The Wind Waker Dungeons: Tower of the Gods

The Tower of the Gods is one of the few dungeons in The Wind Waker that I’m just a little bit at a loss for words on. I like it… but it’s a bit challenging to justify why (that will make more sense later in the review). So it might take me some time to explain. Bear with me! This dungeon has a concept that few dungeons — mainly just the Great Palace from Adventure of Link — had prior to The Wind Waker: It isn’t an evil place; it wasn’t corrupted or overrun. It is in fact a sacred one, built and still controlled by the forces of good, and made to test Link.

So right off the bat, this dungeon sets itself apart quite a bit from other dungeons, and that’s pretty cool. It has an awesome introduction scene where it rises out of the ocean, and being that it’s the climax of The Wind Waker’s first half, it’s very fitting that it has this presentation. The dungeon’s music fits its sacred status as well as its story importance; the song is beautiful and sacred, yet also dire and grim. The song leaves no room for confusion: This place is pretty important. The theme’s intro portion alone is awesome, and it sets the tone for the entire dungeon; the Tower of the Gods is sacred and holy, but it will test Link’s mettle with unbelievably harsh challenges before he can save his sister and the world. It’s also one of the few dungeon themes in the game that I feel is awesome to listen to on its own. It’s not overwhelmingly atmospheric and manages to have some awesome complexity while still being somewhat atmospheric. It’s very memorable.

The visual design is where I have some trouble praising the dungeon. As it stands, its “problems” would seem to be similar to the ones I criticized in the Forbidden Woods: Most of the dungeon’s rooms are the same thing, more or less, with little variation in visuals throughout the dungeon (the statues and glowing devices were good touches, but they were somewhat sparse), and the dungeon is a bit difficult to swallow as a tower because you don’t go up all that much until you blatantly teleport to the top; why is it a tower at all if the bulk of its height isn’t used?

However, as it stands, none of these things bothered me much in the Tower of the Gods, while they did in the Forbidden Woods. There’s a couple of reasons for that, but I think the most essential one is probably this: The Tower of the Gods, oddly enough, was less ambitious. Oh, certainly it had epic status and epic buildup, but at base, its interior only needed to be something rather simple. It just needed to be a straightforward temple (in the proper sense of the word) with some puzzles and challenges placed by the gods, with a pristine and holy air about it. The rooms might all have the same white and golden walls, but they all fit what the dungeon is supposed to be, and they look good. The Forbidden Woods set itself up as a trippy evil forest and just ended up being confusing as to… well, what it actually was supposed to be. What it needed was some more varied and interesting visuals. The Tower of the Gods on the other hand had a simpler idea, even if it was epic, and so it needed to accomplish less to feel complete. Beyond that, its simpler idea — golden, impressive architecture and pretty glowing — was also more aesthetically pleasing without further expansion that the Forbidden Woods’ dull wooden caves. And in addition, the concept behind the dungeon demands that it be pretty gameplay driven, and as I will get to shortly, it performs admirably in that area.

I think the tower height is my only true complaint about the dungeon’s design. Like I said while discussing the Forbidden Woods, I thought that Dragon Roost Cavern’s outdoor portions gave it a sense of scale that made it feel real and believable, whereas the nature, size, and structure of the Forbidden Woods was unknown and confusing. The Tower of the Gods has an awesome outdoor portion at the very end — a spiral staircase along the outside of the tower leading to the boss — and this is actually one of my favorite parts of the dungeon. I don’t think the dungeon needed more outdoor portions, but I do think it needed more establishment of scale. I think it was a bad call to make the dungeon a long series of challenges across two floors, with a warp to the short upper floors; the dungeon should have been more vertical so it could have felt like a tower even just in terms of its level design. The bottom floor should have remained the same with its many water challenges, but the rest of the puzzles and battles should have been spread out more vertically, so the player would face them while ascending. This would have made the dungeon feel more like a tower than merely a temple, and it would have made that final outdoor portion epic as it would allow you to finally see how high you’ve climbed through your hardships; the ones you yourself experienced as the player while climbing the dungeon.

Gameplay-wise, there’s not a lot to say about the dungeon. It does a decent job of mixing old and new ideas into a varied dungeon. Navigational challenges are few and far between; most of the dungeon is combat and puzzles. The enemies are deceptively simple, with simplistic weaknesses but a decent amount of challenge; Orange ChuChus, Bubbles, Beamos, and Wizzrobes can all do sizable damage if you aren’t very careful. The dungeon starts off with a lot of very basic puzzles. The early water portions have an abundance of water-level puzzles involving moving crates while the water is lowered so that you can navigate across them when it rises. Perhaps flood switches would have been better here, as it’s annoying to be moving boxes and then just have to take a break because the water rose again before you could finish, but at the same time having control over this would have made several of the battles in the water less difficult, so it’s hard to complain about. There are many extremely traditional bow puzzles in the second half, and this item is used mostly uncreatively to get through areas you simply couldn’t traverse before, making it like a fancy key. At the same time, however, it’s useful in combat — particularly against the foes who’ve challenged you throughout the dungeon — and the dungeon makes surprisingly good use of the items you’ve acquired up until this point, so the dungeon’s use of items is actually pretty great.

The dungeon has a lot of simple and traditional ideas, but it also introduces the partner mechanic seen in the later dungeons in a somewhat lesser form by teaching you the Command Melody and having you control hopping statues to get them through puzzles, and it also has a handful of other creative moments, like the weight puzzle. All in all it balances the familiar with the new fairly well, and while things tend to be on the simple side, they’re still enjoyable. The miniboss fight against the game’s first Darknut is epic and pretty challenging if you don’t know how to fight them yet. It sucks that you fight tons of theme immediately after completing the dungeon, but this is a broader problem with The Wind Waker’s minibosses in general.

So how does the dungeon’s main boss measure up?

Well, Gohdan is awesome in terms of style and presentation; like the dungeon itself, the boss is one of the few placed in your path as a test and not as an evil to smite (and because of this, the boss simply goes back to sleep once defeated). This holy trial speaks to Link directly, speaking with respect to Link’s accomplishments while facing him in battle for one final test. The fight has awesome music that fits it flawlessly, cool lighting and atmosphere, and awesome animation.

Unfortunately — and alas, this is a criticism you’re going to hear me say about most of the bosses for the rest of the game — Gohdan is childishly easy. Its weaknesses are easy to discern, and easy to hit with the targeting system. The boss is well-designed in the sense that the Armos and Armos Knight enemies throughout the dungeon effectively function as a tutorial for Gohdan’s weaknesses, which is a cool design idea, but beyond knowing how to hurt it, the boss itself poses little challenge. More frequent attacks and less reliable targeting so the player has to aim at the weak points directly would have made the boss pretty challenging, and made it a lot better for it. Gohdan can be tricky if you do manage to miss and run out of arrows, as he will provide more but only in small amounts of 10. This requires the player to be sharper with their aim as it requires eight arrows just to damage the boss once, but it’s still pretty easy to overcome with a little effort.

So all in all? The Tower of the Gods is definitely a good dungeon, it just seems to match many of the problems of worse dungeons. It sets out to accomplish less with its simple ideas, however, and because of that it’s acceptable; as it stands the dungeon accomplishes its themes pretty well — the dungeon definitely manages to look cool — and so its thematic design is tight. The Tower of the Gods should have felt more believable as a tower, but its music is awesome, and while they can be simple at times, the puzzles and battles are pretty enjoyable and can even provide some challenge at times. The boss, sadly, falls short of a thrilling battle as many in The Wind Waker do, but it still boasts some of the most impressive visuals and sounds of any boss fight in the series, so it’s cool nonetheless. It’s a pretty great dungeon all in all.

How do you feel about the Tower of the Gods? Did you find it enjoyable? Do you feel it mirrors some of the problems of other dungeons? If so, do you think it does anything sufficiently different to make up for it? How about the puzzles and battles? Tell me in the comments, and look forward to next week when I finally review the Forsaken Fortress!