Review: TowerFall Ascension

If anyone asked me to define ‘video games’ with a single example, TowerFall Ascension would be it. It is a game that did all things it set out to do flawlessly, and delivered them with no lack or excess. It is a game where you’ll be shouting, cheering and gasping, shaking your fist at how absurdly lucky your friend was in dashing into your arrow, and all that without an ounce of frustration – because it is fun.
Gloriously hectic.
TowerFall Ascension is a game that lends from the ‘easy to grasp, difficult to master’ line of thought: it’ll take thirty seconds for a random person to get acquainted with the basic mechanics and, most importantly, be able to enjoy himself, but considerably more to understand the minutiae of the game, such as long jumps, stealing and parrying arrows. The road to learning these is intuitive and will come with time and a certain amount of effort, but at no point will you feel like an incompetent buffoon progressing toward enlightenment, as often happens within games.

If this is your first time reading about TowerFall Ascension, the upgraded version of the Ouya-born TowerFall, the basic idea is of a multiplayer 2D arena where players start with a quiver of arrows and have to pierce or stomp other players until they win the game. Archers can also dodge from – and into (catching arrows if you time it right) – incoming projectiles, be them on the ground or in the air. All this seems simple enough, but put it into motion and it becomes a thing of beauty: within the span of seconds a player can catch an incoming projectile, dash onto the head of an archer and return the arrow to a third one, aiming it through a hole on the ground that loops out through the top of the room – and matches, specially those with four players, will nearly always be this hectic.

Scenes like this are commonplace.
Scenes like this are commonplace.

Towerfall Ascension is another release in the recent surge of multiplayer arena games, such as Samurai Gunn and Nidhogg, but is better compared to Super Smash Bros.. The tides of a battle, as you watch your friend coming with a full quiver while you’ve just given him your own arrows, can be quickly turned by a lucky powerup, such as a shield or chest of homing arrows. Fortunately, if you think this isn’t a welcome addition in a “competitive” game, there are a plethora of options to choose from in enabling and disabling powerups and starting conditions. All these variables are set before a match and, should you like a particular setup you create, can be saved and stored for later use.

Variety will come in the form of the many different arrows, each with a particular behavior and use – from bomb to laser arrows – and the different levels with their own particular hazards. If you’re itching to play but have no companions, TowerFall Ascension has a Quest Mode – where you must fight waves of enemies and, on occasion, a boss – and a Trials mode, where you have to refine your techniques to complete them in time. In both, you’ll unlock other archers to add some visual variety to the game. Make no mistake, however: the yolk of the game is in its versus multiplayer mode.

Trials offer a welcome addition and are great for inducing you into learning the tricks of the game.
Trials offer a welcome addition and are great for inducing you into learning the tricks of the game.

TowerFall Ascension is, truly, a perfect game. As I said, all the things it set out to do are flawless, and they are supported by a variety of modes and options, from saving your best moments in GIF format to tailoring multiplayer to your whim. If you have a few friends over, entertainment is guaranteed.


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