[Review] Toukiden 2 – A worthy successor
Platforms: PC, PS4 (reviewed), PS Vita
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: KOEI TECMO
Release: 24th March 2017 (PS4, Vita) / 21th March 2017 (PC)
Price: 39.99 (Vita) 59.99 (PS4,PC)
Review Key provided by KOEI TECMO
Built from scratch Toukiden 2 promises to be a worthy successor to its predecessor Toukiden Kiwami, which tried to fill the gap Monster Hunter left on many consoles and quickly became one of my favourite Hunter RPGs … till Toukiden 2 arrived. Built from scratch and with a ton of improvements up its sleeve Toukiden 2 is off to a promising start, so let´s find out if it can deliver!
The story revolves around our hero, who fought at the Awakening – the time the Oni entered the world – but got dragged 10 years into the future by a so called Oni gate. The world is at its end, overrun by Oni and torn apart by human conflicts, not much hope is left. When we awake in Mahoroba Village it´s our duty to free the world of the Oni and hopefully find out why we´re here.
By adding the conflict between In- and Outsiders, Toukiden 2 tries to spice up its pretty generic Hero-story. Since Insiders were Slayers prior to the Awakening and Outsiders were only “normal” people, a perfect set up to demonstrate human arrogance is established. During the 10 years Insiders pretty much used the Outsiders as slaves, except in Mahoroba, where both parties became Slayers, leading to an everlasting conflict. This dark past and grudge between those two factions symbolizes the main focus of the game´s first three chapters, besides the Oni-slaying, and is story-wise the best, Toukiden could ever offer, in my opinion. While not being very deep or new it deals with human conflicts and suffering, it´s not a tale about a shining hero, that´s what makes it so great.
Additionally to this conflict Toukiden 2 nails another important part during its first half, the consequences. Without consequences there can´t be a hero story. They may not be really surprising but they´re brutal, they´re consequent, dark and most important, they work. It may not be a revolutionary new story but it works really well, has some amazing moments and got me engaged. However all this eventually leads into the glory Hero-tale we all know, in which we, the player, save the world from the ultimate evil. After the first half Toukiden 2 slowly abandons everything that made the story great and trades them for a bright story of some brave heroes who free the world of Onis without facing any real consequences. To be honest, after I have seen what they came up with during the first half I found myself being more bored than ever of the second half. It just becomes this Hero-story which doesn´t really work, due to the lack of strict consequences. If it would have only told the story of Mahoroba, how it´s torn apart by this conflict, hopeless and full of human arrogance, with us being right in the centre of it, that would have been truly impressive in my eyes, because it wouldn´t be a story about saving the world but about surviving and struggle. A human and honest story.
Nonetheless story is only a small part of Toukiden 2 compared to its gameplay. While it keeps all the combat mechanics from Kiwami, like the Mitamas and the repetitive 1 button smashing, Toukiden 2 adds two new weapon classes – the Whip and Sword and Shield combo – as well as the so called Demon Hand. The Mitamas still are a great way to allow skill customization, the main Mitama determines the active support skills while the two support Mitamas add a Defence and Attack Skill, which just works, simply as that. Yet the main issue of Toukiden´s combat remains, its repetitivity. Every weapon class only offers around ~3-4 different attack combinations, over a playtime of ~30 hours at least. So, if you don´t want to switch to a new weapon class constantly, which is nearly impossible at later stages since you have to craft them from rare Oni materials, you will see and execute the same attacks over and over again.
By adding the Demon Hand to the mix Omega Force tried to address this problem, without needing to add a combo system along with some unlockable attacks. With the help of the Demon Hand you´re now able to drag yourself to an Oni and attack it with special air attacks or disrupt certain combos of the Oni itself, stunning it for some seconds. To be honest, it may be the best feature in the game, it not only adds new ways to deal damage to certain Oni parts but it speeds up the whole combat. Instead of having to run to an Oni if you´re thrown away you can simply drag yourself onto them, allowing for a constant stream of action. It gives Toukiden 2´s combat something unique and new, a personality. I wouldn´t mind seeing that in the Monster Hunter series too, it´s just an amazing feature.
Along with the extended combat Toukiden 2 also wants to add its own flavour to the Monster Hunter dominated Hunter RPG genre with the addition of an open world. Since the world is overrun by Oni and Oni gates open everywhere, time is slowly collapsing in itself, allowing Omega Force to create ~6 different big locations in this world, like a desert, a floating samurai city etc. that wouldn´t be possible otherwise, making Toukiden 2´s world huge but diverse at the same time. Throughout the story you will explore and free these areas from the Miasma, to reconquer the world from the Oni. The Miasma is another new mechanic, which serves as a time limit in the areas overrun by Oni. Sadly Omega Force doesn´t seem to know how to use this new open world properly. To free the areas from the Miasma for example you will have to do the same thing over and over again during the story, which gets really tiresome after the first two times.
Additionally the side activities available in the open world are very limited. The the Side Quests, of which this game has plenty and only consist of uninteresting fetch or Oni slayer tasks, get quickly boring and aren´t necessary either since Toukiden 2 carries over the difficulty problems of Kiwami, making it way too easy in some situations. Besides the story-driven way of freeing the 6 sub-areas of Miasma you can free certain teleportation stones from the Miasma too. So, you can explore the regions more freely without worrying about time, making it almost essential if you really want to see everything. To free such a stone you have to kill the Oni that spawns from it, which leads us to the next major problem of Toukiden 2, Oni repetition.
Toukiden 2 only offers ~3-4 medium sized Oni but since these are the Oni you will have to fight at the beginning, throughout the whole world and to free the teleportation stones, you will fight the same Oni with different colours over and over again. For a genre that lives and dies with its monsters it´s not really understandable why they didn´t design more of these medium sized ones, especially because they´re the ones that occur the most. However not everything is repetitive or mediocre, the hunting quests – named missions in Toukiden 2 – for example are great designed. Instead of having to travel through the whole world to slay the monsters on a specific place and return to the village, you will get teleported in an arena if you accept a mission, shortening the needed time to grind significantly, which is amazing!
As you saw, Toukiden 2 isn´t a really beautiful game, textures are mushy, edges are rough, effects could be more spectacular and the environment is empty at some points. Like Kiwami it lives from its design and artstyle, the weapons, character and Oni models look absolutely amazing compared to the world itself. On top of that they all have the classic chinese design combined with the Oni-fantasy style, creating some very unique weapons and Oni, which easily weigh up the other problems. The whole game carries this own unique artstyle we love from Kiwami, which can shine even brighter due to the improved graphics. It´s just lovely to see this unique classic chinese illustrations and model design, made with such love to detail, I simply love it and I´m sure you will love it too if you know Omega Force.
On the technical side Toukiden 2 performs really well on the PS4, the texture filtering and anti aliasing may be a bit off and it only runs at 30fps as far as I´m concerned but in exchange for this it offers a really smooth experience. Frame drops are basically non-existent, loading times are very short and stuttering when you leave the village and enter the open world, which happens without a loading screen, is so small and smooth that you won´t feel it most of the time. The only thing I can criticise is the translation, while it only offers english subtitles and Japanese voice acting it´s impossible to follow the chit-chat between the characters in the open world, since there are no subtitles provided for them. Leaving you with a lot Japanese dialogues you can´t understand but would have deepen the already good characters.
Kiwami offered a more streamlined Monster Hunter without adding really much own flavour to the mix, it still was a great game but without much new to it. Toukiden 2 on the other hand tries to change that by improving the solid base provided by Kiwami and improving its weaknesses.
With features like the Demon Hand it finally creates an own personality and shows how good a faster hunting RPG can be, while also giving away a lot of potential story-wise and fails to use its interesting and huge open world properly. It addresses a lot of Kiwami´s problems but fails at improving it biggest weak point, the repetition.
Yet, I still loved this game during my ~25 hour playtime, with more to come, I enjoyed its repetitive combat system, its story and its open world because even tho they could have been so much more Toukiden 2 nails one thing: It works as good as no other “Monster Hunter clone”, making it one of my favourite Hunting RPGs to date and the best on current home consoles.