Babel Rising Review
Game: Babel Rising
Developer: Mando Productions
Available on: Xbox LIVE Arcade and Sony Entertainment Network (Reviewed on Xbox LIVE Arcade)
Imagine if, instead of defending a tower from various invaders as we’ve seen in numerous tower defence games, you instead had to destroy the tower and everyone building it? That is the premise of Babel Rising, the console and PC-bound remake of the mobile game released in 2010. Set out as an archetypal ‘God’ game, mixed with elements of ‘tower offence’, Babel Rising requires you to hinder the building of ancient monuments.
The main way you do this is through your control of various elemental forces and powers. As you advance through the 15 level, 3 tower campaign, you’ll have access to two elements from the selection of Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. Beginning with preventing the construction of the Tower of Babel, the elements you are able to select through each of the levels are often annoyingly restricted, as well as being at odds with the idea of an all-powerful God, however, you still have access to powers such as fireballs, meteor showers, tidal waves and lightning. Destroying the tower and the people building it with these elemental anomalies is fun for a while; but it doesn’t last.
In the campaign, however, it’s not enough to simply smite the workers trying to build the monuments, as they are seemingly infinite in number. Instead, you have to fulfil each level’s objectives in order to progress through the game. Whilst in some cases, the tasks Babel Rising gives you are fairly straightforward, such as repelling 20 waves of workers or scoring 100,000 points, some of the ones presented are less than fair, requiring you to destroy or preserve certain enemy types, such as ships (in an annoying top-down shooting gallery) and destroy of siege/construction towers that carry workers. With great gaps between the waves of necessary special enemies, and often imprecise aim, the levels can take rather large and annoying amounts of time, resulting in the monument being built while you wait for them, causing you to lose the game.
There are two types of control scheme available in Babel Rising, the simple usage of the controller’s thumbsticks to move around and aim, with each of the face buttons mapped to a power and the triggers mapped to the special powers (special elemental attacks, such as meteor showers and tidal waves, that are unlocked by gradual usage of the relevant elements) and the Kinect or Playstation Move controls. Instead of using the controller, you use various movements of arms and hands to select relevant powers, clapping to select elements and using various movements down and horizontally in order to use the powers. By raising your secondary hand, or saying the relevant sentence out loud, you can lock in and use the special powers, moving around to increase its power. Whilst the controller is easier to use, the Kinect integration is a nice feature to see, even if it’s rather fiddly.
As the standard workers build such Mesopotamian marvels as the Great Ziggurat of Ur and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, they’re joined, or aided, by a few types of enemy that directly tie into the objectives. The most prominent of these are the Priests, who offer protection to themselves and those under their spell from a certain elemental power. This then requires you to eliminate them using the other element you have equipped in order to prevent them from building the tower further. Conversely, the Cursed Jar bearers offer a direct risk to you, other than through the building of the tower. While the jars themselves will eventually claim the life of the worker carrying them, and then disappear, if you attack one, the power you used will be disabled for a short time.
Other than the aforementioned areas, there is very little variety in Babel Rising. With only 3 towers, with 5 levels each, there is an anaemic amount of content in the campaign. The way Mando Productions, developer of the original mobile game, have tried to remedy this is a frustrating and unsuccessful solution; making the levels longer. Simply lengthening the levels of the game has not increased the fun, or replayability, of a rather limited God game.
The other game-modes included also do little to appease the frustration of the campaign, by bringing nothing new to the table. Survival Mode, featuring the 3 monuments playable on Easy or Almighty difficulty when unlocked through the campaign, is simply just a rehashed version of the campaign levels where you have to resist construction for a certain period of time. When it’s frustrating for 10-20 minutes trying to destroy 72 ships, a possibly endless time trial of resistance isn’t particularly endearing, even when the score (generated by killing workers and gaining combos) is posted to a leaderboard, like the campaign levels.
The multiplayer offering is restricted as well, with no online multiplayer offered. Instead, there are 3 types of local multiplayer to throw lightning at. Battle of the Gods, where you compete on split-screen to survive tower building the longest, Score Battles of 5, 10 and 15 minutes, where you compete to string together combos in order to get the highest score at the end and, by far the best mode, the co-operative mode. In co-operative mode, each player possesses two elements each and battles to attack the same tower. However, even this mode is let down by vertical split-screen that makes it harder to see where the workers are coming from on the more complex monuments.
VERDICT: Beneath the veneer of gloss that the monuments and their surroundings are under, and the repetitive background music, there’s really very little of merit in Babel Rising. Although the game does what it needs to do, it’s completely uninspiring and insipid. While it would have suited Xbox LIVE Arcade or the PlayStation Network back in 2006, when developers were just getting used to developing downloadable titles, Babel Rising is simply too basic and too feature-light to stand out in the crowd.