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TowerFall: Ascension’s first big batch of DLC, Dark World finally launched an assault on the arrow-flinging arena combat game this week, bringing with it more characters, new levels and power-ups, as well as a fresh cooperative experience for up to four players. In short, it’s more of the same; and that’s a very, very good thing.
Originally launching on the ill-fated Ouya microconsole, TowerFall: Ascension left its mark on additional platforms in 2014, including PlayStation home consoles and PC. The product of solo developer Matt Thorson, the game features four-player combat in a wide array of themed arenas, complete with a fantastic retro art style and soundtrack.
That sort of old school simplicity bleeds into TowerFall’s gameplay, too. Players are equipped with a bow and arrow, with the single goal of either shooting their opponents in the face or bouncing off of their heads Mario-style to score a kill. You can also run, dash, duck and bounce off of walls, but the basic controls of “run around and shoot anything that moves” helps keep the combat nice and accessible. I’ve seen tournaments boasting gameplay that boggles my mind, but pretty much anyone can pick up a controller and quickly figure out how to shoot an arrow at their friends.
Thorson announced last year that he was working on an expansion for TowerFall, which started out as a few additional characters and levels and has since ballooned into all that new stuff Dark World has to offer. It’s a pretty meaty bundle of content for an additional 10 bucks, and it’s worth every penny of it.
For starters, Dark World more than doubles the game’s roster of archers, bringing the total count up to 18. Sure, they all play the same, but having more variety in character selection is a welcome addition. Each of the game’s initial eight characters now has an alternate (and frequently adorable) skin, plus a his and her take on a brand new undead pirate.
Also added to the mix is a quartet of new standard levels, each of which boasts a soundtrack and theme that fits in perfectly with the existing collection of locales. There’s a gloomy bog called the Dreadwood, for instance, with pools of sludge that will slow your archer down. Darkfang is nestled high on a mountain and full of breakable structures, while the haunted ghost ship, The Amaranth, keeps the action frantic on the stormy seas. There’s also a new Cataclysm arena, which offers up a never-ending swarm of procedurally generated levels. Thorson went the extra mile here; including a clever code system allows you to save a series of levels if you happen to really enjoy their layouts.
For those of you who don’t mind working with your friends from time to time, a new four-player cooperative mode has also been included, boasting a collection of levels that challenge the team with enemy swarms and caps off the affair with clever boss fights. On top of that, a revive system has been put into play, allowing you to help your teammates to their feet when they fall in battle rather than relying on the two-player co-ops mode’s shared life pool. There are multiple difficulty tiers to keep you coming back for more, along with a new “Legendary” difficulty mode being added on for those who have already mastered TowerFall’s existing challenges.
Finally, it wouldn’t be TowerFall without unique arrows and power-ups, which Dark World provides plenty of.
For starters, you can now add remote detonated arrows to your arsenal, allowing you to plant a bomb on a wall and then detonate it when your enemies get too close. My group managed to commit suicide with these things as often as pulverize another player but, in traditional TowerFall fashion, the end result was everyone laughing and having a good time no matter who the explosion took out. The Prizm arrows are another intriguing new addition, making arrow-catchers have to think twice about their preferred method of dodging. Usually, you can simply dodge through an arrow to catch it and add it to your own arsenal. A Prism arrow instead locks the crafty enemy in a small prison, where they’re practically defenseless for a few seconds.
On top of all of that, you can look forward to even more challenges in the Quest mode, new multiplayer game types, and even more controllable options to create some truly unique experiences.
Dark World basically takes everything you love about TowerFall and pours on even more of it. There’s a lot of content to mess around with and, due to the vast number of levels hand-crafted for each themed world (not to mention the new randomized levels), you’re unlikely to ever see two rounds play out the same way. I’m a little bummed that online multiplayer still isn’t an option, but TowerFall really is the kind of game that works best with a bunch of friends sitting side by side on the couch, breaking into cheers when an impossible shot hits the mark or a crazy chain of events leads to an unexpected victory.
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PC