Towers. I’m so goddamn tired of climbing towers. I’m just as likely to throw myself off of a tower in real life than to enjoy climbing one in a game.
It’s such a boring, lazy gaming mechanic that brings absolutely nothing to a game other than tediously restricting stretches of gameplay.
Of course, it makes sense to climb something tall so that you can see your surroundings, and with this understanding you uncover parts of the map that were perhaps shrouded in darkness. I get that, i’m just fed up with them.
Ubisoft love their tall towers, that much is certain. The Assassin’s Creed series is plagued by them, having featured in literally what? 11 of their games quite considerably? Yes, it’s a key mechanic that works but it’s used that frequently nowadays that just find it a chore.
Back in 2007, when I was merrily free-running around Jerusalem in the first Assassin’s Creed, it didn’t bother me in the slightest and it made perfect sense. Fast forward a few years to Ezio’s time in the Italian Renaissance and, again, it felt necessary but still somewhat enjoyable. I think it was when we ended Ezio’s story in Assassin’s Creed Revelations that I began to feel a distaste towards it. I mean, the fact the the game was absolutely awful probably didn’t help (den defence anyone?), but I just started to grow tired. Since then, I usually avoid climbing to the top of these view points until I’m almost forced to do so or just so happens that I’m already halfway up it by accident.
It’s not just Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise that uses climbable towers to reveal parts of the map, the more recent Far Cry games utilise this too. You climb these radio towers, and then activate them once you’re at the summit. Identical to the purpose in Assassin’s Creed games, but you have to navigate them in first person with a much more stripped back climbing feature. No wall running here, I’m afraid. After completing the first two or three towers in Far Cry 3, I quickly became tired of the monotony. Thankfully, there was an added incentive as you unlocked weapons with each tower activation. Without this bribery though, I don’t think I would have climbed them at all.
Far Cry 4 was a little different, a little easier I must say. The game kept the incentive of free guns for completing the tower’s but we had mini-helicopters or ‘Buzzers’. Me being me and with my growing frustration, I took to wedging my little flying machine on top of these towers, jumping out and then interacting with whatever needed interacting with. I’d hop back in and fly to the next tower. Rinse and repeat. Don’t get me wrong, i died pretty frequently and it would have taken me far less time to just climb the things but at least it was something different and at the very least, it was a challenge.
Watch Dogs was another title of Ubisoft’s to feature towers. Finding all of the CtOS towers will reveal all collectible locations on your map and grants you some fast travel points. Obviously, the thingymabob you need to hack into is on the roof. How convenient, eh?
Ubisoft’s obsession expands even to their driving games. The Crew has towers! Thankfully, you don’t need to climb them, although having your car transform into some Autobot-sentient being would probably improve the game quite drastically. The funniest thing though isn’t the apparent craving for map-revealing towers, it’s that this game is developed by a company called ‘Ivory Tower’! Amazing! You just couldn’t write it! Seriously though, it’s not a bad idea, having towers that reveal more of the world; it’s just reached the point of parody because of how often Ubisoft seem to lean on it.
Although Ubisoft clearly have a major hard-on for incorporating towers in their games, they’re not the only developers that use them. It’s not specifically towers that bore me, it’s just the generic objective of climbing something tall and long winded just to flesh out a game. It’s used in Dying Light and some of the Batman Arkham games, even Middle-earth: Shadow Of Mordor has instances of it.
Since the early days, climbing has always been a big part of gaming, and that’s fine. I loved the likes of Tomb Raider and Prince Of Persia. So far, I’m really enjoying scaling the Tallnecks in Horizon Zero Dawn. It’s there, but it’s not shoved down your throat.
I know I’m being petty here, and it’s not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. The simple fact is though, that it’s just boring now. The fad has been and gone, Assassin’s Creed revolutionised climbing mechanics in games, and at that time it was fun to climb tall historical landmarks and then swan dive off the top into a conveniently placed cart of hay. Since then though, it’s been an industry-wide copy and paste scandal.
If you look at the biggest and best open-world games, there’s none of this trash in sight. I’m talking Grand Theft Auto, The Elder Scrolls series, The Witcher, Red Dead Redemption, Final Fantasy XV. All of these games have you discovering varied locations by exploring, not climbing a tower and then ‘synchronising’. Which, in my honest opinion, is by far the best way to play a game.
So why do developers do this?
Like I mentioned, it’s just lazy and generic game building. More specifically though, it’s likely because most open world games struggle to utilise the vertical space – not just having the vertical space but seriously incorporating it into the gameplay – and, outside of the helicopters, planes, and skydiving prevalent in most open world style games, a tower mechanic is apparently the best thing games developers can come up with.
Am I just being pedantic? What are your thoughts?