Towers define a skyline, they change the cities that they occupy because they quite literally stand out. Because of that they also tend to help define games, they can be focal in stories, a more literal climax in climactic moments, or they could be simple but iconic background detail.
A tower is a symbol, a statement, and a genre of game in its’ own right. So join us as we take this opportunity to appreciate their place in gaming.
Let’s get kicked off with a classic, shall we? Playing in computer games where climactic fights tend to happen at the highest reaches of excessively tall towers creates a real sense of peril, but no game creates tension from increasing height in quite the same way Jenga does. This tabletop favourite for cruel engineers and optimistic drunks very nearly made our Top 10 Jump Scares because when that tower comes crashing down, the entire table leap back as if every brick was on fire.
9) Rengoku: The Tower of Purgatory
Here’s a PSP title I fell in love with a long time ago. A post-war future in which the androids that once destroyed the world now fight for the entertainment of a nation, killing, dying, and rising again to seize the top floor. The game strongly references the Purgatory of the Divine Comedy, and the artistic design of the tower is more strongly representative of that pastiche than it is of the actual content of the game.
In terms of gameplay, Rengoku is more of a beat-’em-up roguelike, but every other roguelike I could think of was a series of descending cellars and dungeons. Still, a game that was enjoyable enough to stick with me for many years.
8) Spire – Myst IV: Revelations
The Tower of London is a particularly famous prison, but held up against a tower that seems to be the entire world, and no way out of that world, and only one inmate? Atrus is a father with a lot to answer for, but his hedonistic son Sirrus really has it coming for the apocalyptic reign of greed that he used to plunder the countless Ages of Myst and bring the D’ni people to their knees. I know I’ve already lost those of you who don’t know the Myst storyline, but trust me, Sirrus had this one coming.
The space you occupy at the top of the pillar of black stone and luminous crystal sits between two layers of infinite cloud. When you follow the path Sirrus took to escape his prison of decades you learn the true bleakness of the Age, when you find a path beneath the lower cloud layer, and above the molten surface of the planet far… far below…
7) The Lighthouse and the Beacon – Dear Esther
When you first emerge from the water and onto the docks there are only two landmarks on the unnamed Hebredian Island, the lighthouse, and the solitary beacon on the bluff. In many ways they become the literary metaphors that make the game such an enjoyable artistic endeavour, the lighthouse a beacon of hope that you drift from the deeper you go, and the beacon that marks the life in danger beyond the veil of delusion.
The beacon becomes the ultimate goal, as the protagonist wanders without any other goal, oddly symbolic of both hope and finality.
6) Temporal Tower – Defense Grid: The Awakening
This list couldn’t get far without at least one tower defence game, and Defense Grid has to be the most popular right now. Simple set up, enemies enter, reach a single point and leave, you build weaponised towers to stop them, of which you have your basic range of weapons, guns, lasers, flame throwers, and – oh yeah! A differential pulse generator that causes temporal fluctuations that slow the pace of opponents.
Best not to ask why things like bullets don’t get slowed down, but it’s an amazingly useful little tool that changes the way you set the game up dramatically. As slowed enemies bunch together they suffer far worse under the blast of the flamethrowers, faster paced enemies suddenly become vulnerable, but one poor decision in placement and you may find yourself unpleasantly backpedalling. Simply put the temporal tower is a game changer.
5) Wonder Tower – Arkham City
Being a very long game enclosed within a relatively small (but very intricate) space, certain landmarks become very familiar. The church, the steel mill, the museum, even the barricade between the amusement mile and the industrial district. But above it all, central to the city and the plot alike, Wonder Tower, shining spotlights that gaze down like the gargoyles.
Wonder Tower has a lot of rich history that you can learn a great deal about during the game, but the two most memorable moments are the climb to the top, and jumping off after the fight with Hugo Strange. It’s ever watchful silhouette is a constant reminder of the prison camp’s villainous origins.
4) The Forgotten Tower – Diablo 2
This immediately sprang to my mind the moment I began composing this list, and I think that lends a certain amount of potency to its’ place here. A crumbling ruin on the rain-drenched scrubland of Act 1 with monster infested cellars featuring a flaming pentagram.
The side-quest is oddly reminiscent of Diablo’s tabletop inspirations, in particular the classic D&D module Keep on the Borderlands, a forgotten tower that serves as a hub for cult activity. It’s also a loot-mine like no other in the game, at this level the potential for massive quantities of gold and rare loot makes it worth taking a couple of trips before heading off to Lut Gholein.
3) Tower of Tetris Blocks – Tetris
With the Russian inspired music, the really overly catchy noises of blocks falling down on top of one another and blocks just vanishing… Tetris is one of the best classic games ever made. But if these were real towers, then I would be really concerned about my general sanity. I mean really, why on earth are all these blocks falling and then vanishing once a tower is completed?
Better yet, is when you make a stupid tower of Tetris blocks.
2) Lavender Tower – Pokemon
This one should be a no brainer, but when you play the first generation of Pokemon games, you have to get the silph scope in order to identify some tricky Ghost type pokemon. These Pokemon are a real boon to defeating Sabrina, one of the Pokemon Gym Leaders, in order to set you on your way to the Pokemon League.
Not only that, but Lavender Town has been subject to conspiracy theories. Including the dreaded high-frequencies. Oh no… Click the ghost to read what I’m on about.
1) Stone Market Clocktower – Thief
The clocktower in “The City” is as iconic as any other. The sight of its’ outline against the doom-laden sky sets a gloomy tone throughout the entire game, and stalking its’ shadows with its’ hammering tick filling your ears is a moody experience. I played Deadly Shadows, my computer could do with an upgrade to play the reboot properly, but there are only two sections I want to play, the orphanage, and the clocktower.
It’s everything a good tower should be. It rises above everything else, a dramatic stab at the sky that shatters an otherwise boring cityscape. The image of the clocktower even passes to loving pastiche Dishonoured, although the clock of Dunwall is not quite the ever-present fixture, the similarities in architectural style are marked.
What makes the Stone Market Clocktower so fantastic, is that the mission you undertake inside is to force the hand of fate, create a prophetic moment, and literally make history. If that isn’t a stirring metaphor, I’d like to see you bring me a better one.
I guess you’d call them turrets? Either way, these particular towers didn’t quite make the cut for “technical reasons”, mostly because they aren’t literal towers. But deserving enough of the name to find a place in our list.
The Dork Tower
Comics, gaming moguls, and stars of Munchkin, the Dork Tower is a major geek icon that’s fast approaching it’s twentieth year of publishing, and still going strong today. In many ways the name is representative of what they have become, a beacon, a stronghold against normality in a world where gamers can rally to find their own brand of normal for an afternoon. I just started reading it.
I’m going to be reading ’til I’m 40.
The Tower – Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy is known for it’s continuity. Don’t believe me? Look at Wedge, look at Cid and so on. Another one, though one people probably wouldn’t be so aware of, is a weapon that has appeared in many different Final Fantasy games. People who have read this blog will be familiar with my particular love for Final Fantasy IX, so that’s the one I’m focusing on right here.
The Tower is Zidane Tribal’s 2nd best weapon in the game, it is also probably the best one that most people get. It has a bit of a weird design, but heck – I’d still not like to have that thing cut at my limbs! Yeowch!
Now we’re going to stop towering over you with our opinions, let’s see if we can be imposing enough to throw the question back at you! What are your Top 10 towers in gaming? Have we included some of the ones you’d expect to see on here? Do you know of some that we don’t!?
As always, please vote on which of the three choices you think our next Top 10 should be. Comment below, or over on Facebook and Twitter. Until next time folks, this has been another Top 10 over and out!