Monster Hunter is a series that I’ve been curious about in theory, as someone who loves a bit of a rough-n-tumble with monstrosities at least five times my size (e.g. see my one-way love for Dark Souls). Yet the awkward controls mixed with areas being broken into incredibly small zones tied together with loading screens have left me too frustrated to enjoy the execution. So what fortune it is to see Toukiden 2 stride out in a loincloth, easy to control and plenty of surface without the finger waggle of loading screens. Shame nothing interesting comes out their mouth though.
Toukiden 2, besides a title I keep accidentally misspelling as the equally incorrectly spelt poultry dish “touducken”, is a third-person action RPG about slaying creatures by Koei Tecmo. Well, okay, mildly incorrect. One way it distinguishes itself from the obvious comparison Monster Hunter is these are less monsters you’ll want to skin and more oni, who are (roughly) Japanese demons. They suddenly appear on Earth via an “Awakening”, during which you get sucked into a portal and find yourself in an unfamiliar land with a heavy dose of the amnesia.
If you are already sighing, expecting a plot offensively bad since they’re willing to pull the amnesia card, I can assure you it isn’t. Instead, overall, it is inoffensively dull. Even the amnesia resolution plays out with an “oh? So?” revelation. I wouldn’t spoil it, but let’s say I was expecting a bit more when I had mentally predicted they’d take inspiration from Final Fantasy 10. Considering how if I play it back in my head there are some pretty insane fantastical elements dotted through-out the plot, it is a wonder it was executed with the humdrum of an insurance form. I believe there was one moment I finally perked up in interest of the plot, although it was pretty short lived. That isn’t to say the narrative is bad, as it functions to tie fight-to-fight together, just not good.
What is bad is the translation work. There isn’t really a single moment that I can point to with a “SEE! SEE!” exclamation. Rather instead every so often there will be a missing word, a misplaced phrase or just something off that another proof-read probably would have caught.
That said, the gameplay of Toukiden 2 seems be taking a more centre stage than the awkward characterisation and white noise style plot.
So let’s start with the meat of things: The combat as you take down monstrosities that tower over you. Appropriately, a good amount of detail have been applied here. I admit when faced with a boss in most games I’ll just madly wail on them until their health hits zero, maybe obsessing over a weak point at most. It is a habit sadly drilled into me by over a decade of video games.
Toukiden 2 instead proposes an interesting twist: To get at the main health of the creature, you must break off limbs by targeting the areas. While some limbs will still technically exist, others will disappear altering the fight tactics by the monster you’re trying to bring down. This focus on accuracy over mad wailing is not only refreshing but turns combat into a more cautious exercise than “MASH ALL THE BUTTONS TO WIN!”.
Although that isn’t to say brutalising your foe with your weapon (which we’ll definitely be getting back to) is the sole way to achieve it. You’ll also have two metres that upon charged can destroy limbs straight away: A single shot by your weapon and a grasp attack by your demon hand (a tool that acts like a grappling hook). So even if you’re having bad luck hitting the detachable limbs, you’ll still be able to do it with a well aimed shot.
That said, the question of “what limbs can even be detached” springs to mind. Fortunately you can flick on a seeing eye that glows all limbs that can be lopped off with enough damage, which out of combat can highlight not only obscure important details like items to pick up but also expose hidden information.
All this combat is done within a pretty large arena, which you can either escape from if you stumbled upon it in the open world and the walls are blue or can not if it is part of a mission and the walls are red.
However, maybe you’re not quite convinced. What if I added that there are 11 different weapon categories? I admit in a game series like Dark Souls, that’d mean nothing as large chunks of weapons play somewhat similarly with minor differences like speed/damage. However, every single weapon group in Toukiden 2 plays radically different with their own twist. Do you want the rifle, as you pick which particular round that has different effects to load it with mid-combat? What about knives as you dash about flaying madly? Maybe even the gauntlets, possessing the ability to inflict a vulnerability effect on an enemy limb? These are all pickable during character creation with the option to give each one a swing via training, so you’ll quickly find something that clicks with your play style.
Then there’s the Mitama, spirits you can equip to either weapon, armour or claw slots. In the weapon slot you can cast abilities like spells, with a limited amount that gets charged up when you hit base. Claw gives you something you can cast which will function for a while. Armour is auto-activated. Depending on factors such as a Mitama’s category (e.g. Attack) these can change, and oh don’t get me started on the startling variation in passive bonuses you can equip.
What I’m trying to say, in my classic roundabout way, is Toukiden 2 has spent A LOT of time creating immense depth in its combat. One that is very easy to grasp, but has enough layers to mull over to find something that meshes with your preferred play style in taking down all oni big and small.
There is just one area that feels like Toukiden 2 stumbles with its depth: Elements. It is possible I am thick like a ton of bricks, but I confess I had not noticed much difference between utilising elemental damage or just going raw. I also hadn’t really noticed the difference between kicking my elemental resistances up a notch or just going for raw armour. Something that is important, as when upgrading (which uses precious precious resources and can be done a very limited amount) you do have to pick between armour, aegis (speed of recovery of a percentage of loss health) and resistance. So probably best to leave resistances in the wings personally and focus on keeping it raw here.
The other concerning part is through all my planning, tweaking and studying what build to play with, Toukiden 2 feels a bit on the easy side. Sure I could kick the difficulty up, but that’s only possible after completing the game. That said, maybe others will struggle more than I did?
Although Toukiden 2 isn’t just a game of leading you from one mission to the next by the collar. You have side-missions and a survival/dungeon mode you can take if you want to harvest more delicious materials to cram into your weapons and armour. You can also venture out if you want some mini-quests to under take in the open world, like playing hide and seek with the locals around the dangerous woods. There is also harvesting materials off the floor, joining joint-operations with NPCs and even just taking down random big-bads for kicks.
That isn’t to say the missions force you down a line necessary. After all, monsters still roam the land you’re venturing in. So you can still be caught up with that as you’re trying to get to the objectives, as well as distracted with collecting materials. This ends up making the main story feel more apart of the world than its own separate entity.
On the other hand, it is probably best you don’t stumble around free, as miasma infests the land like radiation. While this radiation can start off as severe as red (ruining your body in seconds and sapping your stamina) or purple (caution needed, but can still be pushed through), you can clear it up through the story missions and cleansing barrier stones dotted around the land. While this sounds like a tedious bother, it adds a time limit that keeps the combat tense. Often larger creatures will struggle to slap you across the chops if you’re staying ranged, potentially leading to an over half an hour fight of wearing them down. By having a miasma limit, where upon being reached you die, it keeps the combat experience more snappy while not being so punishing as to hinder exploration.
There is just one last little thing before we conclude: Upgrades. I mentioned it off-hand about how upgrading your armour/weapons does require materials you can harvest off the floor or from oni. Alternatively, later, you can send a bot to scour the land for items you need. That said, I can’t help but get the feeling I may be playing it wrong as more times than not I was struggling finding the things I needed. Toukiden 2 was easy enough to get through the plot without upgrading everything constantly, but I was surprised that even by the end of the game and with the transmutation I was struggling to have the right materials for upgrades to my gear and scavenger bot.
The final score of Toukiden 2 is a 7 out of 10. I confess that I walked in expecting something wearing Monster Hunter‘s skin, warts & all, and waving a chainsaw around like Hollywood’s attempt at an Ed Gein impersonation. Instead, what I got was a title that got a familiar concept (i.e. hunting dangerous creatures), focused in a beam-like form and polished until it shines. Even if it left other parts of the title withered like the functional narrative and translation that needed another proof-read.
Yet, I look upon the £49.99 price-tag on Steam with concern. While some titles are bold enough to go for it (e.g. things published by EA & 2K), I’m not particularly sure Toukiden 2 is worth that much. £29.99, definitely, £39.99 probably, but £49.99? I think even those I’d recommend the game to, fans of those who want to hunt monsters as well as those who dig the concept, would find that much a bit steep. Although it is hard to ignore times are achanging, with production costs rising and the pound worth falling, maybe I shouldn’t be so frugal, dismayed and offended by such a price? Maybe this is the way the world now rolls? Still, until it fully sinks in I’m inclined to be wary around such high price points.
Pricing aside, if the concept appeals to you then it may be worth a punt at some point. It is still pretty good fun, even if flawed. Yet with such a vibrant year of releases, I wouldn’t blame you if this slid on by until the price drops.
A Playstation 4 Product key for Toukiden 2 was provided by Koei Tecmo for the Purpose of this Review