Tomb of Tyrants is a weird mix, on one hand you have a puzzle game where matching four and more of a type of tiles produces resources for you to use in building and buying units and floors for your dungeon. On the other hand you have a dungeon building game where adventurers try to kill your tyrant and only your dungeon and creatures can stop them. I felt that both aspects of this game didn't work perfectly well together, although I had some fun with ToT. No matter how well the game worked, it was still a very interesting idea.

At the beginning of every game, you start with a board full of tiles you can match and a list of rooms you can build. Building specific rooms will prevent you from building others, so you have decisions to make pretty early on. The matching system is kinda weird; you move whole rows and columns of tiles while moving one and you can make multiple moves per action, I kinda wish they would've went with a more traditional swapping-like move system, because I felt that I didn't master this core mechanic, even after a few hours of gameplay. An interesting thing - a bit soured by my difficulty with the controls - are the rituals; specific shapes you have to make whilst matching tiles. Doing so is the only way to increase your maximum for specific resources and it's a technique you have to master.

After collecting enough resources for specific type of buildings, you make rooms - clearing a few rows on your board at first if needed, rooms need space - and these rooms have various effects. More often than not, they house creatures, but they also can be filled with traps or give you passive bonuses. These rooms are also obstacles for your enemies, since your tyrant is extremely weak and will most likely die in one hit. At set intervals, heroes will go into your dungeon, one floor at a time, and deal with whatever's in their way. At each four floor, a safe zone is automatically created for heroes to go rest. You fill the other rooms with various types of creatures and traps with specific damage types, weaknesses, and even temporary buffs you can give them using potions.

My biggest problem with this game is that none of these systems interacted well with the actual gameplay for me. I matched tiles, I bought floors and replenished the creatures in them when they died, I just kept on matching tiles while my creatures were promoted, patrolled my dungeon and went on surface raids, but inevitably, the alarm would ring, signaling me that some heroes have made it to the room where my tyrant is. What have I done wrong? Was it my choice of rooms? The creatures I summoned? Would have things been different if I had moved all of my champions to the lower levels? The game tells me nothing. I know I can match tiles and use these resources, but what happens afterwards is quite arcane to me.

After your Tyran dies, you restart the game with some things to help you do better the second time; Your quest progress is always kept, so are the rooms you have unlocked, so you have more options on your subsequent playthroughs. After a while, you unlock plots which give you legacies. You can mark champions, floors, items and resources as "legacy", which means they'll stay with you on the next run. I kinda wish you could instead passively upgrade your max resource count and increase other stats instead of keeping things around for one go. Some items are really useful and having characters carry over is also good, but when you lose, they're all gone.

The tile-matching is not without flaw as well. You start with a full grid of things to match around and you get more when you dig deeper under the ground, but otherwise you're at the mercy of whatever's going on in your dungeon. This means that if you kill heroes, you might get flesh, gear and bone tiles, for instance. Some rooms produce tiles as well and some items can affect the flow of tiles, but it happened often to me that I had nothing to match at all. I couldn't make any moves, only wait for something to happen and give me material to work with, fairly frustrating.

To conclude, I enjoyed Tomb of Tyrants, even if the whole dungeon manager aspect is a bit nebulous to me and the tile-matching is a bit clumsy. I ran the game multiple times, unlocking new rooms and creatures as I went for more and more waves. I stopped after losing at wave 23, while my dungeon was full of creatures and heroes fighting.

AuthorJérémie Tessier