I don’t normally wait this long after finishing a game to write a review. I like my thoughts to be fresh and I think my gut instinct about a game is the most honest. With Toren, I found it hard to trust what I was feeling because it felt like a good game. I’m not saying that Toren was bad, but it just doesn’t sit right with me.
Toren, by the Brazilian indie studio Swordtales, is described on the Steam page as an adventure game full of puzzles and monsters. I found both to be unsatisfying and scarce. Let me dissect this one piece-by-piece.
I pride myself in being a smart human being. Smarter than your average bear, some might say.
I didn’t understand any of the story.
This upset me quite a bit because when you read the reviews for this game, everyone praised the symbolism and underlying context. I spent 10 hours editing the walkthrough content in hopes of gaining insight into what the majority of people considered a great success. Even after watching my gameplay over and over, I still didn’t get it.
Even from the beginning, I can’t understand if you’re playing a different girl or the girl you play through the game, reborn. I think the point of the game is to kill the dragon, but then you’re at war with the sun. And a village is depending on you to free them. And then you plant a tree. Is anybody else feeling my frustration?
Besides the little girl who seems to die all the time, there’s another character called..Solider that randomly joins you in the final fight. He’s mentioned a couple of times during the game and I think you see him die in the beginning, but his appearance still did nothing more than confuse me. By that point in the game, I was used to it so it didn’t really upset me that much.
What it comes down to is that this is not rich story telling. Toren is a cliché of life quotes that basic white girls post on Instagram.
I played Toren before the first patch and found the gameplay to be “chunky”. The girl was hard to control and I found myself getting stuck on invisible objects from time to time. During my second dragon encounter I’m pretty sure I accidentally glitched the ending which was super unsatisfying. Hopefully, this has been fixed. Normally, it’s something I would look past, but since this game was pretty much a mind-fuck to me, it was just another thing to get frustrated about.
Camera angles left a lot of be desired. One of the things that irritates me is when you’re given control of the camera, but the developer still tries to add their own camera angles. There was one particular part of the game that felt almost impossible because the camera angle kept changing. Stop messing me with me, just stop.
As the story progresses, you are supposed to watch the little girl grow up. Except for when you’re a baby for all of three seconds, there was no differentiation between the ages. I actually didn’t even notice it until I read the description after I was finished with the game. The only thing that designates the different ages is how well she holds the sword when the dragon attacks. I wish they would have expanded on this more. I don’t think it would make or break the game, but I thought it was poorly done.
Toren is also very very very short. Like…I finished-it-in-less-than-an-hour short. Granted, I missed one of the optional dream sequences, but it wasn’t enough to add hours to my game play. I also don’t see any re-playability in the game, so when you’re done, you’re done.
Toren is categorized as a puzzle game. I don’t know if puzzles are different in Brazil, but there were no real challenges. I would classify this as more of an interactive visual piece than a puzzle game because no brain power is really necessary to complete it.
There also weren’t a lot of puzzles. I feel like most of the game play that would have been classified as a puzzle was more of a tedious action that took way longer than I had the patience for. There’s a particular part that’s played in the dark and the only time you can see is when lightning strikes every 5 seconds or so. This meant that you had to very slowly move through the level and then wait for lightening to strike so you wouldn’t fall off the edge. Long story short, this turned a 5 minute part into about half an hour of me almost throwing a controller through my monitor.
The one thing that I will give this game is that it’s pretty. I’m usually a big fan of dark fantasy art, and this one is no exception. I think that it’s a little too colorful to be dark fantasy, but the graphics are beautiful none-the-less. The visuals help make up for the mediocre gameplay, but not enough to make it worth my time.
If you make it through the entire game, you have the ending to look forward to which was, in my opinion, the most beautiful part of the game. Too bad it didn’t tie up any loose ends for me, but I dig it anyway.
Yo, what’s up with the dragon? You see the dragon in the beginning and dance around with him throughout the game, but nobody ever really explains what the dragon is. Is it a soldier of the sun? Is it just a dragon that wants to kill things? What is the purpose of this dragon and why do I want to kill it?
The dragon parts ended up being another one of those tedious puzzles I was talking about earlier. Most of the time was spent waiting for the right timing to walk to the next part. Kind of annoying and very boring.
The final boss fight with the dragon was probably the most disappointing thing in the game. If there were any way that you could anticlimactically have a boss fight, Toren did it.
On a completely separate note, I bought the soundtrack to use as background music for my gameplay videos. It’s a live orchestra and it’s actually pretty awesome. The segments are pretty short, but it’s beautiful thinking music.
So, do I think you should play Toren? My instinctual response will be “No”. But I sit here and think about how we all interpret games a little differently and there is something about Toren that makes me hope that it’s just me. I think that the emotional tug they tried to put in the game is there, but it didn’t translate well. If you’re a casual adventure fan, you might love the game but I’d only recommend it to people who don’t mind sifting through the story because the gameplay is lacking.
For $10 on Steam, it’s not a terrible way to waste an hour or 2. And pick up the soundtrack. Then, watch my walkthroughs. The end.