Review: Return to Dark Tower is a pricey yet fascinating sequel -

Review: Return to Dark Tower is a pricey yet fascinating sequel

Return to the Dark Tower, arguably the most ambitious product ever created by Restoration Games, is a board game with a legacy — in more ways than one. This hybrid electronic board game aims to pay tribute to the beloved classic. Dark TowerIt was the first time that it had been released, in 1981. In February 2020, it was funded via Kickstarter. It came just one month before our world changed forever by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly a year and half later than the promised delivery date copies finally arrived at backers. Despite all the obstacles that hindered its production and development, copies were finally delivered to backers. Return to the Dark TowerIt is nevertheless an outstanding board game. It also features a large chunk of black plastic at the center, which is just as unique and original as the original.

Dark Tower This was the beginning of a legendary era. Its arrival was marked by Orson Welse’s dulcet tone in an unforgettable televised advertisement. The iconic circular shape featured a plastic citadel at the center of the board. It was a mesmerizing and terrifying experience, with its elaborate centerpiece emitting ominous sounds.

A purple player character stands between a keep and town, each plagued with colored skulls dropped from the tower.

Photo by Restoration Games

One of the most intriguing aspects of this new release is that it’s framed as a sequel, not a reimagining. In the first pages of this manual is a reference to the story of its predecessor. It describes the tower’s decay over many years while evil raged within its depths. The challenge presented now is in the structure’s reawakening as evil literally spills from its every orifice to terrorize the land.

The role of a keen hero, such as the Relic Hunter and Brutal Warlord is taken on by the players. Each of the four choices in this box has a different ability or play style. It is different from its predecessor. Return to the Dark TowerIt is now fully cooperative, but there’s also a second competitive option that can be used to mimic the original design. As it encourages dialogue and empowers protagonists, the asymmetry between characters provides support for a strong collaborative structure.

You will spend a lot of time exploring the kingdom to remove the skulls from the tower. This cleanup must be balanced with visits to locations that provide resources, such as fiery spirit for your growth and nameless soldiers to add to your retinue. You’re also burdened with the task of confronting lesser foes such as hostile brigands, terrorizing spiders, and a thunderous titan. As characters progress, they unlock new skills and get more items that enrich their fantasy RPG identities. You will eventually fulfill all the requirements and face a boss from the central citadel.

A player character atop its sideboard, colored yellow to match a ring on the miniatures.

Image: Restoration Games

Both the setting and mechanics have evolved beautifully. The motif, which is both dark and elegant, has a Lord of the Rings-like vibe. It is delivered with an unsettling quality but never becomes grim. Its world feels fantastical, yet it’s more crisp and evocative than the original.

Modernity is also evident in the move towards a cooperative format. The popularity of this board game style has increased dramatically with hits like PandemicAnd GloomhavenThe leader. This is a wonderful choice to bring the Dark Tower families into this shared experience. This focuses animus on what is most important, rather than the race to grab keys from its forebear.

My initial encounter with the monolithic tower was one of unease, however — and not in the intended thematic sense. It is a large mechanical structure that features electronic sensors and moving parts. The information can be fed via Bluetooth through an app which you will have to download. The first time it was turned on, my tower froze and locked itself up. The device was useless. I found out that my problem only affected a few consumers. Restoration Games responded very quickly to my request for a replacement.

When the tower worked properly, it was quite amazing. It’s a showstopper in every sense of the word, dominating with its table presence and simply by having such a large silhouette. I adore that it’s somewhat obnoxious and too tall, obscuring vision to the opposite side of the board and causing you to crane your neck to catch glimpses of the shadowed surface at the edge of the kingdom. The tower’s immensity and power gives the game a sense of dominance and oppression.

A batch of shaded miniatures in a plastic pack in.

Photo by Restoration Games

The tower is odd because it sits in the strange zone between a complex digital slice and an intelligent automaton. It’s an illusion of sorts, able to hypnotize a willing participant but only one that doesn’t scrutinize its moment-to-moment activity too closely.

Magic happens primarily between players’ actions. Each turn, players place a plastic skull on top of the tower. This may set off an event. This elegant method allows for random feedback, and also avoids cluttering the tables with extra cards. You also feel a sense of calm as you anticipate your fate.

The tower’s best moments are when it is vibrating and glowing, keeping people on edge. New monsters and skulls are constantly being spawned, and the tower burns to ruin the landscape. During play you will also be instructed to remove seals — plastic doors blocking the exit points of the tower’s insides. Sometimes, a glyph might look you in your eye instead of one the above egresses. These are very unpleasant because they make you spend more resources on basic actions within the game. Just as you get used to the nuisance, the tower turns and three skulls fall on your face. It’s just a big chunk of plastic, but in my games certain players began to feel targeted by its malice, even as the behavior was clearly random and unintelligent.

It may be possible to find more if you look at what it is doing. The citadel could be described as a glorified dice-tower, which randomly selects what chutes skulls are dropped out of and produces some interesting sound effects. I’m sympathetic to this critique, but the performance of the tower is indeed enchanting and provides for a fantastic backdrop to the ongoing battle. If you can immerse yourself in the story that is being told and commit to the experience, it’s a wonderful theatrical prop.

A wizard miniature, delicately highlighted with inks.

Photo: Restoration Games

A dragon miniature looms over a town, two white skulls filling its square.

Photo by Restoration Games

A spectral warlord, his many arms filled with weapons and lanterns.

Photo: Restoration Games

A grotesque giant holding a flaming wreath of skulls.

Photo: Restoration Games

Surprisingly though, this companion app can do more than drive the Dark Tower. The app acts as the main mechanism to combat, manage resource attrition, character influence and other functions. You will also find dungeons on the map. The app allows you to navigate them and choose from multiple routes that are reminiscent of the original. Legend of Zelda. You are subject to the same effects as enemy attacks when you go into new rooms. It’s a very simple yet evocative system that presents a micro-level narrative to flesh out the grander story. They’re also not overly utilized, which keeps them more alluring.

Additionally, one of the app’s primary features is to randomize the game’s content. This game offers many scenarios, as well as different enemies of different strength. It is a beautiful feature. The application will either let you choose the options that you want to confront, or you can make a selection manually. You have many choices, and the options are great, especially considering how diverse they can be.

Return to the Dark Tower is noteworthy because it’s so smooth in its harnessing of technology as well as its utilization of modern design principles. It’s a simple and streamlined game that I can play with my 8-year-old daughter, but it’s also strategically dynamic enough to stand up to a group of adults enjoying the hobby. Only problem is its cost.

The Kickstarter launched in 2020. Return to the Dark TowerThe price was a staggering $125 It has risen to $190 due to the difficult economic times of recent years. This is a high price for a game board and difficult to swallow. This makes the game a central part of a larger collection and limits its appeal.

Some may feel disappointed by the fact that modernization didn’t commit to an entirely more complex and lengthy strategic design than is currently possible. But it’s really quite astounding how well it settles into a perfect position of appealing to newcomers as well as adults that enjoyed the previous entry in their youth. This is accomplished with narrative drama as well as physical wonder. In this way, it’s quite an unparalleled adventure.

Return to the Dark TowerIt is fulfilling its crowdfunding campaign backers. On April 1, a campaign will be launched for the second printing. Backerkit soon. Restoration Games provided a printed copy for review. Vox Media is an affiliate partner. Although these partnerships do not impact editorial content, Vox Media could earn commissions from products sold via affiliate links. Find out more. additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.

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