Imagine being trapped within a tower, bound to an endless cycle of a life. That’s the life Moonchild must go through as she climbs the tower of Toren.
I first found out about Toren during the recent winter sales on PSN. The art style intrigued me, and I’ve always loved these artsy types of games. I finally dove into it when I had the chance to get back onto my PS4, and coming away from it I wasn’t nearly as impressed as I thought I would be. What exactly went wrong in what could’ve been an absolutely gorgeous experience?
Toren follows the story of Moonchild, a girl who is trapped within a tower meant to worship the gods. This tower – Toren – has become the home of a fearsome dragon, and it is her mission to defeat it and return the moon to the world. Unfortunately, you may find it difficult to find the story of Toren, and even if you do, it may be hard to understand.
One of the core issues with Toren lies in how it decided to present the story. You’re only given small, cryptic bits of it on occasion. All you ever know is that you must climb this tower to defeat this dragon. Most of the story is hidden within “Dreams”, 2/3rds of which are optional to even do. This leads to it becoming extremely easy to miss portions of the story. The story is already quite cryptic and hard to understand, and this is just made it all the more difficult to follow. Even when I completed the game, I didn’t feel that same sense of satisfaction one normally would from completing something.
The art style of Toren is quite hit and miss. On one hand, it is quite charming and is what initially intrigued me with the game. The style feels quite unique. The unique style is also the downfall of Toren’s graphics when they become combined with the animations. When you first start out as a baby, the crawling animation will make you question if they’ve ever seen a baby crawl. This questionable animation continues as she grows into a child, young adult, and then a fully grown woman. In a way, the animation just feels a bit disjointed from the world, causing it to feel a bit awkward.
This awkwardness carries over into how the game actually controls. Combat, while sparse at times, feels extremely clunky. Other than the dragon, the main foe you will battle are these small creatures that slither across the ground and will try and jump up to attach themselves to you should you get close. You can either try and shake them off or you can attempt to attack them with your sword. It’s hard to tell when your sword actually lands a hit on them, because while you blindly swing around, the enemies will either just stop moving or will continue to attack. There’s no feedback to tell if you actually landed your hit. This lead me to oftentimes just running past the enemies, hoping that they didn’t latch onto me so that I could continue.
When it comes to facing down the dragon itself, the controls don’t get much less awkward. At times, you’ll need to play it stealthy to get through without the dragon seeing you. This can be a bit weird at times as you might think you’re hidden but the game doesn’t, causing you to have to restart from the checkpoint. When you actually go to combat with the dragon, if you don’t do the right actions at the right time, you’ll simply just die. During the final showdown, you need to help guide your shielded companion. He can take a limited number of magical attacks, and this number does not reset when you die. This can lead to you having to try and solve the puzzles during the boss while frantically running back to defend him from the magic attack. It’s also quite frustrating as it can give you not very much time to actually figure out what is really going on to solve those puzzles.
Playing Toren, I was presented with a frustrating and not very fun experience in what could have been an extremely fantastic game. The idea seems great – a girl caught in a never-ending loop inside this tower against the dragon. The execution just fell very short, and you end up left with an experience that just isn’t fulfilling. You also have the issue that Moonchild sometimes has some clipping issues, making it easy to go off edges. At one point I even jumped through a wall while I was trying to check something, ultimately leading to my death. Luckily, if you do die, any progress you had made in the puzzles is saved, making it just a matter of getting back to where you were.
I can’t, in good faith, recommend Toren. As said, the experience just did not fill fulfilling to me, and I generally tend to love stories and presentations such as this. Toren manages to just fall short of the game it was trying to be like – Ico. While some of the same feeling is there, it’s still not there completely. You’re better off just going to play Ico and passing on playing Toren.
Toren Review Score