The trailer for Babel Rising begins with the words “You are God.” That was all I needed to see. Games where you take the role of God have only ever absolutely delighted me. Of course, I’ve only played two of these games, but they’re both amazing. Black & White, while being glitchier than the Matrix, was a brilliant and massively entertaining game. From Dust was beautiful and innovative, an inspiration among Indie games. Let Babel Rising be a lesson to all of us that not all God games are good.
Babel Rising is a strategy game, though I’m not sure how they got away with giving it that genre. I might call it “tower defense” but that doesn’t quite work seeing as you’re trying to stop a tower from existing rather than defending it. The game takes place in the Biblical city of Babel. If you’re not familiar with the tale, it goes thusly: A bunch of humans decide that they’d prefer heaven to Earth, and so they endeavor to get there by building a really tall tower. God sees what they’re doing and says “Oh hell naw,” then uses his God powers to make them all speak different languages so that the humans get confused and give up. Babel Rising is basically this, except instead of using linguistic confusion to protect heaven, he uses elemental mass murder.
The humans are a determined bunch, and relentlessly march like lemmings up the tower with giant boxes, which I guess are supposed to be full of building supplies. Each human that reaches the end of the path builds a little more of the tower, making the path a little longer each time. Your job is to kill as many as possible with the power of earth, fire, wind, water, and heart. Wait, scratch that last one.
You get to choose two elements out of the four each time you play. Each element has two standard powers, the use of which builds up the super awesome power that kills everything. Each power is assigned a button – Square, Triangle, Circle, and X for the standards, L1 and R1 for the special powers. Each power uses up its own “mana” each time it’s used, and then recharges. Using a power with full mana makes it most devastating, with the exception of the single-rock-falling-on-a-single-head trick. A lot of the powers are very similar to one another. Fireball and Thunder are pretty much the same thing, while Rift, Tornado, and Freeze all kill a bunch of humans at once.
The only really cool powers are the special ones. They cause massive devastation, and can be powered up by mashing the R1 or L1 button. My favorite is what I call the Giant Rock power, which conjures a giant rock that rolls all the way down the tower, crushing everyone. It’s very satisfying.
Babel Rising comes in Campaign, Survival, and Multiplayer modes, which are all pretty much the same. This game does not have a lot of variety. It shakes things up a little by having priests which walk under a magic bubble that’s immune to one element, and curse jars which will render unusable whichever power you break them with. Sometimes the humans will hit you with siege towers that release builders higher up on the tower. And once in a while the game will subject you to a completely inane and unnecessary boat-sinking game. You shoot fireballs at boats. That’s it. Remember to aim a little ahead of the boat, and try not to fall asleep.
One of the more irritating things about the game is the wacky difficulty curve. Survival mode is far too easy. I played hard mode for ten minutes without the humans building more than a few steps of the tower. Then I quit because I was bored out of my mind. Campaign mode was just as easy for the first eight levels, but level nine suddenly decided to kick things up a few hundred notches. It doesn’t help that the controls are a little wonky and the camera angle makes it hard to tell whether you’re aiming for the siege tower or right next to the siege tower. I can’t imagine how annoying it must be with the Move controls. Then after trying five times to beat level ten, I quit. I quit the game. As in, I completely quit. I actually have no desire to finish it, at all. Not a good sign.
And why should I finish it? I have nothing driving me. No story. No neat cinematics to look forward to. No new powers introduced. There’s just not much to this game. I can’t for the life of me figure out why I needed to pay $9.99 for it.
Multiplayer is a little more entertaining than the other two modes. Within this category you have survival, points, and co-op modes. Points mode is the only one that’s not exactly the same as single player survival. It is a little fun to kill humans better and faster than your opponent, I admit.
Probably my favorite parts of the game are the sensory aspects, which is rare. The graphics are bright and impressive for a PSN title, and watching the little ghosts fly up into the sky makes me smile. I also found myself singing along with the weird little chant that the humans march to in time with the intense drums found in every Bible-times video game ever made. The general atmosphere of the game is pleasing. It’s just too bad that it lacks any kind of innovation.
Since the introduction of the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, the flood of downloadable titles has been as relentless as the marching humans in Babel Rising. There’s a mountain of games to choose from. If you want to be successful, you have to do something to stand out. I almost feel cheated by Mando Productions. They baited me with the opportunity to be God and then gave me something completely unimaginative and outright boring. Maybe it might have appealed to me when I was 14 and had more spare time than I had reasons to hate my parents. But when I was 14, I didn’t have a steady income, and therefore would never have paid $9.99 for a game less innovative and entertaining than Bloons.