The sun never sets, the world is dying and there’s only one who can bring back the cycle of day and night. You.
Toren is the debut action adventure indie game produced by Brazilian studio Swordtales. You are Moonchild and it is your destiny to climb the tower, known as the Toren, in this journey of solitude and self-discovery.
The game recommends that you play with a controller, so that’s exactly how my experience will be judged on and not through playing with a keyboard and mouse. You don’t need to play it this way, but I can definitely see the benefits of doing so, it feels smoother playing it this way rather than using the good ole WASD keys, which in a circular tower makes sense to rely more on the left stick than anything else.
First of all, this game is utterly beautiful. Toren may not have the most high quality textures you’ll ever see, but it doesn’t matter because the vibrancy and the atmosphere is just overwhelmingly stunning. Games like this are so needed when reminding us that super-duper-mega HD isn’t something that we always want, or even need for that matter. I make it sound like it’s low-poly… It isn’t, not at all. What I’m trying to say here is that the game puts the detail in where it counts, where you’ll actually notice it and just let it take your breath away. Some developers out there seem to think that making things as realistic as possible is the key to success in appearance, but Toren just proves that simply isn’t true. They have made a game both beautiful, intriguing and heart felt and you can feel that every step of the way.
When I first started playing, one of the things that I immediately noticed was how gorgeous the music was. After a little snoop, I found out that there is a deluxe version on Steam where you can purchase both the game and the soundtrack. Superb move, because I can guarantee you that if you love grand, sweeping melodies by an orchestra, you’ll absolutely adore the score to Toren. It can be light, it can be moody, but the soundtrack really does help to create this atmosphere of hope, isolation and determination.
You play in two places. You have the reality section, which is the main core of the game, on the tower itself. Your goal is to get to the top of the tower to slay the dragon. Simple enough. Whilst on your journey up the tower, you also get the chance to meditate on aspects of your life, like Justice and Beauty. In these meditations, you are taken into dream like sequences which help Moonchild grow and mature from a young child into a young woman. It also offers small pieces of the story as you go, to help you understand how this world came to be and why the sun burns and keeps the world in a desolate, eternal daytime.
The game was a nice, smooth process. I didn’t encounter any bugs or issues which is always refreshing in a market that seems to constantly patching out issues since day one. Moonchild does run a bit slowly, a little as though she’s in a never ending pool of pudding, but you get used to that really. Despite that, this game actually feels complete, which is kind of sad when you think about it in the larger scheme of things, but for this it’s important because the game itself is actually pretty short.
I played the game from start to finish in 114 minutes, according to Steam. Now, I didn’t complete all of the story points because honestly… I missed them, I didn’t look around and explore nearly as much as I should have judging by the last three achievements I have left to unlock. I haven’t completed the tree of life, nor have I found the last two items either. The length of the game seems to have some people’s knickers in a twist, but to be perfectly honest I didn’t mind it in the least. It surprised me when I got to the end game so quickly, but at the same time it felt right.
You’re a little girl who is entirely alone save for the disembodied voice of a mentor. Your only other company is the dragon that wants nothing more than to kill you and set you back to the start of your path. In a game of isolation, with no one else to talk to or interact with… What else are you supposed to do other than fulfil your destiny? I’m absolutely going to stand on defending the length of this game, because it falls into place beautifully. The story doesn’t feel stretched out, it doesn’t feel like there were any points where you felt either lost or misunderstanding the story.
It doesn’t hold your hand, but you don’t need it to be held if you have common sense and gaming logic on your side. I did have a moment where I did get a bit confused. In one of the meditation sequences, you are plunged into darkness. You start in an area with light, but when you venture out you find yourself on pathways in pitch black. It took me a good ten or so minutes to figure out that… Hold on a minute, I’m holding something in my hand and-… It’s a torch. The starting point has a fire. Wow. I’m a moron. I rush back, light my torch and find that there are a number of unlit brackets along the way to illuminate my path. Clever me!
My one main gripe with this game was the lack of save points and unobvious checkpoints. There is no option to save and quit, only to restart from the latest checkpoint. But when was the last checkpoint? Was it at the last cutscene or after then, or before then? There’s no icon that indicates that you’ve reached a stage where it’s safe to quit out if you need to. The only time that it’s obvious is when you die and go back. It’d be nice to have a little notion of what is actually going on, because there’s nothing worse than having to pop out only to find that when you load the game back up again that you’re way further back then you thought you’d be.
Despite that, I think that Swordtales have shown that they can really put together a nice game and show that you don’t need the flair of incredible, ultra-settings graphics to make something beautiful. The length of the game is ideal for the story we’re given, but there’s more than enough room for expansion on it if the developer so desired. If this game were an experiment to test the waters, then I should hope that we’ll be seeing a longer game out of Swordtales soon. I thoroughly enjoyed playing this, and I’ve honestly been recommending it to everyone I know who would like this type of game. It’s cheap, it might be short, but it’s 100% a game worth experiencing.
Review is based on the PC version of Toren, provided by Swordtales.