Title: Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Release Date: December 2, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Genre: Adventure Roguelike
Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate is a game I poured countless hours into on the PlayStation Vita, so having heard of a port coming to PC and Nintendo Switch, my excitement grew to tackle this title again. Climbing the tower once more was enjoyable, but it also alerted me of the heaps of frustration and annoyances that prospective new players will most likely have. While Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate can be incredibly challenging and vexing due to the genre elements, there is a wildly addicting gameplay loop here alongside a plethora of content that is a steal for its price.
Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate follows the protagonist Shiren and his sidekick, Koppa, as they track down a passionate boy attempting to save a sick, young girl by collecting the Dice of Fate and ascending the Tower of Fortune. Reeva, the god of Destiny, lies atop, who can hopefully save the ill girl. The narrative in this title is engaging and entertaining with its genuine dialogue but is by no means its main draw, and it doesn’t try to be, which I greatly appreciate. In fact, the personal nature of this story was a breath of fresh air and can likely give players an extra ounce of motivation to keep going because it can really kick your ass.
This is a game where you traverse mystery dungeons that change in layout each time you enter. Enemy locations, traps, items, and floor exits are all randomized. While this adds an immense amount of replay value, the lack of certainty can make some ventures incredibly intimidating. The biggest challenge comes from the fact that if you die with no revive items; you’ll end up back in town with your entire on-person inventory wiped, all of your currency vanishing, and your level resetting back to 1. While levels reset once you leave dungeons anyway, it can be extremely disheartening to make considerable progress in a dungeon and then simply have to start over from scratch.
Even though you lose everything you’re holding upon death, there is storage in the town area, which will end up being your saving grace. Storing helpful pieces of equipment and consumable items is ultimately what smart players will have to do to progress from death. You can store currency as well. Taking advantage of this storage is important to tackle the game’s more difficult content and not have to start again new each time.
The challenge doesn’t end with the changing dungeons; however, it goes far beyond that. Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate is a brutal, unforgiving adventure when it wants to be. You can have a relatively quick and easy dungeon experience one time but experience a world of hellish hurt the next. In addition to the challenge of random elements not working out in your favor, you also need to consider item management.
With a mere 24 slots for items in your backpack, this was the most annoying gameplay aspect for me. While you can store items in pots, which increases the number of items, it felt as if I constantly had to readjust my inventory 10 minutes later in a dungeon. The frequency of items in dungeons also adds to this frustration since I battled my own inventory more than the monsters.
Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate is full of various mechanics that will take time to understand fully. Thankfully, there is an extremely in-depth tutorial house right at the start of the game. This is also a generous and welcoming feature for newer players who can learn all they need to know, at least on a baseline level.
While every mechanic demonstrated and explained to players is fantastic, the tutorials do very little to show how mechanics can synergize and act in tandem. More importantly, they do not emulate the actual dungeon experience. The tutorials try their best to tackle the monstrous catalog of mechanics this title houses, but it is something to keep in mind. I personally don’t recommend tackling every tutorial at once because there are a lot and playing all of them back-to-back can cause burnout and become dull and monotonous.
The soundtrack for Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate is absolutely magnificent. The quality of this soundtrack surprised even me, who originally played the title on PlayStation Vita. The tracks emit a very distinct nostalgic tone that works well alongside the atmospheric beauty this game provides. The art style is retro, which added to the world’s comfortableness and enhanced the overall game feel. This also created an almost ingenious dichotomy within the gameplay itself since giving players a visually simple art style to take in makes the act of learning and adapting to the game’s severe difficulty and mechanics friendlier in a sense. There are also three new bonus dungeons along with a Live Display Mode optimized for streaming gameplay so you can share your enjoyment with viewers.
While I have seemingly ragged on this title’s difficulty, I must admit that the difficulty is what kept me coming back for more. If this title were easily conquerable, then there would be almost no incentive to keep playing. The brutal nature of this game encourages players to keep playing. The sheer amount of randomness demands players to adapt and preserve smartly, so it’s not as if this game is just a roll of the dice. There is skill involved here, and growing adept at them is what makes Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate such an engaging, addicting mess. I’ve had hours of fun with this game, but some of its more intricate elements did turn me off due to their intimidating nature.
If you have casual experience with the mystery dungeon genre and desire more from it, I wholeheartedly recommend Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate. Once you let it in and embrace it, this adventure will pull you in with its endless replayability, stark gameplay depth, and charm. If you grow easily frustrated, however, and find yourself feeling disheartened by losing resources and progress quite significantly, a different mystery dungeon title will more than likely be your cup of tea.
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