Review: Toukiden: The Age of Demons

From the team that brought us the never ending Dynasty Warriors games, comes a brand new property that looks to revitalize interest in Sony’s handheld. The PlayStation Vita has had its fair share of exciting action-RPG titles hit its doorstep, but nothing like what Omega Force has brought us today. Toukiden: The Age of Demons is a dark action packed adventure that will have players face off against some of the most monstrous beasts they’ll ever see. Team up with your friends or trusty AI partners and let’s go slay us some demons.

The story revolves around the fictional small town of Utakata that is guarded by the Barrier Priestess Kikka. The world is in constant war against the Oni (meaning “demons” in Japanese) and it’s up to the mute main protagonist to join the fight and protect the ones around him. The story has a color cast of characters and a strong opening setup, but the delivery falls through and is secondary to the slaughter of monsters. This is a shame considering the world itself seems to be built up quite a bit and more could be done with the politics and adventure outside of Utakata.

Toukiden-Fighton

Combat in Toukiden takes elements from past Omega Force games and applies it to a more player-centric experience. This is very much a hack and slash style RPG as the square button will get a lot of use, using melee weapons such as the quick dual daggers or the multi-ranged kusarigama. These are key for setting up missions as some weapons work better against certain enemies while others may work against you. For example, there’s also a bow and arrow weapon available, allowing the main character to keep his distance from enemies that may strike at a quicker pace or at a greater radius. Finding your fighting style is also important with weapon speeds and attack power always playing a vital role in role playing games.

Unfortunately, the problem with Toukiden is the incredible amount of repetition. It’s not just the combat that people are used to with these sort of games, but the mission structure and enemies are reused to a degree that can get mind-numbing at times. Don’t get me wrong; when you fight each colossal boss for the first time it feels incredibly satisfying finding its attack patterns and weaknesses, but it’s when they use that same boss as the basis for multiple missions that it becomes concerning. After the third or fourth fight with the same enemy as the objective, the creativity and variety falls into question.

What is unique to Toukiden is Mitama. These are trapped souls collected by defeating story-specific demons that can be attach to weapons so they can aid the main character in battle. This adds a new level of combat strategy because these essentially act as replenishable (after battle) spells, giving buffs to the hero, setting traps or healing a small amount of health in times of need, which will happen a lot. Each has their own unique traits and can become quite useful in certain situations, so it’s about finding the right battle style and selection of abilities for the right case. It’s definitely something that adds to the experience to an otherwise button masher.

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The flow of the main campaign is structured in a mission-based formula, allowing players to grind in past events to level up Mitama or obtain specific items for crafting and haku (the currency of the land). The world outside of the small town is broken up into limited sections that are gated off in story-related scenarios. This is where most of the Oni take residence and respawn, with items even hidden in the desolate environments. Players will retrieve tasks from members of the elite force that protects the village, and go about selecting upwards of three others to tag along for the mission. Along with weapon loadout, who you goes into battle with is also important, especially during boss fights when a healer can be crucial. There’s a strong diversity of who to bring, ranging from a slower gauntlet fighter to the speedy ninja. On a side note, it would have been nice if there was character development options for bringing specific individuals into battle other than just proper battle plans. It certainly would have aided in fleshing out relationships a bit more than the traditional story-related scenes.

The online function is by far the best part of Toukiden as it allows four players to team up and go through missions unlocked from the main campaign. Playing with others is far more satisfactory than watching the not-so-bright, yet seemingly invincible, artificial intelligence try to do their thing. It makes sure everyone is looking out for one another rather than just their lonesome. With that said, though, I do wish the functionality was a little better implemented as you have to go through a lobby system to get into a game. This would have been better established in a menu within the main campaign then kicking you into a singled out area. Regardless, if you’re looking to slay thousands of monsters with friends, then know Toukiden offers a great solution for that itch.

The visuals are also something to bring up as, for a Vita game, they look absolutely gorgeous. Even the environments, which can be a bit limited in scale, have a certain shine to them that most titles on the system are unable to accomplish. The characters themselves standout greatly as detailed models, but that may be due to the limited number of NPCs and monsters that were created. With that said though, the art style is hit or miss. This is a darker game that rivals something closer to Soul Sacrifice with a more ominous tone and an emphasis on destruction. There are areas and demons that standout over the rest, while more often than not you’ll be looking at a darkened render.

Toukiden-SadPanda

Closing Comments:

With four-player cooperative play, fascinating monster designs and customizations to your play style, the new age of demons doesn’t look so bad. Unfortunately, they don’t reach outside of the box and the overwhelming repetitive nature of the genre still applies to combat, mission structure and monster selection, sometimes weighing down the experience into an unnecessary grind. In the end, Toukiden isn’t the Monster Hunter killer many were expecting, but it becomes an enticing package if you can get past its shortcomings.
score3.5
Version Reviewed: PS Vita