At Gamescom in Cologne, I enjoyed some hands-on time with a preview build of Towerborne, Stoic Studio's action-adventure game revealed in June at the Xbox Games Showcase and then further showcased at Microsoft's follow-up extended livestream.
The game has you control an Ace, a warrior returned from the realm of the dead tasked with defending the Belfry, a tower that stands as the last beacon of hope for humanity in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by monsters.
Towerborne's Guard... ahem, Aces Fight to Protect the Tower... ahem... Belfry.
If you're familiar with Destiny's Tower, the concept of the Belfry will be pretty familiar to you, as it basically plays the same role in Towerborne. There you will meet other heroes, form parties, accept missions, and likely do all the things you can do in this kind of hub.
You can either form a party with up to four players (both online or in couch co-op) or decide to go solo. I played with three other players by my side, but the developers in attendance mentioned that the missions would scale with the number of players in the party.
You can equip a number of different weapons including swords and shields, war clubs, gauntlets, and dual-wielded daggers. This will influence your fighting style and the special moves you can use. For instance, sword and shield users can block, while other classes can only hope to get out of the way with dodge rolls.
Towerborne's Art and Visuals are Colorful and Impactful
Once we got into a mission, I was immediately impressed by the art style. It's absolutely charming and very colorful. Despite the fact that Towerborne depicts a post-apocalyptic world, it's far from dark or oppressive.
This is actually another element that reminded me of Destiny. Bungie's universe is rather tragic in its concept, but its planets and dungeons are full of color and often very bright. Towerborne conveys a similar sensation, albeit its specific art style is very different.
Considering Stoic's previous work on the Banner Saga series this kind of artistic prowess shouldn't be surprising.
The mission I tried was quite brief, lasting about ten minutes or so, but for those who enjoy playing games in short sittings it's likely a blessing. Just like how parties can change in size the developers also let us know that missions vary in duration.
Towerborne's gameplay is very reminiscent of old-school beat-em-up games by Sega or Capcom like Golden Axe or King of Dragons. You walk through the level from left to right killing an army of minor enemies (including the iconic tents that spawn more foes and you need to destroy).
The level concluded with an impressive boss fight, we came face to face with a rather imposing fungoid boss named Truffleclub (I suppose the name is more on the cute side than imposing), that challenged us with a variety of special moves and additional mushroom enemies that exploded when not dispatched swiftly. At the end of the fight, a chest spawned distributing it's loot among the players.
looting is an important aspect of Towerborne, you can find weapons of the same type with entirely different stats and bonuses.
Towerborne Brings Back Fond Memories of the Arcade Era
Besides being a lot of fun, my time with the game awakened a fond memory within me. Memories of when I was much, much younger gathering together with local kids at the arcade (Yes. I know. I'm old) to play The King of Dragons.
Playing Towerborne with other players in the room felt pretty much exactly like that, and I really, really enjoyed it. It'll be interesting to see whether the game manages to reawaken that sense of close-knit community when it releases in 2024 for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC (including Game Pass).
For now, Stoic Studio's upcoming game definitely stood out as one of the most promising games I played at Gamescom. Of course, we'll have to see whether it delivers on that promise, but so far, so good.
Towerborne was previewed in person at Gamescom 2023, hosted by Xbox.