Yes, I said it; Tower of Fantasy is better than Genshin Impact. Having sunk far too many hours into each RPG game, I feel a lot more at home in the world of Aida than I do in Teyvat – especially because Hotta Studio’s anime adventure doesn’t seem entirely intent on draining my (non-existent) bank balance.
I despise gacha games. I see them as predatory money-making schemes that work by dangling carrots in front of players’ faces only to snatch them away. Yes, games have to make money somehow, that’s a given. But this fact leads to pressure to optimise your monetisation model. And optimising a gacha model not only tends to create a poor experience for the player, it can do real-world harm to those who get deeply sucked in. Yet here I am, playing Tower of Fantasy.
You may ask why. The allure of Aida’s cyberpunk-style universe was enough to draw me in, but the lack of abrasive Genshin-style monetisation is the main reason I keep coming back – especially after the 2.0 update.
It’s a rich man’s world
A ‘whale’ is the term used for players who have huge wallets – or do they? – and can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to give them an edge in games that allow them to do so. When I started playing Genshin I enjoyed exploring the emerald pastures of Teyvat while simultaneously expanding my roster of magical comrades, but it quickly became apparent that, if I wanted good teammates, I’d need to spend a lot of money to do so.
My first experience of this was with Mona. As a sucker for all things anime and witchy, I fell in love with her immediately. Her banner was up, and I needed her. So, I did a few pulls, got sweet bugger all, and then realised that my wishes for the day were used up. I tried again the next day and – you guessed it – same result.
I couldn’t get Mona, so I settled with Lisa (cue Panic! At the Disco) in Genshin. Problem was, after having played the Traveller and Jean, Lisa felt entirely underpowered. Where I was tearing through mobs before, I was struggling to even topple one foe. This gets even worse at higher levels, where you have optimal team compositions in order to take on the likes of the Spiral Abyss. Yet more pulls, more money, and a constant feeling of being deflated until you get the character you may not even want, but need in order to survive the endgame.
This pressure simply doesn’t exist in Tower of Fantasy. It doesn’t feel like you have to be playing a certain character in order to do well – I adore them all, don’t get me wrong, but I love even more the fact that they are, essentially, skins. Better yet, ToF lets you create your own character, and again, they’re of comparable power to the rest of the cast. So while I’m not going to say no to a chance Lin pull in 2.0, I’m ok with missing out. Instead, I have Swanthula, my MMORPG persona, my own pink-haired, Ariana Grande-inspired virtual avatar, and I don’t really need anyone else.
By contrast, Genshin’s Traveler feels impersonal. The fact that everyone else is so much cooler adds aesthetic as well as performance-based pressure to chase a different character. This brings us back to your two choices: fork out cash, or cross your fingers and hope to get lucky. Both are profoundly annoying. Even if you do get a lucky pull, the elation is short-lived – all characters will fade from the meta sooner or later.
In Tower of Fantasy, I don’t feel like my playthrough is simply a series of unfortunate events. I’ve had a great time making use of the base weapons, as well as Bai Ling’s bow and Ene’s Pummeler hammer. While, of course, you want to upgrade these and pick up some SSR weapons as the game progresses, I don’t feel like I’m completely locked out of playing the style I want to play. As a ranged DPS player, I was worried that Bai Ling’s Nightingale would be akin to Lisa’s somewhat lacklustre electrical magic. Thankfully, I was wrong – in fact, it’s my favourite weapon in the game.
This balance is why I find myself more inclined towards Hotta’s anime game. I don’t feel like I need to pull like my life depends on it. I don’t feel locked out of the game or unable to participate because I’m not willing to drop my wallet. Maybe that’s just a casual thing, and of course I recognise the importance of good gear. But it’s not always about that for me – it’s about having fun, and Tower of Fantasy is fun.
That’s what games are all about, right? For me, Genshin became a costly chore. The higher I climbed, the more I spent, and the worse I felt, like I was only progressing through dumb luck or through spending. Ultimately, the horrible, sucking feeling that gacha games engender as you get deeper into them is a lack of agency. I don’t have that with ToF.
Being able to make your own character who uses all of the game’s different abilities mitigates the need to pull on specific characters, and the fact the game is balanced well means that you don’t need to be playing as one specific Simulacra in order to advance. Your progress feels earned rather than bought or rolled for.
Of course, there are better weapons and gear, as well as a whole slew of different abilities that likely have their pros and cons, but for more casual players like me Tower of Fantasy is more accessible and doesn’t burn a hole in the bank. Perhaps that’ll change in future updates – I can’t tell the future. For now though, Aida remains my second home.
For those who are looking to dive into the Tower of Fantasy 2.0 update, be sure to check out our list of Tower of Fantasy codes, as well as our Tower of Fantasy tier list to make sure you’re ready to tackle the foes that lie ahead.