Wednesday, 22 March 2017 00:00

Toukiden 2 Review

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Toukiden 2 is an action-packed hunting game with RPG elements. The story begins in media res, amid an attack by Oni (鬼; Japanese for "devils" or "demons") on a fairly small port town. You must immediately fend off the attack and engage in fights with a couple of tremendous and powerful beast-looking Oni creatures.

There is a focus on the storyline, particularly in the beginning, and we quickly learn that the main character passed through an Oni Gate, jumping forward ten years; Oni are free to move across past, present, and future. The once-accepted belief was that the Oni controlled these miasma holes, but, in fact, the Mitama (御霊; Japanese for "souls" or "spirits") created these doorways; the Oni simply use the Mitama. "The Professor" uncovers this truth later in the plot. This centrality of time is reminiscent of Onimusha 3: Demon Siege (PS2), although I don't believe that you can deliberately travel across time in Toukiden. As the story progresses, you acquire new Mitama, which the Professor calls “...the souls of heroes from the past, and the source of Slayers’ power.”

Each Mitama caters to a different fighting style: defense, attack, speed, support, luck, and other styles; there are over two-hundred of these Mitama to unlock.

You can equip three at one time, and within each Mitama are various boosts, and you can increase the proficiency of these boosts through usage. Another feature that is useful in battle is a technology the Professor developed: the Demon Hand. The Demon Hand is like a hookshot, able to pull yourself toward an enemy or pull an enemy down.

AI will occasionally join you in a fight and, early on, will come to fight alongside you in a party after they receive the Demon Hand technology. In these situations, you act as a sort of tactical leader, giving them orders to attack, aid others, roam as they please, or follow you. After the AI joins you, you can access to the HQ Command Center, where you can attempt various missions — some of which seem more like short skirmishes — which offer rewards upon their completion. One can reattempt these missions to try and break your previous clear time. It is a way to get into some action if you’re on a time budget, and also a perfect way to farm for certain materials, as they show whom you’ll face. Later on, you’ll have access to a Ruins Expedition: a boss-rush style mode that you can only leave without failing it every five (progressively more difficult) floors. Once you have access to this, you may be able to breeze through approximately the first seven or eight floors, provided you have the DLC armor and a decent weapon (I used a bow since it does not require me to be close). The tenth floor’s boss wiped my party in one hit a few minutes into the battle.

Once you venture outside the town, you encounter the Otherworld, which acts as a sort of time gate where you come across Oni; miasma infects the Otherworld regions, a type of poison that will eventually bring death if you expose yourself to it for too long; prolonged exploration and coming across a formidable foe may bring this miasma to uncomfortably high levels. Early on you’ll unlock the Pool of Purity, which consumes a pool entry card. A purification bath provides various benefits, such as being able to withstand the poisonous air in the Otherworld for longer periods of time. You can reach certain stones that trigger a short skirmish type battle upon activation; defeating the enemies therein will cleanse the area and provide a haven from miasma exposure, as well as lowering the miasma levels of the surrounding area. This feature makes the environment rather interactive, especially when you consider that assisting others, by clearing some quests or by joint operations (which you can think of like an impromptu quest where you help other slayers defeat enemies), can change the inventory of the shops at the town. Not to mention gaining a new friend and possibly improving relations with those in your party. You can find an estimate of your relations with those you meet in the encyclopedia, but it's not a numerical value; instead, a label, such as “comrade” or “trusted friend,” appears. Defeating strong enemies that you find during a joint operation is also a good way to obtain new Mitama.

The map of the Otherworld, specifically the outside of the town, is very open-world, and there are various objects on which to keep your eye.

Crests and ark fragments, upon which there are strange symbols, are scattered throughout the lands — and there is a rumor that those who find all of the crests in a given area will consequently find good fortune. How realistic the graphics are, combined with the level of detail, whether it be a person or the interior of a residence, is stunning. Despite the open-worldness, the story progression seems a bit linear, in that you are given some main task to complete, and upon completion, more unfolds; you have the freedom to explore and take up missions, so the linearity of the game is not confining.

As the story unfolds, you gain access to shops, a blacksmith who can create new weaponry and armor for you or modify existing equipment, new missions (seemingly once you defeat certain enemies in the field), and new Demon Hand features. Eventually, you can send out a machina doll on a gathering mission; the time and difficulty of the mission depend on how far into the Otherworld you have it venture. Each time the Professor adds some improvement to this technology, you can equip an additional Mitama, and it seems that the function of a particular Mitama in battle depends upon where you equip the Mitama. You may also activate a combination boost from equipping certain Mitama; whether or not a certain combination will grant this boost will be marked with an icon. The key here is whether or not the Mitama shared a strong bond during their lifetimes. If you consider that there are over two-hundred Mitama to find and put to use, and at least three different spots to equip these, the possibilities for your character build are downright staggering. Figure in all of the skills that each Mitama possesses, and the system truly becomes replete with depth and nearly endless combinations. Mitama of the same type (for example, "defense" or "attack") will function more or less similarly; the difference comes from the skills within each Mitama.

The Mitama system, combined with being able to forge new equipment, more than makes up for the absence of a traditional leveling system. If you have the DLC from purchasing this title early, then you may not need to craft any extra armor, at least for awhile, until you can produce much better armor. Although I’m unsure when this would be, as the DLC increases the player’s stats by a high amount. There is also a wide arsenal of weapons available from the start: from a chain and sickle, to a longbow, to naginata, and several others. Attacks with some weaponry, such as a chain and sickle or the chain whip, can be unpredictable at times, for the end location of an attack is not always what one might expect. For extreme precision, I may recommend a bow: you can aim it from afar, and know to where the arrow will fly. You can provide immense ranged support this way, especially considering that bows and rifles provide almost the highest attack (gauntlets and clubs are first place, if you consider all the weapon types). Movement speed is obviously decreased while aiming, and should you need to adjust the aim vertically, you may rely on your left thumb taking over the right analog stick. There is a button that allows you to stay in place and aim using the left analog stick, but this consumes focus. It is also obviously a poor weapon if you become surrounded by enemies; the Demon Hand will prove handy in this situation.

Certain skills, such as one that recovers a portion of your health, also prove useful; but how many times you can activate these are limited. But, should you fall in battle, you can get back up in just a few seconds, if your allies reach you and can revive you. You can also restore yourself to full health and regain your number of ability activations by returning to town. The stones mentioned above that provide a haven from the poisonous miasma also act as a teleporter back to town, but unfortunately these are one-way only. Some of these portal stones, particularly ones at outposts, provide a two-way trip to-and-from the town.

The plot is perhaps the most opaque aspect of Toukiden 2, as it is set in the eleventh century in a period involving samurai.

But, despite some anachronism issues, Professor actually helps to strengthen the overall story, introducing a semblance of modernity to a setting that would otherwise be solely historical. Namely, her technologies, the Demon Hand, and the machina doll Tokitsugu (who is animated by a human soul). Naturally, some of the villagers are weary and cynical of her intentions and machina users in general. The Professor also seems to have the most depth of character, between her self-confidence, ambition, and strange and almost egoistic sense of humor. She calls herself a genius, gets deeply perturbed when an experiment she conducts based on her hypotheses fails, and instead of showing modesty when she had helped the town during some main quest, she instead requests that the town should increase her budget by a hundredfold. Although there is no English setting for the voice acting, there are at least English subtitles for the main dialogue; the only instance where you won’t encounter subs is when an ally says something out in the field, but this is not crucial to the game nor the story. There are times during a quest where allies will speak and a dialogue box appears while fighting; trying to keep up with the conversation and fight a large Oni gets distracting, and this is where some English voice acting would come in handy for those who don’t know Japanese.


The Verdict

Toukiden 2 is exceptionally well-made and can readily provide countless hours of entertainment for those who enjoy an action-packed hunting-style game with a sprinkling of RPG. There always appears ever more to unlock as you progress, granting some new feature to play with, rewarding you for making your way through the game. Battles that last a few minutes or so may be tedious, but the vastness of the world, filled with its various items, objects, and quests - not to mention the preponderous depth of the Mitama system — easily vanquish any sense of Oni ennui.

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Chris Hubbard

A fan of RPGs above other genres, Chris has been playing video games for as long as he can remember. Some of the games that had the most influence on his gaming preferences have been the Final Fantasy and the Diablo series. More recently, most of Chris' gaming time has been going toward Gems of War and Clicker Heroes (give it a try, it can be addicting), along with open-world RPGs such as Skyrim and ESO. He's also dabbled with RPG Maker software, and it is a goal of his to someday create an RPG.


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