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Towerborne is a couch co-op brawler from the Banner Saga creators

Something very different from Stoic Studio
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Everyone who’s played Stoic Studio’s Banner Saga, a tactical RPG featuring a fantasy setting inspired by Norse mythology, loved it. There was one big problem, though, the developers told me at gamescom 2023: Their kids found it boring. Aside from proving once more that children don’t have a clue about anything and can’t be trusted, this resulted in Stoic going somewhere completely different for its next project, Towerborne.

Towerborne, at its core, is a hack ‘n' slay brawler that’s supposed to be played in co-op mode locally or online, though you can play solo as well. You make your character, equip them with items which determine the style of combat you have access to, and jump into battle against all kinds of monsters and bosses at the side of your friends or family.

Towerborne keyart.

Towerborne is a co-op brawler with an adorable visual style.

That battle part is pretty fun and surprisingly mechanical: You have your jump, dodge, regular attack, and skills, and you can combo all of these in different manners to get quite spectacular and fun results. It’s almost like an actual fighting game, a feeling that’s reinforced by the looks. The boss we fought at gamescom felt pretty challenging, but had attack patterns you could learn and adapt to. The controls had a good feel to them and I was told that the game will come out with the ability to map your controller buttons freely, so players can easily customize it all to their preferences.

There is no class system in Towerborne. There are healing, tank, or damage abilities players can freely combine, determining their own play style through the modifications they graft onto their weapons. Each piece of gear has a certain amount of slots for these, so it’s going to be a crucial decision what to add to your equipment – think of gem slots in Diablo. Melee weapons are the only pieces of gear available right now in pre-Alpha, but ranged weapons are planned on being added as well – I mentioned that double hand crossbows would probably be a great fit for the system and the developers agreed, saying they had actually already experimented with double pistols.

Towerborne screenshot of a boss battle.

You won't find a class system in Towerborne. Instead, you customize your weapons to gain new skills.

Once you’ve cleared a level, you’ll gain rewards you can use back at the hub settlement, a giant tower bearing the last remnants of humanity, where you can craft and level up your gear. This tower is in the center of a hex-based map, which you can explore with your character to find treasure and playable levels. This is what’s envisioned as a core gameplay loop: Visit the hex map, choose a level to clear, upgrade your stuff with the loot you find, and get back to it.

Stoic’s plan is to have Towerborne run on a seasonal schedule as a live-service game, so this hex-based map will get refreshed when a new season hits, presenting players with brand-new areas to explore and fight in. Additional content like more biomes and items, but also fresh story missions, will accompany these updates. It’s a system, the developers say, that’s set up so that the team can easily react to community feedback and change things accordingly for the next season.

Towerborne screenshot of the hex-based map.

Towerborne's hex-based map will be refreshed with every season, offering new challenges.

The composer and writer of Banner Saga is on board for Towerborne as well, giving the project a feel of continuity despite the radical change in gameplay direction.

Combat was the big focus of my time with the game at the convention and that part of the title definitely felt satisfying – there are still some questions around the rest of it all, that I’m sure we’ll see answered in the coming months.

Towerborne, published by Xbox Game Studios, is set to be released on PC and Xbox Series X|S in 2024.