After deleting five apps and around a thousand photos, I finally managed to make enough space on my phone to download the additional 5.5GB worth of data on Tower of Fantasy.
It took around an hour to complete the download (half of it downloaded via mobile data as I was on the train), but before I could immerse myself in the post-apocalyptic dystopia, I was first put in a queue to join the server.
I was a little stunned by the 24-hour waiting time that showed up at first, but in reality, it only took a whole 10 minutes before I was let into the game.
The story opens with a cutscene, of course, filled with vague, out-of-context dialogue. Much like Genshin Impact, which many have used as a comp title for this new open-world RPG, the way we choose our main character (i.e. Boy or Girl) is integrated into the cutscene itself.
While I was queueing to enter the game, in what I had thought would be a funny joke, I designed my main character to resemble Xiao from Genshin, so I could only choose the male character. But before Fake Xiao could come into existence, I had to put up with the default male skin first.
Controlling my character for the first time, I found the animation and mechanics to be very smooth.
Something interesting, though, was the interactive cutscene. The scene of us fighting off a hound was also interspersed by gameplay. We basically just click where prompted to, but still.
After a bit more exploration and eventually fainting, I was finally given (semi) full reign of the game. Here’s what I think about Tower of Fantasy after my first hour of playing it.
(Do be warned, there will be quite a few Genshin Impact comparisons in this piece but not necessarily in a bad way.)
Pretty darn cute characters
If you haven’t seen all the memes about Tower of Fantasy’s character customisation, maybe it’s best that you don’t.
But, our main character aside, I found the other characters to be well-designed, with Shirli stealing my heart when she greeted me as I regained consciousness.
With blonde hair in pigtails and an adorable outfit consisting of denim pinafore, Shirli’s the kind of girl that developers design to be fawned over. And you know what? They really got me there.
I also liked that many of the NPCs have rather unique designs and varying builds. While I’m sure some will find Mi-a, the tiny little robot helper, to be annoying, I found her to be really cute too.
Most eyes, however, will be on the Simulacra. What’s that, you ask? Well, Simulacra are basically the playable characters in Tower of Fantasy.
Simulacra aren’t real people, they’re essentially past heroes that you can call upon and emulate. Put simply, they’re avatars that come with their own set of voice lines and some backstory.
If you’ve ever consumed anything from the Fate franchise, it kind of reminds me of how Masters can call upon past heroes.
On a tangent: Some sources seem to claim that the Simulacrum is actually a marketplace of sorts that sells the Simulacra. But really, “simulacrum” is just the singular of “simulacra”. I know I’m right because the official website calls the characters Simulacrum too.
Instead of wishing or pulling for characters, the gacha system, found under the Special Orders tab, involves the weapons instead. SR or SSR weapons (Super Rare or Specially Super Rare), are capable of unlocking exclusive Simulacra.
I was going to pick out a few of my favourite Simulacra, but after checking them out, I have to say I kind of like them all.
Their designs don’t look that derivative at all, with maybe Echo (who looks slightly like Amber) and King (a rocker version of Diluc, maybe?) as an exception.
Actually, it’s got an interesting premise and worldbuilding
Tower of Fantasy’s dystopian, futuristic world is beautiful in a way that’s different from Genshin Impact. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “gritty”, but it’s got a little cyberpunk-ness to it that I find intriguing visually.
Given the sci-fi genre, a lot of the game mechanics are actually explained by the game. For example, the jet pack certainly makes a lot more sense physics-wise than Genshin Impact’s gliders, and the teleportation devices (spacerifts) are actually explained by science and can be used by everyone.
In short, I do think there is an element of realism in Tower of Fantasy, which I can really appreciate. The storyline is easy to follow as well. There are still a lot of questions in the air for now about our backstory, but that’s more reason to keep playing.
The storyline so far is good, too. I like the dialogue, but the one thing that’s annoying is you have to wait until a character gets to the end of their sentence before you can skip forward to the next line.
No ult, but multi-weapon fighting abilities
Moving on to the combat side of things, characters are given the ability to swap between weapons. I like the concept, though I find switching between weapons can make the gameplay feel choppy.
Each weapon belongs to a certain type, including Ice Shell, Flame, Volt, and Grievous, as far as I can tell. Normal attacks appear to already be capable of creating reactions as per their type.
Players will also have access to an active skill with a cooldown. The Volt skill that comes with the original weapon we’re given looks very much like Keqing’s skill in Genshin Impact.
There’s also a discharge feature that can be activated when you switch between weapons (only when the weapon is fully charged, though).
One combat feature I thought was cool was the way you can activate your jetpack and then charge at an enemy from the air.
I guess the soundtrack is nice (even if it’s not as good as Genshin Impact’s)
Even on the login screen, I noticed the game’s music is quite pleasant. It’s nothing jaw-dropping (like Liyue music, in my humble opinion), but definitely good enough to be enjoyed as BGM.
I’m a big ASMR fan, so I really appreciate good foley sounds, and I’d say this game has done it pretty well. I particularly noticed it in the intro with the cave-like ambience, as well as when it’s raining.
I’ve been playing the game in English, and the voice acting has been good. The main character speaks quite a lot, which I don’t mind, and so far, many of the characters we’ve met have rather distinct voices.
However, my managing editor Sade found the voices to be a bit cringe-inducing (she’s just an English dub hater though).
Admittedly, I do find one of the voice lines of the first Simulacrum we get access to be quite annoying (she keeps repeating, “Where are all the baddies?” while I’m queueing to enter the server as if I can even move to find said baddies).
Going into the game, I didn’t know much about Tower of Fantasy except for its art style and general sci-fi theme.
I hadn’t read much about it, because it didn’t seem like it could ever dethrone my love for Genshin Impact—a girl can only love so much at a time, you know?
But even after just a short while of playing it, I honestly don’t find it to be a Genshin Impact copycat at all. Sure, there are similarities, but not to a degree that would rub me the wrong way.
In terms of art style, I still prefer Genshin Impact’s, and for now, I also prefer the older game’s playable characters far more than the Simulacrum.
Genshin Impact’s playable characters simply have a better backstory, which helps establish a special little (parasocial) connection between themselves and the player.
I haven’t been able to test out the multiplayer features, though I have run into other players. At only Level 8 currently, I need three more levels before I can start chatting and interacting with others.
I’ll continue to play Tower of Fantasy on my PC too, so stay tuned for a more in-depth review once I start playing the MMORPG in earnest.
The main downside of the game I’ve experienced is definitely the waiting time. But given its popularity, I understand why some queueing system is implemented.
Every time I return to play the game, I’ve had to wait 10 minutes or more. Sometimes by the time I notice I’m already on the server, I get kicked out for inactivity. Hopefully, this issue won’t be as bad later on, because I’m not a very patient person.
In any case, one major leg up Tower of Fantasy has over Genshin Impact, though, is definitely the fact that you can interact with cats. What more could you ask for, really?