Symphony Worlds could be a great game to zone out to while you listen to music. Unfortunately, during my PAX Prime 2015 hands-on demo, it was pretty hard to tell how tied to the songs the gameplay of this part-tower-defense-part-shooter is.
The world dynamically shifts and forms to the music, the developer told me, but with the sound of all the other games on the PAX floor, it was hard to follow the rhythm and match it to the generation happening before me. It still had a momentum to it, like it grew from the structure of a song though. The hills broke up through the voxel-looking ground, creating hills and valleys that my ship gracefully slid over. Later, in combat, bullets shot craters into the ground, resembling the kind of chaos of maybe a pop song. The developer said it had chosen a Justin Bieber track as the song that plays when you breach the enemy’s portion of the Mario Galaxy-esque, rolling world. I guess I believe him.
Before you get into those fights, you need to fly over rapidly regenerating trees to gather resources for offensive towers. You can drop these down pretty much wherever you want, though it’s probably smartest to put them near your base. Then, you’re free to venture out to the enemy ship’s area, where they have an amplifier that you’re tasked with destroying. While you’re away, they will attack your base. In my demo, they didn’t post much of a threat, especially since you have the ability to open a map and spawn right back at your base to defend it. That, combined with the game’s simple combat, which is mostly just holding down a firing button and strafing, gives the game a low-demand simplicity that could go great with headphones on and a song you can get lost in.
Symphony Worlds is structured around that back-and-forth of offense and defense. The song that you choose before entering the level dictates bonuses based on its tempo, at least it felt like that when the game hinted as this late into my demo. Again, I could barely hear the song itself so I couldn’t tell you if it was actually reaching a crescendo. It if was, it’s a compelling way to match the adrenaline of the song by giving you a boost to something in the game, effectively speeding it up as well.
Everything about Symphony Worlds hinges on hearing the music. Even though I couldn’t, I saw pieces of things that could come together into a satisfying shooter with just enough complexity to keep you playing. It’s a game that is twisting and bending to something and if it really can tie itself to your own music, then I’m more than interested in giving it a real shot when it’s out early next year.