Towerborne’s Belfry Aims to Be So Much More Than a Main Menu - Xbox Wire (2024)

With the right care and attention, a game’s hub world can be so much more than the sum of its parts. Taken at face value, the likes of Destiny 2’s Tower, Monster Hunter World’s Gathering Hub, and Doom Eternal’s Fortress of Doom could just be seen as pretty menus – characters or buildings replacing the buttons you’d be pressing before jumping into a game. But in all those cases, we see storytelling, Easter Eggs, and idiosyncratic choices made, turning these spaces into truly memorable locations – a home away from home. Towerborne, and its beautiful Belfry, are aiming to join that rich lineage.

The Belfry – a gorgeously rickety spire that pokes into the clouds above the world map – will be the home base for every player (and their characters, known as Aces). From here, you’ll be able to train, enhance your gear, take quests, and party up with other players before heading out on your missions to save the world. But, like the examples above, the team at Stoic don’t simply want to offer you a more interactive menu – the Belfry will be a true home for the Aces, offering you chances to take in the ever-evolving storyline Towerborne will tell, opportunities to meet new friends, and more.

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Across the Belfry you’ll find everything from the Counsel Building (a hub for quests and major NPCs, offering both storytelling and gameplay), to the Forge (where you’ll be able to where you’ll be able to improve your equipment), to the Facewright (allowing unlimited customization of your Ace), and much more. Taken as a whole, it all makes the Belfry more of a village – with the distinctly human feel that entails – than a simple menu. I caught up with Game Director, Daniel McLaren to find out why the team felt they had to nail the look and feel of their hub, rather than create a simple “Select Mission” menu:

“We want you to feel like this is a world you want to be in, that the NPCs are worth interacting with, that the beauty and the interactions are worth your time. Making a game people love is an art as much as it is a science, and the art should feel good. For those that our style resonates with, Towerborne should feel like a place you want to be, it should be something you think fondly of, it should feel complete and whole, that the journey you took with us was worth your time. I’m not saying a menu-driven game can’t do that, but, uh… I’m kinda saying we can do it better.”

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“Seriously, that’s the kind of question that, on the surface, makes absolute sense,” he replies. “Why not just have a game where you select what you want to do from a menu and go and do it? Mobile games have demonstrated that this works quite well when you distill down to a sort-of ‘perfect’ core-loop gameplay experience. But that’s not what our game is about.

It’s taken some work to get the Belfry to feel that way – the Belfry is an explorable space, and among other things Stoic have had to tweak how NPCs are arranged to ensure you didn’t spend a portion of your time walking from place to place. But the result is a location the team feels you never need to spend too much time in – you’ll probably just want to hang around and see what you can find.

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Key to that feeling is that the Belfry has been designed to feel like it’s truly the home of all Towerborne players, which means you’ll never be there alone, or even just with your chosen party. It’ll be bustling with other players going about their own business, and offer you chances to meet them (using a communication system of emotes and stickers) and perhaps even go adventuring together – either through a matchmaking system or by grouping up in the Belfry itself.

“We want the Belfry to feel lived in, and having other players around makes the game feel like it’s alive and worth playing,” explains McLaren. “Besides, what’s the point of a living game if you can’t see others, help new players, make new friends, or even just dance for hours?”

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The NPCs of the Belfry will be as important as other live players, not just for what they offer you, but the wider story of the game. While storytelling will happen throughout Towerborne’s world, you can consider the Belfry as the home for the game’s narrative. Quests can be taken on from multiple NPCs (and a job board to offer you extra incentives for playing in certain ways, or heading to certain locations), but there will be more characters who help you understand the world you’ve entered – and, as a live game, Towerborne will continue telling new stories well after launch.

“Our goal is to continue to expand the world of Towerborne over time with new content, new enemies, new locations, and story,” says McLaren. “While quests, and by extent quest NPCs, are a surefire way to ensure players are at least exposed to core story elements, they exist to help answer the core ‘Why am I here? Why am I doing the thing?’ questions.

“But what fun is an RPG if it doesn’t allow the opportunity for story-curious players to uncover ‘deep lore’? Rest assured, players will find a variety of narrative NPCs, both on the Belfry and in the world, that have their own tidbits of information to reveal. Over time, who can say who will show up, and where they might be found?”

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Perhaps most excitingly, that evolving story means the Belfry itself will change over time – the version we’ll see at launch is just the beginning of what this location will be. That evolution will be a physical reminder of the story Stoic has to tell: “The beautiful thing about the way we’re building and supporting this game is that we want to invest in the future of you, the players of Towerborne,” says McLaren. “We have so many neat ideas, stories, and features that we want to share, and the Belfry is just one place where we can make that happen.

“As for what you might see, who can say? I heard a little rumor that there’s a goat. Somewhere.”

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Of course, there’s always a balance to be struck. The Belfry won’t be the place you spend the majority of your time – there’s an entire game to play, of course – but Stoic wants it to be a pleasure to spend time between missions, not just while on them:

“At its heart, Towerborne is an action-RPG using the side-scrolling brawler combat style. We clearly don’t want it to just be a one-note game, and so there’s certainly some story, mystery, things to uncover, and NPCs to get to know, but it’s all in service of a game that’s about collecting loot, upgrading your Ace, and killing bigger, more dangerous enemies. We want to offer players many ways to explore the world of Towerborne and be strong enough to do it!”

We’ll have much more to tell you about that on Xbox Wire before Towerborne arrives later this year.

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Towerborne

Xbox Game Studios

The Belfry stands as a beacon of hope and safety amongst the ruins of humanity and the City of Numbers, with monsters lurking right outside the tower’s walls. You are an Ace, born anew from the spirit realm with the skills, the grit, and the determination to protect the people of the Belfry. With spirit companions fighting by your side, you are destined for battle. Can you become the Ace humanity needs to survive? Find out in Towerborne, the newest action-adventure game created by Stoic, the studio that brought you the award-winning Banner Saga trilogy. Adventure Together – Venture out of The Belfry solo or with up to three other Aces* to vanquish the looming terror that surrounds the tower. Either way, you won’t be alone. Aces can recruit Umbra companions to join them in battle, gaining access to enhanced skills and unique abilities tied to each spirit. After fighting your way through enemies, return to The Belfry to turn in quests, reforge gear, and more. Brave the Wilds – Towerborne is designed with player choice in mind. Create your Ace with options to customize your looks, gear and weapons. Switch up your overall gameplay experience at any time by changing your danger level as you venture into the wilds. Find and wield powerful weapons with unique special moves from one of four styles: War Clubs, Gauntlets, Dual Daggers, and Swords & Shields. Mix and match to make your Ace your own! Continue the Fight – With an evolving world map and seasonal content, your Ace will never run out of areas to explore and enemies to defeat. Seasons of Towerborne continue the story of The Belfry by introducing new enemies to battle, regions to discover, abilities to master, and lore to uncover (available as released). *Online console multiplayer requires Xbox Game Pass Ultimate or Game Pass Core (subscriptions sold separately).

Towerborne’s Belfry Aims to Be So Much More Than a Main Menu - Xbox Wire (2024)
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