Sunday, March 26, 2017

Toukiden 2 (REVIEW)

Toukiden 2, the successor to 'Toukiden Kiwami is by far a vast improvement on the ground work laid out by it's predecessors. Everything Kiwami, and the first game did Toukiden 2 does better. The game features a more fleshed out story, more fleshed out characters, and an overall more fleshed out experience. From the intricate character customization to the plentiful new features Toukiden 2 offers something that series faithfuls, and new fans alike can be proud to own. It is a beautiful overhaul of a game series that wasn't all that bad to begin with.

With the new partially standalone experience that is "Toukiden 2" you'll be getting a new plot with an attractive assortment of NPC characters that make the game a less than linear experience. Through the open world environments you'll be taking on materialistic missions, character driven side quests, and age specific explorations that help build upon the Oni versus humanity lore. All of which takes place in a pseudo feudal Japan era. As a slayer who was thrust unwillingly through an Oni gate, and forward 10 years in time in this era you will fight not only the Oni adversaries that lay in wait, but will also do so to keep from slipping back through time into god knows where. Through the help of a zany professor, and her odd collection of companions you'll search for a means to an end. A way to end the Oni onslaught that has wiped out most of humankind.

Your tools to deal with the threats this time around include the same several weapon types (two-handed sword, dual blades, spear, gauntlets, sword & shield, chain whip, rifle ...) as well as a selection of familiar armor sets. All of which can be fortified (upgraded), and reforged (altered) into something more powerful supposing you have the funds, and gathered materials to do so with. The weapons, in particular can be wielded with a three tier attachment of Mitama who act as perk boosts to your character. The Mitama being fallen samurai spirits who were consumed by Oni, and released from them by you. The new Mitama system itself has been changed drastically in that they are no longer merely stat/attribute boosts, but instead gift a battle style which enhances the way you fight as well as attack skills, and defense skills which enhance related attributes with even more game changing perks. Each of which are unique to the Mitama being equipped.

Aside from the weapons which include everything from a two-handed sword to a chain whip, and the new Mitama perk system you'll also be gifted the new "Demon Hand" which in itself is a game changer. The demon hand, as it were acts not only as an environmental and battle centered grappling tool, but also a means to take down attacking Oni bosses in mid-attack. It keeps you from having to run up to your target, and allows you, and your team of slayers to stay on top of things until the Oni is defeated. Not only that but the demon hand can also clear away path obstacles as well as deal a crippling blow to Oni bosses that will keep them from regenerating limbs. Defeating the Oni, while similar to the former Kiwami setup in some regards is made more strategic in that Oni each have their own individual attack patterns. The group effort, whether with NPCs, or via the new multiplayer experience must be coordinated efficiently lest you lose your retreats (continues), and fail altogether.

Dealing with the Oni threat isn't as straightforward as just killing them off with coordinated attacks though. It also involves keeping track of the damage being dealt with the improved capabilities of the "Eye of Truth" which basically allows you to see Oni, and Oni limb health as you battle the fercious man eaters. During a battle with a larger boss Oni, when the Eye of Truth is active (R3), you'll see the health bar, and the color changing of attacked limbs. This will better help your to assess the situation, and do what needs to be done to topple the foe. The Eye of Truth also doubles as a means to track Oni via their miasma footprints while out in the various age environments. As you continue to play it will reveal even more than that making this new feature upgrade more deeply involved than the Kiwami version that merely showed hidden items.

Tackling an Oni boss battle or even clearing lesser Oni targets are goals that are similar within the different time oriented modes of play included in the do as you please adventure. You can fight them as you progress the single player story, take on missions at slayer headquarters, or even fight through floor after floor of age specific environments in exploration outings. In the singleplayer experience your outings aren't limited so much by an actual timer though, but instead now focus on your exposure level. The longer you stay in the "Otherworld" the more the miasma level will afflict your slayer ultimately killing them, and their team. To counter this you must either cleanse the region of Oni threats via the purification mechanic, or seek out special barrier stones that will in themselves reset the miasma exposure level. The miasma exposure level is in itself shown through a ring indicator that surrounds the circular corner map on the screen's display. It fills in with a blue, purple, and red color the more you linger around. With red being the threat level that kills. Since the environments are much larger than they were before, and more open world in nature sticking to the focus of your outing, and completing it as quickly as possible is top priority. Luckily traversing the terrain can be sped up via a stamina bleeding dash (L3) that allows your slayer to run quicker than while in sprint.

When it comes to missions you can think of them as the grinding side of the game. These are the singleplayer or multiplayer outings that will pit you against Oni of varying types, and will reward you with the materials, and currency you need to upgrade your arsenal. Taking on missions is done at the slayer HQ, and can be done between story progression. You can even log into multiplayer, and go at it with randoms via the nearby portal stone. The latter option gifting you the ability to use static or freely applied chat as well as emojis to express your gratitude or needs in the heat of battle. The lobby matchmaking system is simple yet effective, and through it you can exchange gamer cards that will help you hook back up with other online slayers who are grinding away for loot, and materials. The gamer card includes it's own brand of customization with earned ranking titles, optional quotes that can be applied freely, and a couple of stats including time played.

Other than that you can take on NPC side quests at the Mahoroba village. Once activated by talking to an NPC you'll be required to do as asked, and return to them once you have for a reward. This feature builds upon the more open world experience of the game making it seem like a more living place to play. The village is also where you'll do your shopping, crafting via Blacksmith, and cooking and praying with the Mitama maiden, 'Kuon'. It's also where you'll often times return to trigger story progressing events. As with the first Toukiden you'll also find a 'Pool of Purity' which requires a pool token for entry. Despite being a series return the Pool of Purity like the Mitama Maiden's offerings add timed boosts that will use perks to reward you more for playing within the allotted time frame. The Pool of Purity, in particular has you bathing in the presence of other characters (men & women during certain times of day), and gaining boosted perks from them. I think the character affection rating (acquaintance - companion), which is a return feature in the game is a trigger for whom you'll be bathing with. As far as the lewd factor goes no skin is ever really shown, though some perverted quotes do pop-up into view during your cleansing on occasion. In respect to Kuon, she offers a food service for a price and materials (Oni parts & food) that will add stat/battle performance boosts for a limited time. At her station you can also partake in shrine prayer using special branch items for the Mitama adding a timed boost for improving upon Mitama boosts unlocking. A little something I forgot to mention in regards to the new Mitama system is that Mitama of the "Battle Style" (the base Mitama) have a list of perk related boosts that can be chosen from. You can only pick three at a time though, and most of the time these boosts pertain to the boosts in the "R1 + Face Button" quick select battle menu. Boosts that do everything from heal to enhance damage, or improve upon defense mechanics.

Another new feature to the village area comes later on into your story playthrough, and includes a machina crafted doll which can be upgraded via materials and currency as well as sent out to the various ages to gather materials. The upgrades enhance Piko's ability to do things (cooking, smithing, gathering ...), and improves upon his odds of returning with actual materials in his possession. Each age listing in the errand related Piko menu will contain an accompanying description detailing how likely it is for him to return with materials, and what materials he could return with. Something that must be paid attention to maximize the benefits of the timed farming.

One last thing I should mention before the final summary, and assessment is the fact that you will not be going at your journey alone no matter how you choose to play the game. When playing in the singleplayer modes you can command your chosen teammates (which will be selectable in groups of 3 before a mission) to do one of four actions including 'Follow', 'Aid', 'Attack', and 'Free Roam?'. These actions are selected via a pressing of the "L2" button, and a follow-up of a DPad input, respectively. You can even assign specific tasks to specific characters in your team by cycling through the available names, and selecting a command. In the multiplayer mode this is not an option.

In a nutshell Toukiden 2 is a polished open world experience with a wide selection of stacking yet complimentary gameplay elements that come together in perfect harmony. An experience that can be taken on alone (even in multiplayer via NPC teammates) or with friends/randoms. Needless to say the game is definitely more involved this time around both in the singleplayer, and multiplayer sense. The seemingly standalone nature of it is reason enough for newcomers to the series to pick the game up, and join in the fight against the Oni threat!

About the presentation ...

Graphically, and audibly Toukiden 2 is a superior experience in comparison to it's series predecessors. The ages (Peace, Honor ...) in which you travel are more intricately detailed, and more alive with atmospheric elements than the previous installments. Nothing is as linear, and from point to point as before either.You'll see much more detail, and even lighting that has been greatly enhanced for that new-gen appearance. The weather effects are also something to behold. Those trippy psychadellic Oni effects return in an even more trippy fashion than before as well. Even the 'Eye of Truth' mechanic from Kiwami that lets you see in Oni vision adds a level of intense surrealism. Collectively all visual parts are complimentary in nature, and fun to watch as they unfold on the screen. As far as character design goes the static anime art is highly impressive as are the CG cutscenes, and the in-game character models. The latter being slightly less impressive than the first two character related models, but good enough though. The soundtrack is also impressive with it's pseudo ancient Japanese instrumentals, sound effects associated with battle, and atmospheric tunes. A quality immersive experience throughout.

The verdict, as it were ...

Once I got past my issue with the Watchtower portal stone, and into the meat of the singleplayer story adventure I was drawn into what Toukiden 2 had to offer. As I've said before it is a much better, and more open world experience than the games before it. The characters felt more attractive personality-wise, and the game in general had more substance to it. Even joining randoms in the online multiplayer for mission outings was fun enough. In fact the multiplayer showed no hint of lag issues, or anything that would keep the gamer from enjoying it. My only complaint in regards to it is the lack of an option for actual headset chat in multiplayer. Sure having all those textual chat options is cool and doable, but hearing voices, and relaying instructions or gestures through said voice chat would have provided a more streamline co-op experience. In a way it seems less personable without the voice chat. Other than that the game is good. It has an overabundance of things to do. Grinding for gear being on of those said things.

For those of you who are unaware the game can use saved data from the carryover demo. The transition from said demo to full game is seamless, and done through the main menu through a save data transfer. All earned items, and progress included. Those of you who have a saved Kiwami file will also find an armor surprise for both a female, and male slayer. Armor that outright beats all armor you can craft. A bonus for series faithfuls.

As far as my verdict goes this game gets the Inferno's seal of approval. Even if you've never owned, or played the previous games Toukiden 2 is standalone enough to enjoy. The added options of the in-game encyclopedia which contains age, bestiary, terminology, and character info will help you become more acquainted with the lore regardless of your absence in Kiwami. When you get started don't forget to do the weapon training at the slayer HQ though as it will not only get you familiar with the weapons, but also with the attribute based mechanics tied to equipped Mitama. Definitely do not miss out on this Awesome title whatever you do!

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