|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: Mando Productions|
|Release: June 12, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Cartoon Violence|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
Ubisoft's new game, Babel Rising, attempts to answer the age-old theological question: "How can God stand by and let so many horrible things happen?" The answer is simple: He can't get his Kinect to work.
Yes, Babel Rising puts you in the shoes of God with a capital G, the good old Judeo/Christian/Muslim God that everyone knows and arguably loves. The Babylonians have decided to build the Tower of Babel into heaven, and it's your job to smite them for their hubris. Of course, millions of peons all marching toward the singular goal of building a tower sounds like one thing to me: Tower Defense.
Actually, it would be more accurate to call Babel Rising a "Turret Defense" than a "Tower Defense," even though a tower is involved. The workers of Babylon will endlessly march toward the Tower of Babel, climbing up the structure in a spiral. If they get to the end of the spiral, they build another section, and if they manage to build the tower all the way to Heaven, you lose.[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Being God, you have the power of the elements at your control. Before each round, you can bind two of the four elements, fire, air, water, and earth, to the face buttons of your controller. Each element has a local attack (an attack that strikes a single point on the tower) and a line attack (an attack that you can drag across the map to cause area of effect mayhem.) Each of these powers recharges on a timer, and, if left to charge further, it grows to three levels of power. For example, the local fireball power burns all the humans in an area when it falls. If you let it charge to level 3, the area gets bigger. Similarly, the earth line ability causes a rift that humans fall into. If you charge it up to level 3, the rift gets bigger.
Using your local and line abilities eventually allows you to charge up an ultimate ability. This ability deals massive damage to everyone on the stage, and is basically used as a panic button. You can make your ultimate ability even more powerful by mashing buttons as you execute it, but it's incredibly easy to maximize this power bonus every time unless you have fallen asleep at the controller.
And that's it. That's the whole game. Humans walk up the tower, you kill them, lather, rinse, repeat. You'd think pulling the strings of an omnipotent God would be an awesome power trip that keeps you occupied for hours, right? Well, not so much. Heavenly destruction seems fun in theory, but in practice the entire concept breaks down for a number of reasons.
First of all, the powers of the elements never change. You only have one local ability, one line ability, and one ultimate ability for each element, and you are only able to bring two elements into each stage, maxing out your options at six things to do in every mission. God never levels up or gets more powerful and your abilities never change, so the tricks you are using in level 1 will be the same tricks you are using in the final level of the game.
And the game outstays its welcome. Right off the bat you are put into a "survive for eight minutes" mission, where the game already starts to get boring. You simply throw some fireballs, create some rifts, use your ultimate abilities, and the humans never even get close to the top of the tower. You very easily smite everyone with minimal effort—for eight minutes. Just press the button of your highest charged ability and watch people die. Every stage has you doing the same thing over and over again for far longer than it's actually fun to do so. A few stages after the "survive for eight minutes" stage, there was a "survive for nine minutes stage." I was so bored at that point I turned my Xbox off in disgust.
Additionally, the game is easy. There's no challenge, no thrill, nothing compelling in the game to keep you playing. The game tries to switch it up at times by adding priests who are resistant to certain elements, cursed jars, mini-towers, ships, and other unique enemy types in addition to the normal hordes of mindless workers, but none of these enemy types actually make the game more interesting, they just make the game harder. In fact, the way you deal with any sort of unique enemy is "kill it first before you kill anything else" and as long as you follow that pattern, you can still flowchart your way through every level with ease.
To make matter worse, the controls are absolutely horrible. You can control the game with the Kinect (or Move on the PS3) or with a controller, and neither is a good choice. With a controller, you choose where to aim your powers by moving the cursor, but moving the cursor with an analog stick is twitchy. You alter the camera with the right analog stick but this feels too loose and rarely centers on where you want to see, especially when changing the camera's height. You can never really tell when your line powers have worn off or if your local powers are on point, nor can you really tell when workers are too far in the background to hit or even where the "top" of the tower is.