Toukiden Review: Slaying With The Best Of 'Em
A warrior is only as good as the weapon they carry in hand, the armor they wear on their back and, most importantly, the comrades who stand at their side. These laws of battle ring true in Toukiden: Age of Demons, the PlayStation Vita exclusive hunting game from Omega Force and Tecmo Koei.
In Toukiden, players take on the role of a slayer, a special class of warrior with the ability to battle the invading demon hordes. As Toukidenís genre implies, the game borrows heavily from the infamous Monster Hunter series, all while bolting on several unique features and a story taking place in feudal Japan.
One of the main features that sets Toukiden apart from other monster hunting games is a fighting engine thatís lightning fast; perfect for players who just want to button mash while still providing enough depth to reward those who take the time to dig in and really learn each of the six weapon types. Thatís one of the gameís greatest strengths, actually. Its accessible fighting engine makes it more inviting to folks who are perhaps intimidated by more complex games like Monster Hunter, but who are still intrigued by the idea of teaming up with friends and pummeling wave after wave of baddies.
Once youíve created your own character in Toukiden, you are thrust out to the frontlines of a war between mankind and an increasingly menacing demon army, the oni. Your base of operations it Utakata Village, a hub where you can get to know the villagers, craft a ridiculous amount of weapons and gear, build stronger bonds with your fellow slayers and take on a wide array of missions and quests. Sadly, the vast majority of missions boils down to visiting one of a handful of locations, pummeling a bunch of monsters or a boss (or a mixture of the two) and collecting as much loot as humanly possible. But all of that is pretty much par for the course in a hunting game. Itís an endless cycle of battle, looting and crafting on repeat and, thankfully, the combat in Toukiden is entertaining enough to make the never-ending chase engaging and addictive.
Running through the heart of Toukiden is a tale about a great shift in the battle between good and evil, as well as your character, a warrior who just might be strong enough to finally swing the tide in mankindís favor. Missions are strung together by various bits of dialogue and the occasional cutscene and, while nothing here is especially surprising, the tale was intriguing enough to keep me interested. The fact that a story even exists is a one-up over many games in the genre, actually.
Driving the combat in Toukiden are six weapons classes including bows, swords, daggers, spears, etc. I highly recommend you play through each weaponís tutorial, as they each offer a surprising amount of depth and specialized moves that arenít immediately apparent when jumping into the game. You can get by just button mashing, sure, but the real fun comes from mastering your various tools of the trade and using them to maximum effectiveness. This is further altered by mitama, a collection of dozens of spirits you can equip to your weapons to add additional abilities that will give you stat buffs, enemy debuffs and the like. With a ridiculous number of mitama to discover, this opens up the battle customization even further, allowing a player to specialize their techniques to better align with their own style of play.
The main story is broken into five chapters (plus a couple extra post-game chapters of additional missions), each of which unfolds as a series of missions that see you beating the stuffing out of an untold number of oni. My one big gripe with Toukiden is how repetitive these missions can become. The small and medium oni donít present much of a challenge and frequently just stand around, waiting for the player to attack. This can be fine in shorter bursts but, when youíre grinding for certain materials in order to make an especially extravagant helmet to complete your favorite suit of armor, it can become mighty redundant.
The boss battles, on the other hand, are an absolute delight. These screen-filling monstrosities offer unique attack patterns and, since you have to break them down one piece at a time, require actual strategy to tackle if you want to reap the best rewards. Each boss offers multiple limbs that, when attacked, eventually break off. The player can then purify these parts by holding down the right trigger which, in turn, cripples the enemy. This adds a whole new level of strategy to the game in picking which AI partners to take into the battle, as hard-to-reach limbs are easier to detach with a bow or spear user at your side rather than, say, a sword or gauntlets junkie.
The ability to carry AI partners into the fray is another mark in the win column for Toukiden. Fights become a little less repetitive with a group of allies at your back and, in the much tougher later chapters, their extra blades, heals and abilities can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
Which of course brings us to Toukidenís multiplayer, easily its best feature. While voice chat would be much more preferable to gestures and canned phrases (Donít forget you can still Party Chat with folks on your friends list), everything else about Toukidenís online campaign is spot-on. Thereís a completely separate set of missions to tackle here, which you can plow through solo (with AI helpers) in ad hoc or infrastructure mode. Boss fights are especially rewarding with other players, as coordinating tactics, deciding which limbs to focus on, relying on one another for buffs and determining who should fight and who should purify fallen limbs is a heck of a lot of fun. Toukidenís single player campaign will take you a few dozen hours to complete (far more if you are a perfectionist), but multiplayer is where the gameís legs are. Itís not hard to imagine an audience clinging to this mode, coming together and slaying oni by the hundreds for quite some time to come.
While not as deep as other genre staples, Toukiden offers an accessibility and addictive reward loop that might be able to win over a whole new audience of hunting fans. I would have liked more variety in the mission types and perhaps a couple more ways to spend my time outside of battle, but what weíre left with is an entertaining first entry in a series that could grow to be a genre great.
Platforms: PS Vita (reviewed), PSP
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
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