The Beauty In Boredom -Toren Review (PS4)

The Beauty In Boredom -Toren Review (PS4)

For their first game, Brazilian developer Swordtales decided to make more than ‘just a game’. Exploring themes such as growing up, gender and expectations, Swordtale have displayed some genuine ambition, and bravery, with Toren. Taking inspiration from various games such as Ico, Journey and The Legend of Zelda, Toren isn’t trying to simply entertain, it’s trying to provoke.

Toren proudly shrouds it’s self with mystery, forcing the player to connect the dots of the story. The basic outline sees Moonchild, a young girl stranded on a tower overseen by a dragon, tasked with uncovering her purpose. Her goal is to reach the top of tower, slay the dragon, and understand her place in the world.

The basic plot may reek of generic staples of fantasy video games, but it’s far from it. The core goal of the game exists to direct the player, but the result is only made worthwhile by the journey. Moonchild’s journey from the bottom to the tower, all the way to the top, is not merely to fight a dragon and save the day, it’s more of personal journey. Each step towards the top of the tower is accompanied by Moonchild growing, in more ways than one, progressing her story as well as her development.

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Toren’s strongest aspect is clear from the off. The art direction is utterly stunning, lush colours fill the screen, giving Toren’s environments teem with life. Soaking in the sheer beauty of the world is the most rewarding element Toren has to offer,. Much like a beautifully painted picture, the art direction posses a strange ‘hand made’ quality to it, allowing the world to transcend that of a video game, appearing organic. The sheer range of environments the player indulges in leaves Toren feeling dream like, producing a overwhelming sense of relaxation, forcing the player to succumb to the game’s beauty.

In a strange turn of events, the actual textures of Toren are a mixed bag of fair to terrible. Character models lack any real detail, this leaves them feeling rather alien from the world they inhabit. Bizarrely, some of the backgrounds look totally untouched, it’s genuinely jarring to be hooked into a beautiful environment, only to see a large ugly rock protruding through the world. Textures aren’t the only issue Toren suffers from, the animation is painfully awkward, failing to compliment the before mentioned art direction. Robotic movements restrict Moonchild from ever feeling, or looking, like a believable character. Watching her awkward shuffles, with such beauty around her, is utterly frustrating.

CE_XNZbW8AAHAY-.jpg largeIn truth, most of the games real issues revolve around the gamplay and mechanics. Jumping never feels responsive, or satisfying, the same can be said for the combat. Simple button presses should result in instant and tangible responses, Toren never achieves this. Puzzles make up a large part of the overall experience, unfortunately, these puzzles are neither challenging or even engaging. The core mechanics feel dated, limited and ultimately boring. Wrestling with the camera is the biggest challenge Toren presents. Trying to traverse the bland level design is made increasingly difficult by the camera refusing to play nice, instead it stubbornly locks it’s self at awkward angles.

Technical issues plague Toren from start to finish, from physics bugging out, frame rate drops and some irritating screen tearing. Toren’s technical issues detract from it’s strongest aspect, the art direction, which is truly a crying shame. On the plus side, the gorgeous soundtrack is left utterly untouched by any issues, allowing it to flow in perfect motion with the story.

Toren is a much more enjoyable game to watch than it is to play. The poor puzzles, dated and repetitive mechanics leave the game feeling like a struggle to play. It’s sad that the wonderful work with the art direction is not vindicated with competent gameplay. The attempts at exploring gender and maturity are admirable, but never truly taste complete, leaving the climax of the 4 hour campaign feeling underwhelming. Swordtales have plenty of promise, particularity with their art design, but Toren is a messy first outing needed more time in development. More enjoyable to witness, than to play, Toren often looks the part, but unfortunately falls short in most areas.

Sean Halliday


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