Although Toren involves a dragon and a tower you are not playing as a knight in shining armor and there are no princesses to save. Instead, you play as a young girl who is simply named Moonchild. Trapped within the confines of an ancient tower Moonchild must ascend its treacherous floors in order to reach the top and confront the dragon. Even this is not as straightforward as you may think as the flow of time is anything but normal.
Toren is the creation of Brazilian developers Swordtales and quite an impressive offering considering that it is their debut title. The game plays out as a 3rd person adventure where you guide Moonchild, a character chained to an unending cycle of life and death, which can only be broken if the dragon guarding the tower is slain. The game doesn’t spell out the story for you, but instead provides you with optional dream sequences that can be completed to uncover more about the events that transpired. Suffice to say it involves a wizard who angered the sun by being a bit too ambitious with the tower he built in order to reach the moon. You don’t really need to fully understand the story to appreciate or enjoy the game, but it definitely adds to the experience, so I definitely recommend seeking out all the dream sequences.
Thanks to the nature of the tower you’ll find that Moonchild actually ages over the course of your adventure. Although the game will only take about an hour or two to complete in real-time, Moonchild grows from a baby into a strong and capable woman along the way. She also dies frequently, whether through your mistakes or in unavoidable ways, but is always reborn to try again. As far as actual gameplay is concerned, you’ll spend your time running and jumping while avoiding or defeating the occasional enemies. There are also a couple of straightforward puzzles to solve and regular encounters with the guardian of the tower. The platforming elements are a little awkward as jumping can feel loose and imprecise, while the combat also lacks the impact or excitement of similar titles. These issues do detract somewhat from the experience, but are still tolerable.
The puzzles are generally easy to solve and fans of the genre won’t encounter anything here that will leave them stumped for too long. You might be required to trace some symbols using salt, push around statues, navigate landscapes while buffeted by strong winds or survive the freezing cold by lighting torches. Some puzzles are good, such as making your way across invisible pathways by looking at the mirrored ceiling. However others, such as waiting for occasional lightning flashes in the dark to see where you are going or what you are doing are a bit tedious. There are also a couple of stealth sections where you have to dart between cover in order to avoid getting turned to stone by your adversary.
Visually Toren is a mix of good and bad, but one thing is for sure, the game definitely has a very surreal feel. This is especially noticeable in the abstract style of the dream levels, but even the regular tower sections have a dreamlike quality to them. The art style is very vibrant and the environments quite colorful. Graphic options are restricted to selecting the quality level and enabling blur or screen space ambient occlusion. Even at the highest settings some of the textures and models look a little rough around the edges though. The camera, which is fixed and can only be moved around slightly can also be a pain at times. Finally, some of the animations also look a little awkward, especially the ones of Moonchild jumping. However, the lighting is very good and the overall style of the game makes up for the visual shortcomings.
The music in Toren is very good with a moody soundtrack that further enhances the mysterious atmosphere of the game. Sound effects are also quite decent, but unfortunately there isn’t much in the way of voice acting. The developers strongly recommend using a controller to play Toren and I definitely agree. The game uses three buttons for all of its functions, with one for attacking or performing a context sensitive action, one for jumping and one for looking at a point of interest. Even with a controller, jumping can still feel l a little floaty though.
Although there are a lot of things about this game that can be criticized, it is still well worth the low price tag. It definitely draws a lot of inspiration from PS2 era classics such as Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, but also adds its own unique style to the mix. The game is quite short though, so I definitely recommend not skipping any of the dream sequences when playing. While Toren could have benefited from a bit more polish it is still an enjoyable and thought provoking game. Fans of the genre should definitely check out what it has to offer and experience its unique gameworld.
- OS: Windows 7, Windows 8
- Processor: 2 GHz dual core processor
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: Intel HD3000, Nvidia GeForce GT8600 or equivalent
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
- OS: Windows 7, Windows 8.1
- Processor: Quad core CPU: Intel Core i5-750, AMD Phenom II X4 955
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: DirectX 11 graphics card with 1GB Video RAM: nVidia GTX 480, AMD Radeon HD 5870
- Hard Drive: 3 GB available space