Have you ever questioned whether your life was dictated by fate? Have you ever wanted to change your destiny, to reshape the future? Perhaps you want something that’s assured to not come to pass, or perhaps you’d just like to improve a situation? Well, all you need to do is head to the Tower of Fortune, collect the dice of Fate, and then petition Reeva, the God of Fate, to change what isn’t as set-in-stone as you may have thought.
Shiren and the Tower of Fate tells the tale of the eponymous character Shiren, a traveler who roams the world with his companion talking ferret. Along his travels he comes across a village near the base of the Tower of Fortune, a tower dedicated to the God Reeva. It is said that upon scaling the tower, you may roll the dice of fate to redefine your future. As luck would have it, or lack of luck rather, there is a terminally ill girl in the village, and a young man sets out to conquer the tower and change the young girl’s fate. Shiren decides to join him on the adventure, so off they go, exploring the tower to save the girl.
Shiren plays predominantly like most roguelikes: you enter a randomly generated dungeon, and must find weapons, items, and gear on the ground or from monsters as you travel through floors, looking for the stairs. Upon death, you get returned to town and your items and money are lost, unless you’ve managed to put a safeguard on them. Yes, basically everything is “up to fate” as it were, no it’s not always fair. If you get knocked out, you get returned to the town that acts as your first hub zone. Here you can deposit any items and gear you’ve brought back, as well as money, so you won’t lose it on subsequent runs. There’s a shop, a warehouse, a rescue operation that let’s you help others out through online, as well as a number of fancy mini games, such as a statue moving puzzle type, or “totally-not-minesweeper”. When you think you’re ready, off you go to adventure.
Now, generally I like to try and give a description of controls etc., but there is so much to cover that it would be easier to write a small essay, so I’ll try and stick to just the basics, as everything else can be explained in-game if you play the extremely handy tutorial stages. Adventuring happens on randomly generated maps consisting of multiple interspersed rooms with hallways attaching them. You move on a square-by-square basis, and enemies move along with you. This means if you don’t take an action, enemies won’t either.
Your goal is to find the stairs located somewhere on each floor, climbing until you hit the end of the area you are in. Vision is assured though, as only when you are within a room can you see what is inside it, barring certain equipment and item effects. Sometimes it’s dark too, so you only have a limited range of visibility, like what happens in hallways. Be careful though, as you have a hunger gauge, and performing actions will slowly decrease your “fullness”. Make sure you don’t drop too low!
While roaming the floors, many baddies will probably try and stop you. Luckily, Shiren is proficient in weapon handling, and can attack enemies either with melee attacks, arrows, or thrown rocks. Later on he also gets abilities he can use once per floor, but are mostly used to dispatch night time enemies. As you kill off enemies, Shiren gains exp and will increase level, allowing him to take more of a beating. Unfortunately, Shiren also loses all that exp when he returns to town. Now, while the monsters can be quite hazardous, the dungeons you will traverse are also all filled with traps, which can be just as dangerous, if not more. What kind of traps? Well, a lot.
Some are status inducing, some warp you somewhere random, some do damage, and some REDUCE EQUIPMENT QUALITY. Guess which ones I got quite familiar with? Essentially, you have a bag with enough slots for about 24 items, which will include whatever you want to equip. As you use weapons and armour, they have a proficiency rating that will increase, improving the base quality and effectiveness of the gear. Separate to that, you can also upgrade gear a number of times limited by the gear’s proficiency rating, if you find a blacksmith or scroll that will do that for you.
Scrolls are, for the most part, one-off usage items that will generally perform an action, like attacking all enemies in a room, escaping a dungeon, or upgrading gear. In addition to the scrolls, you can also find talismans, staves, spell charms, and lots of other goodies located around the tower. You’ll also find those traps. Which are usually invisible. Did you know you can get a negative upgrade rating in Shiren? I certainly do now. Also, it stacks. Have fun with that, don’t forget to rustproof your gear. It might be a lot to take in, but the game gives interactive tutorials for everything, and you can always check item descriptions to see what they do. Also included in the main menu are some handy tips for traversing the dungeons, such as how to pass turns (which also heals), or reminders that if it turns to nighttime, enemies get different and really strong, and you’ll start needing torches.
I’ll be honest here, Shiren isn’t easy. Not even remotely for anyone with poor luck. Like when you step on seven rust traps in a row. Yeah, that ain’t fun. On the plus side, it’s very…reasonable, for lack of a better term. Very rarely did I ever get completely screwed over by something that was impossible to avoid or recover from, and you could theoretically not even fight enemies, and just avoid or incapacitate them until you find the stairs, something I’d highly suggest at night. Reminders and instructions are always handy if you need a refresher, and the mini games were actually quite fun. The characters are rather interesting, if not a bit cookie cutter cliché at times, and you are given a large amount of items on each floor to help your journey, unlike what some other titles may do.