Babel Rising Review
A unique concept pans out to be a very boring and extremely slow game
Babel Rising is an Xbox Live Arcade (tested) and Playstation Network downloadable title with an interesting concept. The game puts you in the role of a vengeful god with a slew of elemental powers looking down on his creations as they rebel and attempt to construct the legendary Tower of Babel. God games have always interested me and the powers available here seemed to have a tinge of Populous to them. Unfortunately after digging into Babel Rising, I found there was very little to this game and what little there is failed to keep my interest.
The core gameplay revolves around utilizing two elemental power sets to keep tiny, ancient workers from reaching the tower and building it up. Victory is achieved depending on the specific mission’s guidelines (defeat 450 workers, spare 25 cursed jars, hold out for 10 minutes, etc.). Defeat always comes when the workers are allowed to fully construct the tower.
At the beginning of each mission, you choose two of four power sets including earth, fire, water and wind. Each set contains two powers: a single point power and a draggable area-of-effect power. For example, the Earth powers include dropping a rock from the heavens onto a single worker’s head and a draggable power creating a rupture in the earth wherever you drag your cursor, launching the workers high into the air. The workers make their way up and towards the tower along one or more predetermined pathways depending on the level (a la tower defense games). It’s that simple really.
Graphically, Babel Rising is not much to talk about one way or the other. Its overall cartoony style reminded me of a less-stylized Age of Empires Online. The game looks good enough to get all of the important information across well but is visually bland overall. The user interface is simple and inelegant with overwrought menus and overly-stylized fonts. The entire package just comes away feeling more like something we would have seen hit XBLA five years ago than something making its debut today.
From a singleplayer perspective, Babel Rising features a primary campaign as well as a number of score-based missions. The campaign is fairly straightforward and acts as a tutorial as well as a means of changing up some of the core mechanics, such as missions that take place on different towers featuring multiple pathways or certain workers that must not be killed.
While the campaign is fairly lengthy, it was so easy and many of the missions were so long that I found myself literally nodding off after a mission or two. The game features the extreme slow pace that plagues so many tower defense titles but fails to really have any satisfying leveling or upgrade mechanic that makes those games satisfying in the end. Additionally, the game features the kind of basic structure that can leave you losing a match after 10 or 15 minutes of doing quite well.
The game features singleplayer Kinect support when played on Xbox 360, but it is riddled with a number of problems. In my current living room setup, the game is entirely unplayable while sitting down. Even when I wasn’t moving at all, the cursor would quiver around, disappear and shoot across the screen randomly to the point where I could not even start a mission.
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