Stoic’s Towerborne Wins Hearts at Gamescom for Xbox

One of the surprise announcements out of the Xbox Showcase in June was Towerborne. Developed by Stoic who previously worked on the acclaimed Banner Saga series, Towerborne is a brawler-style, co-op ARPG. With Gamescom in full swing this week, Stoic had the chance to further showcase the game and what it offers.

Speaking with Xbox Wire, Stoic’s Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Arnie Jorgensen, offered the following statement.

“Gamescom is giving us creative energy and we’re psyched for people to see what we’ve been working on. Players will be battling through a tight experience focused on defeating a titanic enemy who resides deep in the heart of an ancient mycelium forest. Weapon combos and abilities will be honed on the way to this boss by brawling with lesser denizens’ intent on defending their master,” Jorgensen says. “I hope players come away from this experience with a thrilling glimpse into the exciting combat and stunning world that Towerborne has to offer.”

One of the things that immediately jumps out about Towerborne is the art-style. Bright, colorful, and full of depth, Towerborne jumps off the screen. In speaking with Jorgensen, he claims the goal was to replicate an animated feature film.

“We began the art direction by leaning into what we’ve done previously on Banner Saga, meaning that Towerborne should look like you’re playing in a beautifully animated feature film,” explains Jorgensen. “Using Unreal Engine on this title has enabled us to go further and lean into a more updated and modern look, which suits the Towerborne worldbuilding perfectly. It’s simply better than anything I had hoped for in my mind at the start.”

Side-scrolling, action games go back a long way. From Golden Axe to Castle Crashers, these games have been a staple in the industry for decades. Similar to those titles and many others, Towerborne aims to be easily accessible yet offer more depth for those who want to engage with it. On that point, Jorgensen again confirms their design goals.

“The game is simply easy to pick up and dive into, and even better with friends. Anyone can grab a controller and have fun mashing buttons and getting loot to improve your character with. The combat is bouncy, and accessible to a wide range of people,” he says. “As you play more and go deeper with the weapon specific combos and abilities, you realize the combat is far deeper than you first thought. You see a boss enemy’s head sticking out of the clouds up ahead on the world map and have a new goal to shoot for, but to defeat it may require reforging your Warclub and leveling up some gear… the game just pulls you in and it’s not a stress simulator, it’s just a good time.”

Isaac Torres, the senior combat designer, added more clarity in how Towerborne approaches combat scenarios.

“A good portion of the combat team is composed of designers and animators that have worked on action games, beat ‘em ups, and fighting games where this sort of feel is a top priority,” states Torres. “We also have designers that have worked on a large variety of other genres, too, like RPGs and MMOs. It is this sort of team diversity that has allowed us to take inspiration from tons of games while also creating our own identity.” he continues “From a gameplay perspective, we made sure that Light Attacks and Heavy Attacks can be used interchangeably no matter which button you use first. If you hit a button, you’re going to do something cool no matter your skill level. Once you find button combinations or moves that you like doing, you will naturally start forming strategies around them.”

While accessible, this doesn’t mean Towerborne is a simple or “easy” game. More complex scenarios and more challenging enemies are introduced through the game. To aid players in battle, Towerborne introduces “Umbra” which are spirit beings that can aid a players’ stats and abilities.

“One may call down spirit energy to smash the ground in front of you with area damage and another may project blistering damage across the screen. You need to seek them out by exploring the world map and in doing so, you will assemble several of them, then choose which will make the best addition to your loadout for the coming battle.”

As with many games in this style, Towerborne contains a player “hub.” Named The Belfry, you’ll not only group up with friends and plan the next adventure in The Belfry, but it contains notable NPCs as well.

“The characters of Towerborne are intended to be exclusive to this particular unfolding storyline and will help give you focus, motivation, and context in the world,” he mentions. “The stalwart Paloma who pulls you back from the Ebb into new life again; Krafft, the no-nonsense military commander; Courage, an Umbra spirit, who will teach you how to use your own fighting spirit. Bumble and Blundt build masterpiece weapons and gear, and Ryx, an Ace who’s died one too many times, intimately understands the spirits of the Ebb, just to name a few.”

Upon leaving The Belfry, you’ll be greeted with a grid-like, map overview of the game world. From here you’ll select your next adventure based upon a variety of factors including difficulty level, discoveries, and more.

“The map is your way of exploring the world of Towerborne. You will battle out from the safety of the Belfry, hex by hex into the wilds to encounter discovery, story, enemy cluster, boss missions and more,” he states. “You will find chests of precious items, seek out Umbra spirits, and unlock pathways to more dangerous areas through Danger License missions. The map is designed to be a candy shop full of tasty treats for you to enjoy.”

So it’s beautiful, fun, deep, and supports co-op with friends? While The Banner Saga was widely acclaimed, it’s clear that Stoic is aiming for a broader audience with Towerborne. And Jorgensen makes it clear we’ve only seen the surface so far.

“With Towerborne we really wanted to lean more into a fast-paced combat-based game that was accessible enough to play with your kids but didn’t talk down to adults either. We felt that a brawler style battle system was a great fit as a base that we could then twist into something larger and more modern to excite the current gaming community,” Jorgensen says. “We coupled this base with deep ARPG mechanics, a cool loot system, Stoic world-building, and all wrapped up in a persistent world. We’re adding a lot of new to the genre, but the secret sauce is the world map which is also something players will find new and refreshing.”

Towerborne is coming in 2024 to PC and Xbox Series X|S, plus it will be available day one on Game Pass. We’ll have a lot more on Towerborne in the future!

By Ains

Founder and Editor-In-Chief: Seasoned Gaming. Avid gamer and collector. Plays a lot of Halo and Diablo. Find me on Twitter @Porshapwr.

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