GDC 2015 – Toren Hands-On Preview

March 9, 2015 Written by Louis Edwards

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It’s not everyday that you come across a video game that is backed by a country’s Ministry of Culture, so it was a little surprising to find out that Brazil’s government felt strongly enough about Brazilian indie developer Swordtales’ lush and lovely game Toren to back it. I had the opportunity to sit down with a hands-on demo of the game for the PlayStation 4,¬†and it’s easy to see why the Brazilian Ministry of Culture allowed it to fall under their Rouanet Law.

Toren is a dark, lush and mysterious third-person game that follows a young girl named Moonchild from her infancy on up. I started out crawling through a jungle and went from crawler, to toddler, to a young girl rather quickly. As a young girl I planted a small tree and through a series of simple puzzles, watered it and made it grow. This tree then grew tall and revealed that Moonchild was locked in a tower and she had to climb the tree to work her way up and out in order to eventually escape.

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Toren is a beautiful and breathtaking game with a level of environmental detail, right down to a wavy blade of grass, that’s not only impressive, but also shows what a third-party indie developer can accomplish if they set their sights properly. Moonchild’s growth was also impressive to see with an aging process that went from a crawling child and up to a walking teen with facial age progression .

While the demo I played was short, it encompassed several puzzles and one boss that took solving a puzzle to defeat. The puzzles weren’t difficult, but the complexity shows signs of what could be a very challenging game as you progress through it, if the difficulty starts to ramp up. A combination of moving things while trying not to get torched by a fire breathing dragon, and then slapping said dragon around with a sword, sounds easy enough, but finding the right location for movable pillars with a dragon constantly pestering you with his bad breath required a little bit of patience to find the proper timing of movement and then the proper location for each pillar. Not exactly difficult, but it took a couple of deaths for me to finish the demo.

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The music for Toren was just as pleasing to the ears as the graphics were pleasing to the eyes. It uses soft, soothing music that added nicely to the overall feel of the demo. If this is indicative of the full soundtrack, I know I’ll be wanting to download the music for my personal collection. The tempo rose and fell with the action while dealing with the dragon, and was soft and smooth and almost playful while Moonchild was just a small child.

Brazilian developer Swordtales, while a relatively unknown company, look to make a name for themselves with this beautiful game, and if the demo is any indication of the final project, they are well on their way. I look forward to playing through more levels and finding out what path Moonchild will take as she grows into a young woman later this year.