The video games industry is no stranger to ‘clones’, and no, I am not referring to those charming guys who served in the Grand Army of the Republic. It is an adjective we are seeing time and time again with new releases, for example, Nioh, which in practically every review was described as a ‘Dark Souls clone’. It isn’t a derogatory description, no reviewer is criticising the lack of imagination or originality from the game, it is solely just an easy and well understood term. So, many games now are breaking the mould in terms of ascending above their genres that it has become the most efficient way of describing what you will be playing, and comparisons are key. Apart from the aforementioned Dark Souls, possibly the other most ‘cloned’ game is Monster Hunter, which brings us nicely around to the subject of this review, Omega Force’s latest title. Toukiden 2.
Taking place 10 years after an event called ‘The Awakening’, where Oni (Japanese folklore term linked with demons, monsters etc.) broke through from their realm and invaded the human world. Your initial nameless character is part of a group known as the Slayers, secret warriors who protect mankind from these demonic beasts. This time, however, it will not be so easy, and the Slayers for the first time in their history are ordered out of the shadows to fight in plain sight of anyone and everyone. After this initial assault, which acts as Toukiden 2‘s initial tutorial level, your hero gets sucked through an Oni portal where you awake in the fire link shrine-esque Mahoroba Village. After a series of exchanges between two NPCs, you find out that this is actually 10 years after The Awakening. Now your hero must help keep Mahoroba Village, which is shielded by a mysterious power which came during The Awakening, safe from the Oni threat just outside its borders. The story is far from ground-breaking, but it is entertaining enough to keep you talking to the NPCs and finding out more about the world. Every time you do speak with an NPC, a charming caricature of them appears on the screen. They look fantastic, and you will never think too many characters look the same, so kudos to the team at Omega for adding this welcome little touch. Talking with NPCs can be a bit hit and miss, however, especially if it’s a character integral to the story, such as the Professor, whose dialogue can be on the long side, especially if she is explaining a new feature for your latest weapon. Most of what she has to say is interesting, but I did find myself at times just wishing she would stop talking so I can go kick some demon butt.
A good story isn’t what drives Monster Hunter-style games, of course, that lies with the game’s combat, which I am happy to say Toukiden 2 does rather well, with a few minor issues, but we’ll come to that a bit later. There are a plethora of weapons to choose from right from the start, which includes swords, knives, spears, rifles, chains, gauntlets, clubs and a few more choices. Toukiden 2 will let you try all these early on to find your preferred play-style. Personally, I like fast moving slash attacks, so I went for the twin knives and didn’t once look back after that. Weapons can be upgraded from the village’s blacksmith from materials either found in the world or by defeating Oni. Each weapon will have, on average, three attacks…two normal attacks and a special attack, and combat is as quick and frantic as you would expect from the creators of the Dynasty Warriors series. Omega has tried to add a bit of variety to the combat with the inclusion of something brand new to the Toukiden world, the Demon Hand. This device is the invention of the previously mentioned Professor, and it is her explanation of the NEW weapon that can be a bit drawn out. The Demon Hand has two main functions really: It is a quick travel of sorts method and a new weapon for bigger Oni. If you want to get to something ahead quickly, be it a group of smaller Oni or a landmark, then fire up the Demon Hand, lock on, and you’ll sail through the air like the majestic warrior you are. In terms of using it as a weapon, the Demon Hand can stun larger Oni or target specific body parts of the Oni for some more quick travel or destroy the body part entirely. The Demon Hand is a great little feature but comes with one major annoyance, you cannot move while aiming with it. Not the biggest deal-breaker out there, but it is inherently frustrating when you spy a group of Oni ahead ready to be sliced and diced, so you fire up the trusty Demon Hand to quickly get to this soon to be dead group of Oni, only for the one you target to move out of range. It can just be a complete change from the fast-paced action Toukiden 2 tries to bring.
Toukiden 2 also allows you to assign ‘Mitama’ to the face buttons on the controller. These are spirits of fallen slayers, and the moves they offer can vary. They could allow you more speed with your normal attacks, give you the ability to summon Oni to fight alongside you, or simply boost your defence stats. It can be a way to break up the hack ‘n’ slash-like combat Toukiden 2 has to offer, which thankfully isn’t totally frantic thanks to an extremely welcomed lock-on tool. What isn’t welcomed is the fact that quite often important tippets of information are shared during combat, which wouldn’t be a problem if the game’s dialogue was in English or I spoke Japanese. Trying to read sometimes vital tips during a battle was a constant frustration.
To help you fight against the Oni threat, you can have up to three computer-controlled allies fight alongside you. Now, AI-controlled characters have a mixed history in video games, generally falling into two categories: completely and utterly useless or Terminator-like efficient. Your allies fall into the latter category in Toukiden 2. I often found myself, more so when fighting against the smaller Oni, with very little to actually do. Unless I used the Demon Hand constantly, my teammates would always beat me to the Oni, and before I could start kicking ass and taking names, the battle was done. Obviously, with the larger Oni this isn’t so much of a problem, as it takes some serious effort to take these beasts down, but I became quite annoyed with my far too proficient gang while exploring the plains which surround Mahoroba Village. While exploring the open world map of Toukiden 2, do not expect to be wowed like you would be from titles such as Skyrim or Horizon Zero Dawn. Toukiden 2‘s world isn’t bad by any stretch, but compared to other titles released this and last year, it is a bit lacking. One great feature, or lack thereof, is that there is no mission path to follow. There is an arrow which points to where your next objective is, though it is easily dismissable, which truly allows for some decent exploring in Toukiden 2, and the exploration itself is made easier by the fact you and your gang can give The Flash a run for his money in terms of the speed at which you can sprint.
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platforms: PS4, PS Vita, PC
Release Date: 24th March 2017