The most charitable way I can describe the Tower of Illusion’s relationship with Genshin Impact’s influence is to be “inspired”. It’s heavily inspired by the Hoyoverse’s anime character action games, and it’s easy to get away from it, as one of the many mobile clones you see in the commercials tries to convince you that they’re where the real players are. Its striking resemblance to Genshin is the hardest thing about it in its opening hours, kind of like trying to get over how Genshin felt about Breath of the Wild when it came out. But if you can grimace through it and curb your cynicism, the MMO-like system it introduces might be what sets it apart.
Tower of Fantasy copy-pastes many of Genshin Impact’s most impressive aspects, as well as the most shocking ones. Let’s take an inventory:
- It’s an open world game where planets are attacked by monsters that inhabit camps all over the world.
- Anime characters – in this case, mostly Evangelion refusal – must save the planet.
- The aesthetic is bright and fantastical, yet as sci-fi and grim as 90s anime and another Hoyoverse action game, Honkai Impact 3rd.
- It’s a gashapon game where you can hone your resources and routines just like your job, or pay real money for a chance to get one of these characters.
- Even if you get one of the characters associated with their unique weapon, you’ll need to upgrade them to the same level as you are currently in the game.
Genshin Impact runs through the veins of the Tower of Fantasy; it’s actually biological.
Unlike Genshin Impact, Tower of Fantasy has a fully customizable protagonist with sliders and everything. If you’ve never liked playing the mostly silent protagonist of the Hoyoverse, that’s a big deal.Here you can make anyone you want (opens in new tab)although many people just want to Making Genshin Characters (opens in new tab).
None of the characters, either you can play or you meet, make a good first impression in Tower of Dreams’ random opening quest. It took me a while to really care about Genshin’s story, because a lot of it was in bits and pieces, through conversations that put me to sleep. Only the game’s latest update underscores how many characters there are to play with, even if the game’s main plot remains boring. For some reason, the Tower of Dreams also borrowed it. Genshin’s skill-mixed combat is satisfying enough (if you’re lucky enough or loaded enough to get the character you want) and its storytelling isn’t intrusive; over time, the Tower of Fantasy may end up with the same way to appear.
I can’t find the flow for the weapons I picked up within a few hours of playing the game. Shoulder-mounted cannons and dual-wielding pistols don’t have the charisma of Genshin Impact’s team, and they may send enemies into a tornado so that archers can annihilate them with frozen arrows. The lack of character-specific abilities in Tower of Fantasy puts a lot of pressure on weapons to fill that role, and combat can get disjointed without a lot of time to experiment. Your character’s ability to often unleash powerful attacks makes skirmishes exciting, but, like Genshin, it takes a while to find a groove that will stay engaging for the hundreds of hours the game expects you to spend.
The Tower of Fantasy also reflects the infinite exploration of Genshin Impact. It’s nowhere near as elegant: Genshin-style environment-based puzzles hidden in the world are replaced by a bunch of chests and interactable objects, and you can use mounts that effectively shrink the entire map. The open world removes the illusion that you’ll stumble upon secrets as you explore, and the friction of having to do most of the work on foot is largely gone.
Instead, it takes a Ubisoft approach, encouraging you to squeeze the world and every system within it like a sponge. I’m overwhelmed by Tower of Fantasy’s utilitarian approach to open-world design. However, if you find clearing parts of the map to be one of the most satisfying things in the game, Tower of Fantasy’s minimalist approach might be for you.
Like Genshin Impact, Tower of Fantasy is ultimately a game about hitting monsters with a sword to make numbers pop. It has an stamina bar that limits how fast you can perform power attacks or climb hills, but, on the test servers I’ve played on, it does a lot of good for anything I do. You can switch timings between weapons and combine their effects at any time, just like flipping through a Genshin character. The enemies I fought were not strong enough to need it, but if it’s just to speed up a fight that takes too long, the damage bonus (and morbid attack animation) you get for doing so is worth it. The game’s PvP and endgame will test the depth of this fighting style and the need to spend hours gathering resources to upgrade your weapons and characters. The level of grind may not be commensurate with the rewards of its most difficult activities, but it will take some time for players to figure this out.
The Tower of Fantasy ends up using Genshin Impact as bait to get you into its world and systems. There’s a reason gacha games mimic the most familiar parts of other games: They want you to get in as soon as possible so you have a chance to spend money. Tower of Fantasy is as sinful as any other game, with a system designed to use your wishes to make the game easier. But it also suggests it might add compelling layers on top of Genshin’s framework, such as how other players seamlessly blend into your world and fight alongside you, or how you equip temporary tools (each classified as MMO archetype), such as mech suits that deal massive damage. Genshin has always flirted with MMO-like ideas, so if Tower of Fantasy succeeds in incorporating enough parts of the genre, it could be a worthy counterattack against the largely lonely world of the Hoyoverse.
For most of its opening time, Tower of Fantasy was a messy game with no clear vision for how it would differ from all the other options. It chooses Genshin as the template, which is not a bad choice as far as templates go. It managed to make me want to wander around its world and take down its little enemies. I can’t really say no to either, I just wish it took less time to assure me that it was like something I’ve played before and more time to convince me of what makes it different.