Or is it just another Genshin Impact clone brazenly stealing from the smash-hit?
Preview: Is Tower of Fantasy the Genshin Impact MMO we’ve been waiting for?
An imitation too far? Our take on Tower of Fantasy
Video game developers have always copied from one another. Rocksteady pioneered the great "free flow" combat system with Batman: Arkham Asylum - and Monolith adopted it years later in The Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor. Or take Command & Conquer: the first real-time strategy game that allowed for the grouping and simultaneous commanding of multiple units. A feature that has now become the genre standard.
Imitation then, is not only flattery, but sometimes utilitarian. Few complaints are issued about the entire genre created as a result of Dark Souls' success. But is there a point whereby a copy is too bold or brazen? Tower of Fantasy may be able to answer that question.
Tell us you’ve meticulously analysed Genshin Impact without telling us you’ve meticulously analysed Genshin Impact.
MiHoYo Déjà vu? When is a Genshin Impact clone not a Genshin Impact clone?
It only took a few minutes of gameplay before being struck by just how many liberties Chinese developer Hotta Studio took from their compatriots miHoYo. The style of anime looks nigh-on identical to that of the megahit Genshin Impact. But the “similarities” go far beyond that: The font? Identical. The Adventure Guide? Identical. The whole concept of the game? Pretty damn close.
The core gameplay in both centres around exploring an open-world full of collectibles, combat challenges, and “puzzles” (more on those later). Both games have their gacha elements. Though in Tower of Fantasy, your primary collection objectives are weapon and skin accumulation. Characters are collected indirectly and can be switched during combat, yet for the majority of the game, you roam as your player-made protagonist.
So there is at least one big difference even if it's one necessary for switching the title from a Genshin Impact clone into a Genshin Impact style MMO. Though it should also be noted that despite extremely similar combat, Tower of Fantasy distinguishes itself slightly with the addition of perfectly timed weapon changes (which result in a powerful discharge ability).
Another feature shared by both games is the ability to climb anywhere. Like swimming, climbing consumes stamina. Plus, there’s the ability to glide through the air. Can we accuse them of stealing from Genshin Impact with these features? Yes. But we could equally accuse Genshin Impact of stealing them from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
The Genshin Impact MMO They Can’t Call a Genshin Impact MMO
That they’ve stolen from Genshin Impact would take a fool to deny. Were I on the Genshin Impact dev team, I’m not sure I’d be gracious enough to view it as flattery. But I am reminded of the excellent Banksy piece wherein Picasso’s name is crossed out and replaced with Banksy’s own underneath the quote “The bad artists imitate, the great artists steal.”
Well, are Hotta Studios great artists? Perhaps not. But Tower of Fantasy does improve on Genshin Impact in one obvious way. Genshin Impact is primarily a single-player game whereas Tower of Fantasy is essentially a Genshin Impact MMO. At any point, you can bump into other players, gain access to group activities, join guilds, and of course, embark on PvP.
Plus, Tower of Fantasy has added something from launch that players have requested for two-years in Genshin – vehicles. We know Genshin Impact added a boat in Inazuma, but Tower of Fantasy is more-than-generous with the high-tech vehicles in bestows on you at an early stage. And as ridiculous as they are… they kind of rock.
Is Tower of Fantasy better than Genshin Impact?
After about 10 hours of gameplay, it's safe to say no. It's not better than Genshin Impact. Is it on a par? In some respects, yes. The combat and questing are hard to tell apart. And while we're too early on to judge whether the story is going to be a tearjerking masterpiece, the dialog and cutscenes are both decent -- though clearly not quite at Genshin's standards.
Where Genshin Impact is undoubtedly superior to Tower of Fantasy is the puzzles. Tower of Fantasy's copy-pasted puzzles are trivial, unsatisfying nonsense. I've yet to come across one that could be considered a braintickler, let alone a brainteaser. I've come to believe that with enough time and birdseed, you could train a crow to do some of them. "Oh look, a water elemental next to a big suspicious aqua-blue plant. Maybe if I pick it up and throw it in something will happen. Oh look, loot, hooray."
Dear game devs, sometimes, less is more.
As anyone who has forayed into the mobile gaming world knows, games these days like to give out what boomers would call "participation trophies". And while we have no problem with handing out a "good effort" badge for the slow kid at sports day, the barrage of free awards in games is, frankly, frustrating as hell. There are too many reward systems, too many things to pick up, too many daily login rewards, too many newcomer events, too many weekly quests, and too many daily bounty missions.
Furthermore, each region has its own exploration progress bar wherein you receive additional rewards for reaching certain milestones. Or you could stop by Mi-a's Kitchen every few hours to receive buffs and rewards from your little robot friend. Don't want to? Okay, go pick up your supply box from the shop each day instead. Oh, and don't get us started on the achievement system...
We levelled similar criticism at Lost Ark, but at least in Lost Ark the chaos was enjoyable. Clicking all your freebies in Tower of Fantasy starts to feel like work.
Tower of Fantasy is not as good as Genshin Impact. The climbing doesn't work as well. The quest menus have been rushed. The script translations are straight from Bing. Yet we'd be lying if we said that we didn't enjoy Tower of Fantasy. It is a Genshin Impact clone, albeit with a few modifications. You'd need to be a real MMO fan to prefer it to the miHoYo's hit, but then again... you are on MMOGames.com.
Still, like a wheeler-dealer uncle at Christmas who gets his presents from the back of a van, Hotta Studios can throw all the non-brand toys at you as your heart would desire, but you just know they don't quite feel right. And they will probably fall apart before the year is through.