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‘Toren’ is an ugly, clunky, unfinished mess of a game

‘Toren’ is an ugly, clunky, unfinished mess of a game

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Toren

Developed by Swordtales
Published by Versus Evil
Available on PS4, PC

This review is based on a Beta copy of Toren, which was received by Sound on Sight a week prior to the release of the game. Please note that the final product may be slightly different than the version which was tested for this review.

Toren is a great example of what can happen when a creative team over-reaches, and Brazilian developer Swordtales has clearly over-reached with their first major release.

Right from the outset Toren comes across as a high concept, low execution adventure. Going through the information provided by the publisher, Versus Evil, quickly confirms the influences which are almost immediately apparent in the game design: Japanese artist and animator Hayao Miyazaki (visible in the wolf garb that the main character dawns in the prologue), Shadow of the Colossus and Ico (clearly demonstrated by the cryptic plot and gibberish-speaking characters), and The Legend of Zelda (shown through the exploration mechanics and light 3D platforming).

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Unfortunately Swordtales lacks the game design skill to match such lofty expectations, and the only feeling evoked by playing a poor game which is so reminiscent of such classic materials is a vague longing for a vastly superior experience. The title plays wildly clunky from the moment it puts you in control, tasking you with reaching a mighty dragon while leaping over his ground-covering attacks with what’s sort of a jump, but is more like Nathan Drake’s non-platforming, half-leaps in Uncharted. The collision detection is off, the controls are clumsy, even the color presentation in the environment is mismatched. It’s just an ugly, off-kilter opening, and it puts a bad taste in your mouth before the adventure has even properly begun.

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Much of this is a bit tragic, at least to some extent, as there is a lot that could work here with more polish. The story, for example, does contain some interesting beats, as it focuses on concepts like reincarnation, mankind’s fateful pride, and a thematic connection to Tarot cards, as demonstrated by it’s High Priestess, Tower, and Magician conceits. Further, the idea of a protagonist who begins the adventure as a baby and grows to be a woman as her adventure progresses is a concept that could be mined for a bevy of rich content in more capable hands.

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Alas, though, the hands that made Toren are at best less than capable, and at worst completely unequipped for such an undertaking as this. As such this game, which can easily be cleared in a few hours, feels about three times longer than that. Every woefully miscalculated sword-swing through enemies or supposedly solid objects, every bit of screen pop-up, and absolutely every ugly-as-sin environment you are tasked with exploring aches through your equilibrium as if you were playing this game in a Jacob’s Ladder-esque, pre-death fugue state.

Do you want to walk around in circles pouring sand on things? Would you like to be immediately killed after falling any amount of distance which is more than 2 feet? How about a game where you literally fight the same boss over and over again throughout the experience? Maybe you would really enjoy a game where sandcrabs and easily avoidable “spooky ghost men” are the primary enemies you’ll face? If you answered yes to any or all of the above questions, Toren might be the game for you!

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With the year not yet at its halfway point, and a lot of great releases on the horizon, I have no clue what my game of the year is going to be, but I can certainly lay down odds that no one is going to play a more frustrating and poorly-designed game this year than Toren.