Tomb of Tyrants – At First Glance

‘At First Glance’ is a short-form first impressions series. My time with these games were short for some reason or another, and while they did not inspire a full review, they still left me with something to say, be it negative or positive. 

I recently stumbled upon a new match-puzzle game on Steam entitled Tomb of Tyrants. It had a charming pixel art-style and promised a unique mix of dungeon defense and match-4 game play. The game comes close to being interesting but falls short due to it’s complicated presentation and lack of clear tutorial segments. There might be a good game here behind the steep and ambiguous learning curve. 

In Tomb of Tyrants you play as the evil tyrant owner of a dungeon, building level after level of demonic resistance, to protect your most inner, and most sinister, sanctum, from adventuring heroes. To do this, you’ll be matching gems while also micromanaging your various minions. But eventually the invading your heroes will overrun your tomb and kill your tyrant, at which point you simply restart with the another tyrant to get your revenge – reminiscent of a rogue-like mechanic.

The match-4 gameplay is actually pretty good. Instead of the typical gem-swapping mechanic, where each basic action swaps the positions of two ‘gems’ in pursuit of matching four, Tomb of Tyrants has you panning entire rows in four directions. This is a nice twist on the typical match-4 game play.

The matching of gems is the lifeblood of your tomb. It affects the goings-on in several ways. Firstly, clearing the board of gems is necessary for building additional dungeon levels. Secondly, matching gems provides resources which are a boon to your minions in various ways. These resources are also used to fulfill prophecies, which are objectives that appear during your tyrant’s reign, and serve as part of the meta-progression outside of each individual play through.

The presentation, other than the UI, is above-average, featuring fairly standard pixel graphics with a decent amount of options to tweak. The music is surprisingly competent.

This mess could use a ten-second-tidy.

The problem with Tomb of Tyrants is that the game is unclear. At any given moment I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. I played several runs in which I was promptly dealt with by heroes, unsure how to improve. It seemed as though I was doomed to watch my minions killed and tomb overrun with no ability to intervene. I tried matching as many gems as I could, and I feel like this did something to improve my sorry lot of minions, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. The tutorial very annoyingly interrupts by pausing your game play with walls of text that are not sufficiently clear – literally due to the pixellated text, and figuratively due to the ambiguity of the meaning of said text. If the game featured a better UI and a much more comprehensive tutorial, it would probably be worth your time. There’s a good game behind these flaws – I can feel it. 

While Tomb of Tyrants generally featured an above-average pixel art presentation, the UI is simply not intuitive enough and the tutorial tips not clear enough to communicate what the player ought to be doing in a useful manner. Tomb of Tyrants shows a lot of promise but in execution it simply left me puzzled.

–Lou

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