Thanks to Bergsala Lightweight for the review code
Title: Excave III: Tower of Destiny
System: 3DS (eShop)
Release date: 04/14/2016
The main game/story
Taking place in an unknown timeframe compared to the first two games, with none of the original protagonists in sight, you take control of a new protagonist named Scarlett, in her quest to conquer each of the towers throughout the land! With a more Mystery Dungeon vibe to it compared to the previous games, Excave III changes the direction in some ways compared to the previous game, which felt like a full adventure of sorts.
The art style is almost exactly the same as the previous installments, although there is a cell-shaded 3D model of Scarlett that appears in menus from time to time. Unfortunately, despite the menus still looking OK, the visuals during gameplay still suffer from the same issues as before, from bland enemy designs, slowdown when lots of enemies appear on screen to the lack of any 3D effect. Like before, its something you get used to after a while, yet I’m still baffled on why the developers didn’t think of giving everything a nice visual upgrade, especially considering how the world is supposed to be changed in the first place yet some locations from the earlier games are repeated under the guise of being inside of a tower.
Music and Sound
Yet again like the previous installments, the music in Excave III is fantastic, with amazing instrumentation that’s worthy of getting you pumped up, although this mostly has to do with the fact that the majority of the music is recycled from the previous games. Thankfully there is a sound test included this time in case you want to listen to all of the amazing themes in full, and also to get translations of the lines Scarlet says during the game. (Which are all in Japanese) Yes, there is the addition of voice acting, although it comes in rarely and is entirely in Japanese with nothing special being said outside of a few catchphrases.
Continuing with the idea of exploring through dungeons from the previous installments, Excave III takes the series in a new direction, turning it from slightly inspired by Mystery Dungeon to completely influenced by Mystery Dungeon, with randomly generated floors and equipment and an emphasis on survival. For starters, you can no longer hold any items from your inventory for later, being forced to sell your entire inventory when you complete a stage. This also means that there are no shops to buy better items from, which causes the gold you pick up during the stages to be meant for adding to your score at the end of the stage. With a bigger focus on randomization, this leads to the game demanding your attention more often as you complete each floor, using the items that are found in treasure chests along with the Level Up berries dropped by certain enemies to increase your states enough to conquer the boss at the end of each tower.
Overall, it’s a pretty standard roguelike game with only around five levels of content, however the game’s main attraction comes with the Fantasy Tower, the tower that the game’s title is referring to. This tower is a full-blown endless assortment of floors with increasing difficulty, with the main objective being to survive for as long as possible and post your score to the online leaderboards, along with gaining the huge amount of achievements during your quest. You can choose to either warp out safely or continue until you die, those two means of exiting offering their own leaderboard. This is by far the best part of the game, and is the one that makes Excave III truly addicting, although you have to beat the first three stages in order to unlock it.
While the minibosses in the tower do stay the same no matter how many times you continue, the other floors constantly change, leading to either some intense battles against hordes of enemies, or the frustrating moments where you’ll dropped in the middle of a swarm of powerful enemies and get murdered in seconds. This random difficulty spike can either be a blessing or a curse, as while you will eventually gain items that’ll combat tough situations like these, it does get rather irritating to be on a roll only to be ambushed by powerful enemies due to spawning badly in a room. That being said, it somehow manages to stay addicting, with the leaderboards and titles offering more and more of an incentive to come back and try again for a better survival rate, and the titles offering a means of completion. After playing the Fantasy Tower a few times, its clear that the other five towers were just practice for the main attraction.
In conclusion, Excave III ditches the story aspect from the prior installments, yet that’s OK, as it more than makes up for it by adding a random roguelike element to the mix that fits perfectly with the type of game the first two Excave titles were trying to be like. While the random difficulty spikes do get irritating at some points, the sheer addictiveness of the Fantasy Tower along with the online leaderboards and achievements make me easily recommend this game over the prior two installments for fans of roguelikes and dungeon crawlers. For those hoping for a more story-based experience, however I recommend picking up the first or second Excave titles instead. I give Excave III: Tower of Destiny an 8 out of 10.