Posted on June 13, 2012 AT 08:30pm
The concept behind Ubisoft’s Babel Rising isn’t particularly mind bending, but it is a whole lot of fun. You are God, and you’ve noticed that in an attempt to get closer to you, your people have begun building a tower. Well that’s a bit rude isn’t it? How dare these mere mortals think that they can just build their way to heaven! Isn’t the fact that you are high up in the sky and they are scrambling across the Earth a pretty clear indicator of their place in life? Apparently not. The time has come for you to crack your divine knuckles and give those peasants something to pray for! Wielding the power of the four elements, Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water, you must make those ungrateful humans pay for their insolence by destroying them before they can build the Tower of Babel.
Babel Rising is rated E10+ for everyone over the age of ten. It is a downloadable console title that is best described as a tower offense game, given that you are destroying a tower rather than defending one. The game starts off a bit slow as you learn the ropes. Quickly progressing into madness and action that at times is surprisingly challenging. Babel Rising offers players a campaign mode that allows you to unlock features for survival mode where you see how long you can play before the Tower of Babel is built. There are also leaderboards so you can track your progress against friends and a stats section so you can see how much damage you’ve done over the course of all the games you have played.
The opening level of the campaign has a brief tutorial that will walk you through the basic game play mechanics. You are taught how to utilize the two elements that you are allotted during each level. The concept is straight forward, and the tutorial is easy to follow. Workers make their way towards the tower and each worker that makes it to the highest point will add onto the construction. The objective is to hinder the progress by killing workers, towers, boats, priests, and anything else that comes along to stand in your way!
For the first few levels I only had to keep my eye on one side of the tower, and that kept things rather simple. I learned pretty quick that I was really just being lured into a false sense of security. As you advance through the stages things get a lot more intense as workers come from multiple sides. Thankfully you can rotate the camera around the whole tower rather quickly, but that doesn’t make things easy. With two open sides for workers to start building you have to be selective with the powers you use. The elements need time to charge up after each use, so button mashing when you get stressed won’t get you far. Strategy becomes key as you start getting a feel for how long each element takes to charge and how to use each power to its full potential.
- Fire – The power of Fire will let you drop a sizeable fire ball that can kill a small group of people, or destroy the scaffolding of the tower as your workers start production. The Fire perk also lets you create a wall of fire that you can drag along an area with your analog to effectively burn the incoming masses of people.
- Earth – The power of Earth gives you the ability to pelt incoming workers with stones or create a rift in the ground that you can drag along with the analog stick to kill a long line of people.
- Wind – The power of Wind lets you call forth a tornado to drag across the playing field. You are also given a lightning bolt that will zap your target as well as a couple people close to them.
- Water – The power of Water gives you the ability to command a rain cloud that will slow down the onslaught of workers who get caught in it. Water also gives you the power to freeze people to death by moving your cursor over them.
In general the ability to use the forces of nature to take lives was a lot of fun and well executed in Babel Rising. Killing priests and workers doesn’t seem so bad when a tiny angel graphic rises up from their corpses. One thing that I found frustrating was the element selection screen. At any given point in the game you can only select two out of four elemental powers at the start of each level. But that is actually quite misleading because the majority of levels already have the two elements predetermined for you. The elements build up to a special power the more you use them during each stage. My personal favorite of the specials was a giant stone ball, reminiscent of Indiana Jones, which crushed everyone in its path!
The musical soundtrack leaves much to be desired with the same songs looping repeatedly. While the compositions themselves fit the title in their tone, it was a little disappointing to play through a level for 20 minutes with the same track playing over and over again. Sound effects are not anything to write home about, your basic rain water and claps of thunder come through clear and precise as one would expect from an Ubisoft title. The elemental sounds actually help your game play and are worth keeping the volume on to hear. For example, when you use the special power for Wind, the windstorm effects will play until the special power expires. I found this feature very helpful when the stages picked up the pace as it indicated when an area was no longer being defended. However, not all the sound effects were as helpful as they could be. When the element immune Priests show up to a party, they show up in style! In addition to donning a brightly colored halo, they announce themselves with a sound that can only be described as ‘funny’ the first couple times you hear it. By the 40th time you hear it, your eye will unconsciously start to twitch every time they make their presence known.
The overall look of the game is similar to something you would expect from a comic book. Babel Rising has excellent cartoon style graphics that really pop out and catch your eye. The game is as fun to look at as it is to play so even if you are patiently waiting your turn against a friend, watching them play won’t be a bad thing. The levels are richly colored and bright throughout the entire game. I’m assuming this is because everyone knows that murdering masses of construction workers in the dark is just so last year. The load time is really fast and features a handful of game play tips during the load screens. In truth, I never saw more than 6 original load screen tips during my hours of play, but there could be more than that. One downside to note would be that there is no online multiplayer option, the multiplayer provided is limited to up to four friends, assuming you have four controllers.
The copy I reviewed was for the Xbox 360 and was compatible with the Kinect. I did attempt to play it with the Kinect, but personally was not a fan of it. Flailing my arms about and shouting out the elements made me feel over the top silly. I also could not play the game as well as my response time was completely different than what it was when I had a controller in hand. I have no actual complaints about playing Babel Rising with the Kinect. Mechanics wise, it worked quite well and did not disappoint. I imagine the ability to play the game by yelling and pointing is a great selling point for children! As an adult, I’m sure it would allow for a whole new gaming experience should you choose to practice and get the hang of the motion controls.
Should you buy it? Yes. The game is absolutely worth playing! It offers up several hours worth of game play, a few trophies, and some laughs. The overall replay value is fairly low unless you intend to play with friends. It’s the kind of game where 6 months from now you may have the urge to play it again, but it’s unlikely you’ll be racing home to play it at the end of the day. Once you beat the campaign mode there isn’t a whole lot left to do aside from go back and try to beat your best times on each stage.
Babel Rising is available now for download on the PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE Arcade for $9.99 and 800 Microsoft Points.
The Good: Load Times Are Fast, Easy To Learn, Graphics Are Visually Pleasing
The Bad: Not Many Load Screen Tips, Most of the Levels Predetermine Your Elements, No Online Multiplayer
The Ugly: Soundtrack is Limited and Looped, Sound Effects are Insanely Repetitive, The Sound the Priests Make May Cause Your Eye to Twitch
Score: 8 out of 10
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