10th, but you don’t have to wait to get all the details as we’ve spent hours within this shared-world anime-inspired RPG. It’s easy to simply make the comparisons between Tower of Fantasy and Genshin Impact, and while both games have their merits it would be a disservice to ToF to simply be labeled as a Genshin killer. It is more than that. What Hotta Studio has created is nothing short of a cross-platform marvel.
Now that I’ve had some ample time with Tower of Fantasy my picture of what the game actually is has changed substantially. Despite the initial release in December of 2021 in China, actually getting into the game was a challenge I wasn’t particularly up to. Last week, we were given access to the global release, and I couldn’t wait to see what ToF had to offer. What I found was surprising. When you play a game that has cross-play with mobile, you never really know what to expect. Luckily, in this instance, I was pleasantly surprised in just about every facet of gameplay, although the game is not without some problems.
Combat is King
Sometimes, simple can be deceiving. In Tower of Fantasy combat is a case of being deceptively simple, when in reality, there are a lot of complex features just under the surface that can make a perceptive player far more capable. As you initially start with the knowledge of a single attack skill and a special ability, you could surmise that your skill options are limited, especially in comparison to a game like Genshin Impact where each character has their own set of skills. (I hope I’m equally forgiven for my incessant Genshin comparisons). This is one of the areas where the game differentiates itself.
While you have one main attack skill, the way you tap or hold the skill can determine the combos that you do, so while you may have access to 3 separate weapons at a time, with one main skill and one special skill, your main skill can chain into several different types of attacks. Attacking with a single weapon will slowly raise the weapon charge ability on your other two weapons. Once fully charged you can perform a discharge attack. Planning these skills especially when it comes to your battle scenario are instrumental in dispatching enemies quickly.
Another arrow in your proverbial (or sometimes literal) quiver is a called Phantasia, which is a phenomenon where a perfectly timed dodge will recharge the weapons charge attacks, and slow enemies in the general area. It’s an invaluable asset when taking on difficult enemies, as you’re able to slow all enemies around you and use discharge skills immediately. Lastly, players have the ability to utilize relics. Some of these relics are out-of-combat skills, like your Jetpack, while others, like the Missile Barrage can be used in combat as well, though there would be very few situations where you might want to, as it’s hard to aim and has a very wide are of effect.
Weapon types also matter a great deal. For example, twin blades require that you battle very close to your enemies, but they have exceptional AOE capabilities, and are high damage. The bow, on the other hand, has some long-range combo attacks available, but it also gives you the versatility to shoot enemies like a third-person shooter when you charge your attack. Then, you may have an energy rifle where you’ll have to keep track of your ammunition and reload, and the majority of its use is in third-person. Slotting weapons will also make a big difference in both solo and group play. Weapon Resonance Effects are essentially set bonuses when you slot specific variations of weaponry that can increase your damage, defense or healing. Every weapon has its own play style, so picking the right setup for you will greatly change your experience, just like it did for me. I heavily favored the spear in my test, which gave me some strong attacks, and provided a little bit more range than some of the other weapons I had access to.
I love exploration in games, but sometimes it’s difficult to find the drive to do it when games don’t really provide any places worth exploring. Tower of Fantasy is an explorer’s dream. Not only do they provide a huge world to explore, with secret caves you can unlock, and plenty of chests in strewn about, but they aren’t shy when it comes to providing different ways for you to access those locations. From the jump players will be introduced to the use of a Jetpack. Items like the Jetpack are known as relics, and each one has a specific purpose. As you rocket jump and glide your way through the world, you’ll realize just how much there is to explore through on-screen markers that will tell you when you’re closing in on something special to collect.
Another relic that I mentioned before, the Missile Barrage, is a tool that you can use to break rock formations that could hide secrets, or in some cases, you’ll be required to use it to open doors in quests. There are 20 different relics, and many of them will be necessary as you progress throughout the world. You can upgrade your relics so that they have enhanced benefits. For example, the Jetpack will no longer sap your stamina as you glide once you’re able to upgrade it. Note that relics are completely different than vehicles, which are alternate modes of transportation that you have available to you. There are 7 different vehicles that you’ll be able to unlock at launch, from a speedy little motorcycle, to a robotic horse. Once you unlock them, you’ll be able to maintain them and refit them to make them faster or look different.
The Story of You and Not You
The story in Tower of Fantasy is rich with lore, characters, and a protagonist that you can actually customize, which is a stark departure from other hero collecting gacha titles. You will briefly be introduced to several new characters as you learn the ropes of the game, most of which will revolve around the substance Omnium, the primary energy source in ToF and the Heirs of Aida, a secretive and potentially dangerous group that you will be tasked with foiling.
The character creation for Tower of Fantasy is fairly robust, and it’s difficult to make a bad looking character when the anime art style and cel-shaded graphics are so appealing. While some options are mostly arbitrary, like the nose changes and configuration, the options for facial features, hair customization and accessories are pretty good, especially if you take into consideration that cosmetics play a big part in your character. You’ll be able to unlock new styles and accessories, in addition to all of the neat skins for your relics and vehicles that undoubtedly are headed your way.
As important as customization is, one of the main features of ToF is the Simulacra system. This system is similar to other gacha games where you’ll be rolling for different characters whereupon earning them you’ll power up that character with each successive roll you obtain them. The cool thing about the Simulacra system is that, obtaining a particular character gives you the ability to take on their persona. Outside of story missions, you’ll look just like them, take on aspects of their personality, and fight like them. On the other hand, if you want to run around as your main character the whole time, you can absolutely do that too. Each character is proficient in a particular weapon, and you can slot 3 weapons at a single time, so no matter whether you choose to look like a character or not, you can hold their weapon, continue to level it up, and become stronger as you go.
Throughout the story you meet a lot of the characters you may eventually own, and Tower of Fantasy is quite liberal early on with giving you chances to obtain characters. With 18 characters to collect and several non-character-affiliated weapons there will be plenty to work towards, even if some of that progression will be determined by RNG gacha rolls. To fill out your character sheet, you will also have gear that you can earn and level up. Whether you’re leveling up your gear, your weapon level, or your Matrices, which are weapon attachments, you’ll need plenty of materials and in game currency. As of this preview, I’m mostly in the early stages of the game, and materials are pretty easy to come by, but as with most games, the higher level you are, the tougher it is to reach those upper levels of power.
Poised to be the Next Big Thing
There is a lot that I wasn’t able to cover in this preview. There is a lot of great systems built into Tower of Fantasy that are going to be a hit with players. Hotta Studio and Level Infinite have definitely learned from what Genshin Impact has done right, and they’ve taken things in a direction that many players will undoubtedly get behind. Most notably, the shared world is a big change in the way ToF allows players to interact. The chat window give you access to emoji’s and voice options, and the environment is filled with open-world encounters that require multiple players to partake if you wish to complete them. There is a dueling system in place, and plenty of multiplayer missions that you can queue for.
Guilds are also available, and like many mobile game guilds, you can provide resources at your leisure to help the guild progress. Known as Crews, your guild mates will earn honor points by taking on crew missions, and you’ll unlock rewards along the way. Unlike Genshin you’re able to meet players organically during your adventure, instead of being thrust into scenarios or accepting random invites. Between class options for your characters and open world group content, the game extends into an MMORPG-like realm where you may never experience thousands of players in an area at a given time, but you’ll definitely feel as though you’re not alone.
There is no doubt in my mind that Tower of Fantasy will skyrocket into the realm of popularity. The PC controls are tactile and responsive, and once you get used to holding alt to unlock your mouse, the rest feels like second nature. It differentiates itself enough from other titles that some players will just gravitate towards Tower of Fantasy because of its character customization and freedom of exploration. The differences are enough that Genshin Impact can happily coexist in a world where players can enjoy them equally, migrating back and forth between the two as separate, distinct experiences. Obviously, Tower of Fantasy isn’t a perfect 10. Translations are still not done particularly well in several cases. Some characters’ names are different between the text and voiceover. A lot of times the voiceovers will partially stop working. In rare cases, targeting can also be a pain for melee weapons, or even some ranged weapons that can sometimes focus on an enemy much further away than you intended, or not focus on your attacker at all.
While I would love to delve more deeply into the monetization aspects, there are severe limitations in the preview version of the game, and while that may have to wait for my full review post-launch, the bottom line of this preview is that Tower of Fantasy has all the trappings of an overwhelming success. The last thing I would want to see is a Diablo Immortal-esque backlash to its monetization on launch. For more information and to see much more of what the game has to offer, be sure to check out our video preview, and keep your eyes peeled for our full review that is headed your way post-launch!