Tower of Archeos
A while back we covered a game which featured a lone hero ascending a tower, and Tower of Archeos gives away that shared heritage in its name. Both also, coincidentally, share victory through the heart warming power of puzzles. But where Warlock’s Tower was about delivering a peace offering to an evil warlock, Tower of Archeos is more old fashioned in that instead you take the slightly less diplomatic approach of killing everything in the tower.
The first thing you’ll probably notice when booting up Archeos is that the animation and attention to detail is absolutely fantastic. A common criticism of retro-styled games is the perception that pixel art is lazy or gimmicky. Not so in Archeos; everything from the way your character swishes his sword, to the flapping of bats’ wings, down to the animations in the darn menus – Archeos is choc full of loving detail.
The other great thing about action-orientated puzzle games is that they often call back to the roots of gaming: quick to learn, hard to master. Archeos as a puzzle game is no exception and it’s incredibly easy and pick up and even sort of soothing to play, but much like Liam Neeson, it demands a particular set of skills; and it will find you, and it will kill you.
Gameplay-wise, the wizard running the tower is of the most vile kind: he who makes match-3 style puzzles. Luckily, the decrepit git mixed it up a bit though – rather than rotating gems or other arbitrary shapes, you target a group of 3 or more beasties to attack and destroy them at once. The monsters retaliate with a set amount of damage (irrespective of group size) before carking it, but cough up precious XP in return. Enough of this systematic slaughter, and you’ll level up, which increases your max HP and refills it. So the challenge boils down to tackling the right groups of monsters in the right order.
Archeos adds a few modern conveniences and complexities though to make it more than a simple puzzle game. Each and every monster type has its own special trait or ability, which can really throw varying degrees of wrenches in your plans. Boulder-like golems will roll into empty side-spaces, which can mess up your carefully planned genocide, while vanquishing a large enough group of bats causes a powerful vampire to spawn. Some of these factors end up making levels extremely tough.
Adding to the strategy, in a nod to its RPG influences, are a variety equipment to be proffered from chests or the cold ashes of your slain victims. This gear has a variety of uses, such as consumable food for a quick health boost, to a one-use wand that will destroy a 3×3 block of enemies, or a equippable magic ring that reveals what enemies are carrying items.
A slight consolation is how the interface is excellent at giving visual feedback. Something oft overlooked due to the low resources of many indie undertakings. The UI is responsive, with targeted enemies showing an info card that clearly explains its trait or ability, while the amount of damage and experience that will be gained as a result is all helpfully indicated in the UI.
It’s not all praise, though, unfortunately. While the challenge feels appropriately devious – certainly easy to pick up and play but hard to master – I’m not sure if it’s sometimes too punishing. Some abilities, such as the rats’ ability to dodge 50% of attacks, for example, seems far too overpowered and probably should be lowered.
More pressingly, the random distribution can sometimes create outright unwinnable scenarios too. On what was my best run so far, I ended up at a dead end where there was no way to open the door to the next level (pictured above!).
You can also rescue additional party members from prisons, although despite a GIF image on the game’s page showing three party members acting in tandem, was only able to ever bring one hero into the tower at a time regardless how many I rescued. Also, playing a previously rescued hero will be lost forever upon dying, and had to be rescued again if you ever want to use them again. It’s a development choice and all, but for me this was a shame, and defeated my sense of overall progression in the game.
Despite the caveats, what is on offer is enough to create a sometimes punishing albeit satisfyingly slick arcade style blend of thoughtful strategy and faced-paced gameplay that kept me coming back to die in the tower again and again.
Tower of Archeos’ BETA is available for free as a demo, and the full game is available for $12USD, which contains more monsters and items and additional characters to rescue and play as.
Tower of Archeos | Download Demo/Buy
Tower of Archeos was originally a game using the PICO-8 system, it is a simpler 8-bit style version that is playable in your browser:
Tower of Archeos Original Version | Play Online