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Towerborne hands-on preview: Streets of Rage meets Guardian Heroes in this combo-heavy brawler

 Towerborne
Towerborne

If you told me the developer of The Banner Saga was working on a co-op brawler, I’d have certainly raised a curious eyebrow. But that’s exactly what the team at Stoic Studio is cooking up with Towerborne.

Currently slated to release in 2024 for Xbox Series X|S and PC (and arriving day one on Xbox Game Pass), Towerborne should feel familiar to players who’ve brawled their way through Castle Crashers or beat-em-ups like Streets of Rage 4 and River City Girls.

But Towerborne goes even further than those games, sprinkling in RPG customization reminiscent of Treasure classic Guardian Heroes, and tech you’ll find in some of the best fighting games like Guilty Gear Strive. It’s a wild mish-mash of inspiration, but it works incredibly well.

It took me a bit of time to get used to Towerborne’s multi-faceted combat, as there’s plenty here beyond simply mashing the same two buttons ad nauseam. Once I had though, I had an absolute blast during my 4-player co-op session at Gamescom 2023 chaining together combos and supporting my allies as we stormed through a cursed forest to defeat a giant, poisonous mushroom creature. As you do.

Borne to fight

Towerborne
Towerborne

What sets Towerborne apart from its beat-em-up peers is the surprising amount of customization it offers the player. As an Ace instructed to guard the central Belfry against invading critters and monsters, you’ll get to decide what your character looks like, their weapons, and playstyle.

Whether you go for, say, a traditional sword n’ board setup or opt for a magical staff, you’ll feel extremely capable and powerful in Towerborne. That’s because the game’s combat is shaping up to be extremely responsive and diverse. During my Gamescom session, the developers mentioned taking inspiration from fighting game combos. And that’s quite apparent.

Using a sword and shield, I was able to juggle an enemy into the air, subsequently cancel out of my attack animation to leap towards them and then continue combo-ing them off the ground before slamming them into the earth. Other players got in on the fun, too, offering their own combos to build upon mine for massive damage to enemy creatures.

It’s all very dynamic and beautifully hectic, especially when four players are involved. Better still, Towerborne supports couch co-op as well as online play, so I can see it being an absolute hoot to play with friends on the sofa.

Towerborne
Towerborne

While we were only able to play through a single mission, it was enough to get a taste of the loop Towerborne is going for, and I found it to be pleasingly reminiscent of Phantasy Star Online: you fight your way through a biome, kill a boss at the end, then return to base to upgrade your kit to then challenge yourself with even tougher areas.

If Towerborne releases and manages to nail the aspects it’s shooting for, then it could be set up for long-term success. Post-launch, Stoic will be creating Seasons of Towerborne, which updates the game with new story content, gear, quests, enemy types, and more. If these updates are added to the game at no extra cost, then Towerborne could be a mainstay for you and your friends when it launches in 2024.

Excited for Towerborne and want something to tide you over in the meantime? Check out our guide to the best Xbox Game Pass games. Or if you're partying up with friends, our best co-op games list will give you the rundown on the most wonderful multiplayer experiences.