Toukiden 2 Review – Hunting Refined (PS4)
Koei Tecmo’s first attempt at filling the Monster Hunter void on PlayStation systems was 2014’s Toukiden: The Age of Demons. While it was a decent portable offering, it didn’t end up being very memorable. It didn’t have much to offer the hunting genre besides simplified combat, and despite spending time with it when it released, I couldn’t remember much about it three years later.
The original game may have failed to make much of an impact, but its sequel won’t suffer the same fate. Toukiden 2 is an intelligently designed hunting game that manages to move the genre forward in many ways, while still staying true to its Monster Hunter roots. Developer Omega Force has streamlined many elements that have defined the grind associated with such titles, and have managed to put out a highly enjoyable action game.
Perhaps the biggest surprise that Toukiden 2 offers up is that it has a compelling story. Players fight demons called oni in order to protect a village that’s divided by class warfare. Split between the native residents that compose the Guards, and the newly arrived Samurai, tensions are high between the two groups of warriors. Even if it’s not exactly breaking new ground, the game handles these timely themes of equality well, and hopefully the message will resonate with its audience. Not all narrative elements are a hit, though, as the main character once again finds himself suffering from amnesia for the second straight game. The game even goes out of its way to poke fun at its own tired plot device, but it doesn’t make up for using it.
Fans of the hunting genre will find a lot of familiarity in Toukiden 2, as the gameplay still revolves around beating up tons of creatures. The few mechanics that made the original feel slightly unique return here, as players battle with computer-controlled teammates, and boss characters can have their appendages ripped off. There’s also materials to collect, skills to level up, and new weapons to forge in between battles.
The big difference comes in how the game is formatted, as the familiar mission-based structure is now gone for the most part. Don’t get me wrong, the player can still help out villagers by killing baddies and collecting every item known to man, these are treated as side-missions. For its major moments, Toukiden 2 instead opts for a more authored experience that has players running around an open-world, triggering cutscenes, and getting into epic boss fights that are enhanced by a story that has the player invested in why the characters are fighting. This storytelling and structure is pretty typical among games, and it’s a big departure from most hunting games that throw dozens of meaningless quests at the player. It feels fresh here, and helps the game never feel like a grind.
Presentation isn’t the only huge change, as the gameplay has also been tweaked. The biggest addition is a tool called the demon hand, that allows humans to propel themselves into the air by grabbing oni, and quickly move around the environment. This gives the game’s combat a much needed identity, as the hack-and-slash combat can get old after awhile, and allows for some cool traversal in the game’s large overworld.
Room to Grow
A lot of good comes from the switch from isolated environments to an open-world, but there are some growing pains that come with the drastic change. The big one is that the in-game map isn’t great when paired with the game’s waypoint system, as I often found myself taking the wrong path and having to circle back around once I realized that I couldn’t get to where I was going. That’d typically be fine in action game, but there are certain mechanics in place (such as the world emitting poison) that punish extended sessions away from the hub village.
Another factor that bogs down the open environment in spots is that the placement of large oni is sometimes random, and this can lead to some unfortunate situations where multiple boss-like characters can attack at once. Even if I didn’t find Toukiden 2 to be an overly hard game, most of my defeats were due to bad luck where I’d be forced to battle large enemies repeatedly before I could replenish my skills, thus leaving me vulnerable. It feels uneven at times, but this doesn’t happen enough to be a constant issue.
Visual pop-in is a regular occurrence, however, and it’s just one part of the disappointing visuals that the game has to offer. To its credit, the art design is great (especially with regards to the monster design), Toukiden 2 feels as if it’s limited due to it also being available on Vita. Certain textures don’t look great, and I would sometimes engage a quest giver in dialogue before the model would be fully loaded in. It’s a slight annoyance, but one that never went away.
Most of my qualms with Toukiden 2 are minor, but the game’s multiplayer implementation is downright heartbreaking. Despite allowing the player to be accompanied by partners in all of the story missions, the online multiplayer is limited to only allowing the player to take on a separate list of missions filled with boring objectives such as “kill the boss,” and “destroy 15 easy creatures.” The open-world can’t even be explored with a friend, as they can only play the sectioned off areas in the selected missions. It’s a huge bummer in what is otherwise a really stellar package.
Toukiden 2 is a huge step up from its predecessor, and is a smart evolution of the gameplay that Monster Hunter fans have come to know. By opting for a more story-focused experience, it manages to forego feeling like a grind, and the open-world aspect allows players to really take in their surroundings. While there are still some shortcomings, such as a sometimes confusing map and lackluster multiplayer, this is an action game that is worth checking out, even for those that haven’t traditionally been fans of hunting games.
Review code for Toukiden 2 provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.