Tesla Force comes from the kings of modern-day top-down shooters 10tons ltd, fans of the genre will remember great titles such as Jydge, Neon Chrome, Time Recoil or Tesla vs Lovecraft.
Tesla Force is the sequel to the latter, but can it live up to the standards of some of the greatest top-down shooters in recent years. Promising 4K, HDR and up to 120fps Tesla Force joins Jydge on the Optimised for Series X|S list.
The story starts with Nikolas Tesla heading to his tower for some experiments in the hope of producing endless energy for the world, things don’t go to plan and after ripping apart the fabric of space and time you’re soon introduced to the second character Marie Curie before fighting off a few waves of random monsters.
Sadly this is about the peak of the story, there’s a few comic-book cut-scenes, but throughout the game, due to the open and procedurally generated style, there’s very little story as you progress.
On the map for the first location “Arkham”, you head into the first stage, which feels familiar in size and style to those we became familiar with in Tesla vs Lovecraft, enemies spawn from multiple set-locations and you’ll be faced with a primary task to complete.
These tasks range from capturing or guarding locations or collecting a number of items scattered around the map, but you’ll always be up against hundreds of enemies that will keep you on your toes constantly.
You move with your left stick, aim with the right, shooting is with RT, and your ability LT, with a teleport for quick-escapes on LB.
This makes getting away from hordes of enemies a little easier, but you’ll be able to collect different weapons, and abilities as well as mech pieces to summon your friendly mech suit for a limited burst of high firepower for when the enemy swarms get heavy,
As you progress you’ll find enemies also get stronger, thanks to the Doom clock, which ticks away constantly. Each time this clock hits 12, your enemy hordes will get a boost, such as extra strength or damage, this adds a risk and reward system where staying in a level after completion might get you a handful of all-important upgrade crystals, but it’s also going to make later levels more difficult with stronger enemies.
Thankfully there are player perks for progression too and with each level you complete, you’ll have an upgrade, this could be a new weapon or ability or a temporary perk such as increased damage, fire-rate or making a percentage of your shots more powerful critical or fire bullets.
Sadly when you die, you’re back to Wardenclyffe with nothing more than the upgrade crystals you’ve acquired so far.
These can then be used to open up perk slots, weapons and abilities for starting your next run through, which along with core upgrades such as health and loot or XP boosts certainly make things easier after a few attempts.
The game claims “no two runs are the same” thanks to the procedurally generated maps, but the areas, enemies and over-arching quests are still the same (just mixed up). After a few hours, you’ll probably have worked your way through Arkham at least once, defeated the boss to unlock the second Farm area and maybe the 3rd playable character Mary Shelley. But this is the point where things seemed to take a turn for the worst.
After running through a few stages on the farm, repetition had snuck in, everything was starting to look very familiar and this new core location did little to appease the feeling of doing the same thing, over and over again. Switching between Tesla, Curie, Shelley and the 4th character H.P. Lovecraft didn’t help as there are no major changes a single perk won’t negate. By this point, you’ve probably opened at least 3 starting perk slots and reached tier 3+ for a better starting weapon.
Enemies are certainly stronger on this second area, but as procedural, as it might be, it’s a little unbalanced when a bad batch of enemies can turn a successful run south on a level that you’d breeze through on most runs and the final area known as the Forgotten Caves at least looks a little fresh, but it doesn’t spice up the endless gameplay loop. This pushes you to utilise your perks and abilities to the maximum as simply backing away from enemies won’t be enough. I found myself constantly darting around to grab the mech pieces to thin out the hordes enough to do the next objective rather than carefully outmanoeuvring my opposition, it starts to feel much more like bullet-hell rather than a standard top-down shooter, but as crazy as things might get on screen, I just didn’t find myself looking forward to repeating the same things over and over again because the rogue-lite progression just doesn’t offer enough reward for all the hard work.
Graphically Tesla Force performs well, with no slow-down regardless of how many enemies it throws on screen, I’m not sure how close to the 120fps it maintains but it’s smooth, fluent and perfectly crazy throughout. While locations split across three landscapes all start to look a little too familiar, you’ll often find yourself ignoring the background as the screen fills with colourful bullets and explosions, the overall presentation could certainly be better and I would have loved to see more emphasis on the storyline, which seems to have taken a large step back from the near-constant (yet linear) progression of the original.
Sound is another area that performs well enough, with big bangs and explosions complemented by small details such as audio queues when enemies are spawning, but with minimal voice acting, and the same monsters filling your ears it’s unfortunately as repetitive as the gameplay.
Fans of Tesla vs Lovecraft (and many other great titles from 10tons) are likely to find themselves a little disappointed with Tesla Force, the procedural and open-ended progression lends itself well to the rogue-lite nature, but it takes away the core background of what made Jydge, Neon Chrome, TvL and Time Recoil so easy to recommend.
If you’re a big fan of top-down shooters, then it’s certainly worth having a look at Tesla Force, but if you’re not a genre regular and just want to mow down a few thousand mobs, you’re likely to have a better time with the aforementioned titles.