The Signal From Tölva has lasers, robots, territory control, and an overall rich science fiction mystery. What’s not to love?
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written you probably know I am sucker for robots. It started when I was kid with my brother showing me Robotech, Voltron, Transformers, the list goes on and on. As I grew up I got to play games like Armored Core, Zone of the Enders and Robotech: Battlecry which solidified my love for them in gaming. Robots are usually a safe bet when it comes to fun, it’s that simple. Its the same formula for Pirates, Ninjas and Astronauts. It’s something we all dream of being as kids but don’t get to do. Unless you’re Johny Depp.
Does that mean The Signal From Tölva is a safe bet and you should buy it now? That really all depends on how much you like first person shooters, robots, repetitive tasks, and a drip feed narrative.
The overall story is vast, complicated, and well written but it never takes centre stage.
Which is a damn shame, because this universe seems fascinating and the writing behind it is superb. The games name is the story and focus. The Signal From Tölva is all about a strange pulse of energy that draws the attention of several robot factions. You play an agent for a mysterious organisation that refers to themselves as Information Brokers. The Brokers have no forces on the surface of the planet so they simply work around this by hacking one of The Surveyors, another faction on the planet. Taking control of this robotic body you are essentially there to gather intel as to what the heck is going on.
Other forces are already present such as the Zealots, a faction concerned with the safe keeping of the secrets of Tölva. Worshipping the signal itself and believing it to be some sort of sacred location among many. Additionally there are some bandits down on the planet and people have reported mysterious figures in long black cloaks. Now while all of this sounds awesome and it is, none of it is directly ever told to you.
The Signal From Tölva gives you its story in logs that are dispersed throughout the huge map. These logs are just snippets of information that you piece together yourself. Hence the drip feed I mentioned earlier. The logs are then stored in a log area that you have to openly seek out and pause the robot killing action to read. I wish the story had taken more of a center stage while the action was happening, either through voice work or cut scenes. The only thing you do get is your Broker handler, who injects some random dialogue occasionally in a tiny box at the bottom of the screen.
As the story progresses and you find beautiful tidbits like the image on the right. You feel invested into finding out what The Signal From Tölva really is and what is going to happen. I slaughtered hundreds, conquered base after base, signal after signal. While I don’t want to give any spoilers, you are eventually presented with two choices at the end. Both leave it open for a sequel. Personally I wanted more and definitely some sort of a prologue or something.
As a side note I am aware the developer has a companion PDF/Lorebook but its not in the game so I am not going to count that.
Enough of that sissy story stuff, lets blow some stuff up! Woo! Robots!
The best way to describe the overall gameplay of The Signal From Tölva is it reminds me of unlocking viewpoints in Assassin Creed. Now stay with me here, I know that sounds confusing. When you unlock viewpoints in AC you are shown a chunk of the map with individual little markers inside. These can be shops, missions, treasure, etc. This pretty much is exactly the same thing in Tölva except that it’s bases, respawn points, resource nodes, and your objective, which is scan points. You move into a new zone seeking a scan point and then you may stumble upon an enemy base or materials at a resource node. This is essentially the game, just over a large map.
The Signal From Tölva is a game you play at your own pace. You are always going to be making progress as you dominate more and more of the map but how fast is up to you. This gives it a fun and addictive quality as the action is pretty riveting.(Get it? Machines/Rivets? Nevermind) Then you hit the five hour mark and have done the same thing a hundred times over. Scan enemies from a far, make sure you have a robot posse, attack, claim, scan if you can and move along. There are a couple of mazes that broke things up occasionally but these were rare.
I can’t help but feel that more tactical aspects could’ve been helpful here with customization of your recruited robots. Tactical deployment where your troops are concentrated. More aggressive enemy AI that takes back territory.(This happens once in a while to be fair) Deployment of turrets or maybe vehicles? Obviously, these are just ideas as application is a whole other thing. I just felt the game needed a bit more to counter-balance the action which is incredible. Otherwise you just kinda walk from place to place.
Action is easily the most well tuned aspect to this game. The Signal From Tölva is a first person shooter with some differences. Being a robot means if you die, no big deal. You hack another bot and find yourself either at a base or a signal point you’ve unlocked which functions as a spawn point.
Your robot body has all the finest features you need for combat. A manually activated shield to catch incoming fire, two weapon slots, and an AOE (Area of Effect) slot. One cool thing is that your guns are directly channelled from your robotic core meaning no bullets are needed and you just simply charge your gun when its clip empties. Your body comes with self repair systems that can be upgraded and basically everything kind of charges itself. Keeping the focus mostly on combat. Taking the place of grenades are your AOE’s which come straight from you in a 360′. These can heal allies, disrupt enemies, or just blow them to pieces.
The weapons are vast and varied and all of them do have their own advantages and weaknesses. I love the kick some of the weapons have and you can just feel it when you blasting an enemy to bits. On dark nights you can see lasers flying in opposite directions and it looks spectacular as factions clash. The game does have a day/night cycle which adds to it aesthetically. I have very little complaints when it comes to the combat in the game. It’s just awesome and the ideas above would’ve taken it over the top. There are minor bugs with gravity getting strange at times and sending you flying up into the air but falling damage is minimal. No big deal. I saw one flying enemy clip into the ground but these are all forgivable compared to everything else.
Let’s go over the customization of your personal bot which I thought was a nice touch. You can upgrade shields, change weapons, and add environmental defences with a couple of buttons. The environmental defences are your gatekeepers to getting to the end. Again, I underline how awesome it would’ve been to change my robot recruits gear to counter my own.
Last but not least there is a resource system in the game. It wasn’t my favorite thing in the world. There are some nodes that have you go on a collect-a-thon. This felt more like busy work than fun gameplay. I would’ve preferred the rank system to just unlock guns/equipment instead of not having enough parts. You increase in rank as you unlock more scan points. Some of the equipment near the end costs three thousand a piece. Which is quite a bit as enemies give you ten a piece and a max loot piece was a hundred.
To quote Clueless, “Cher: No, she’s a full-on Monet. Tai: What’s a monet? Cher: It’s like a painting, see? From far away, it’s OK, but up close, it’s a big old mess.”
Don’t get me wrong, there are some rather beautiful sights in The Signal From Tölva. When I reached what I call “The three toxic signals.” I was terrified, as its dark, gloomy, and enemies are everywhere. It changed things up in a fantastic way but these moments are spread out over a huge map. One moment you see a giant robot hand sticking out of the ground and are in awe. The next, you’re wondering grass fields and looking at grey mountains which all look the same. Given the fact you are walking everywhere when it comes to new territory, you see more grass and mountains than anything else.
Simply put, the textures are okay, they aren’t bad but some areas look better than others for sure. When the game wants to impress you though, it will. The mazes are spooky looking, and felt unnerving. The ships in the sky look incredible. I guess maybe Tölva needs more shrubbery?
The robots themselves looked great though. The robots/effects have an awesome amount of detail to them that it seemed like I was always fighting a unique enemy. Enemies activate shields and glow like a neon god and make firefights way intense. Enemies, upon death, explode backward as they become an orange glowing wreck. Some of the bigger enemies like spider bots are going to make you crap yourself the first time you encounter them. Turrets drop in and rock the ground. Even though they are kinda stupid when fighting. It’s just those in between moments graphically that I wasn’t dropping my jaw, everything else was golden.
The Signal From Tölva does have an incredible tone. It’s hard exactly to explain but this does feel like science fiction. When it says you are on an alien world. It really does feel like it. Which I loved.
Time on this alien planet can vary from robot to robot.
When I said the turrets were kinda stupid, I meant the AI is a little dumb. They tend to rush and corner you if they can but they’re really easy to avoid. My suggestion, unless you really suck at FPS games, jack this game up to hard from the start. You will have more dynamic battles, and maybe occasionally even lose. If you don’t they are far too easy to avoid and kill. It took me about a good eight hours to finish the game and hit all the scan nodes. I would say ten hours for a complete map.
The replay value is going to depend on your love of FPS games. After I beat it, I felt done. The journey itself is the reward here and conquering the map again doesn’t interest me. I might come back if I want to just blow some robots up though. That is always fun.
What about the music/sound?
One word, fantastic. I never got tired of listening to the soundtrack. The sizzling of my beam gun. The indistinct chatter of my robot recruits. The sound effects are top notch and like I mentioned earlier, really build on the atmosphere of Tölva. The music swells when it needs to or creeps away quietly. The sound of combat in the distance gave me chills and when the mysterious hooded figures would vanish. The noise that followed left me freaked out.
Earlier I put forward the question of was The Signal From Tölva a safe bet to buy?
Yes, it was a very unique experience with great ideas. Execution as far as combat, was top notch. The universe has so many more stories to tell and left me wanting more. That’s a good thing. It’s hard to be innovative in the First-person genre. The Signal From Tölva did it and made it fun. Could there be more? Sure, but that’s why sequels exist. With Steam cards/achievements to enjoy and coming in at $19.99/£14.99. Go ahead get The Signal From Tölva and lead your robot blitzkrieg to victory!