When I get to cover a new game that is more of an experience like Flower or Journey, there are specific rules that I have to implement. They are not your typical gaming experiences. For example, today’s review is for Swordtale’s first game, Toren. This is an adventure game, dripping with mythology, and it definitely reminds me of a mixture of Journey and Ico. This is honestly one of the more interesting games of 2015. Unfortunately, due to whatever reason, it has a lot of rough areas in it as well. I can understand if people feel like this game can be polarizing. What do I think about it? Is it a hidden gem from the land of Brazil? Or is this a tale worth closing the book on?
Toren puts you in the role of a young girl named Moonchild, who is trapped inside a tower. She must travel to the top of the tower, and kill a dragon. It guards the tower, and will kill you if it gets the chance. In an underlying plot, you also must revive the moon to stop the everlasting sunlight. The story is a lot more about the world that you are living in being enveloped in poems and snippets of folklore than having loads of cut scenes tell you what is going on. A lot of the main story is not told to you directly, so make sure to pay attention to those moments where the wizard talks to you. Even though my journey was short, I was kept curious until the end. It felt like a fairytale in some regards, so if you like those types of stories, then you will probably like this game’s story.
Toren is an adventure game. You will be progressing to the top of the tower, solving puzzles that take place inside your dreams, some light platforming, and the occasional fight with the dragon. The game controls, like Ico, where they are slightly clunky and platforming, are floaty. It isn’t terrible, since the design of the levels means that you won’t miss the jump, but your character, who happens to be a little girl that grows up during her journey to the top of the tower, has weight to her. The puzzles are also not too hard to solve, since they are mostly making sand fall onto a symbol on the ground and others where you light torches. The combat is also very simple, so don’t expect to fight like Death in Darksiders 2 or Bayonetta. Now, this next part might be polarizing to a few. It took me a little under two hours to beat the game. I mean, this is no longer than games like Journey, but still, I know there are people out there who hate it when they pay a lot and get a short game in return.
Graphically, boy, does this seem like a mixed bag. I can understand it if the budget wasn’t fully there, but this game looks like an early PlayStation 3 title. Some parts look nice enough, and the setting is still memorable, but for a PlayStation 4 and PC, it could have looked better. What can make up for the slightly underwhelming graphics is the soundtrack, composed by Uinicius Kleinsorgen. It’s downright beautiful. The music is dramatic, intense, atmospheric, peaceful, and gorgeous.
So, what are my issues with Toren? My first of many issues are the graphics. Besides looking slightly outdated, I saw a lot of graphical flickering, flat textures, and really fake-looking hair on the girl. While I was pulled into the game, it didn’t stop me from noticing the graphics. I felt like they could have used another month to iron them out. The animation also needed some sprucing up. The movements of the characters felt jerky and unfinished. If this was a budget ordeal, I understand. I also found the controls clunky. I could tell my character had weight to her, but then the jumping would feel floaty. It made some of the platforming frustrating to go through, especially when it felt like Moonchild couldn’t hold onto a ledge. My final issue is that I wish the game was longer. A little over an hour and a half to beat a game that will cost you $10 is still a little much. I think 3 hours or so would have been better, since it feels like the pacing of the story was rushed. For example, why couldn’t we have had some levels based on the knight that you see from time to time? Think of Journey or Uncharted 3, where the main character walked through the desert. Think of those moments and put them into Toren. It would have been cool to see his side of the quest, besides some folk tales and poems. Granted, it’s not like you never see him until the last 10 minutes, but there is not a whole lot of screen-time for the knight.
In the end, I am conflicted with how I feel about Toren. It honestly could have used another month to polish the graphics, make combat not incredibly simple, and make the experience last longer without forced padding. On the other hand, I enjoyed the lore, and the overall experience, despite the game only being an hour and a half long. Now, would I recommend Toren at full price? Well, if you don’t mind paying for an overall two-hour adventure, and love games like, again, Journey or Ico, then go get it. If you are hesitant due to polarizing reviews, wait for a price drop and then check it out. I still stand by my opinion that this is one of the most interesting games to come out in 2015, and definitely worth checking out more so than a lot of the big budget triple A games like Dying Light or Evolve.
This game gets a 7 out of 10