Indie titles share an important place within the games industry next to AAA efforts, allowing smaller development teams to leave their mark on the video games market with unique and often idiosyncratic gaming experiences. The team at Swordtales has definitely done just that as far as i’m concerned with with their first title “Toren,” a visually breathtaking experience that left me wanting for more.
Toren tells the story of Moonchild as she tries to climb a tower to restore the Moon to the world, which has been devastated by the endless Sunlight. To restore the Moon, Moonchild must slay the dragon keeping the tower in place. Yes, the narrative may sound overly simplistic, but the depth and journey our heroine undertakes is presented beautifully as we watch her learn to walk as a child and eventually reach adulthood. As our heroine grows, she is guided by a mysterious man who tells her of her creation and importance to the world. As much as I loved the way the story was presented, a lot of people my have a hard time following along, especially when some sequences can be missed entirely.
When it comes to the actual gameplay, Toren falls back on three basic disciplines: jump, attack, and grab. These are the three things you will be doing the most. At its heart Toren is a puzzle-platformer, and sees Moonchild entering various dream sequences where most of the game’s puzzles appear. Unfortunately, these puzzles aren’t very difficult to solve; some require you to trace a pattern on the ground using a kind of ash, moving objects to create and open paths, and simply finding the correct jumping path. Outside of tracing patters all of these dream sequences have a completely different riddle to solve.
While climbing the tower Moonchild will encounter small creatures that remind me of the “Critters” from the movie of the same name. This is where the game falters a bit as the combat is not only simple, but also looks awkward as Moonchild swings her sword. I personally felt that the combat clashed with the rest of the mechanics of the game, though thankfully there isn’t much of it. The game also suffers from camera problems in closed spaces and numerous bugs that saw me fall to death, while the camera also seemed to get stuck behind walls after some deaths forcing me to reload a checkpoint.
The most enjoyable aspects of the game are the encounters with the dragon. These sequences play out a puzzles of their own. As the dragon attacked I had to figure out how to avoid its one-hit kills, and with each confrontation the beast fights completely differently. The first time I encountered it I had to move statues and position them strategically as it cast its darkness wave attack. By hiding behind these statues I was able to avoid the attack. Sure it sounds simple, up until the point when you attack the dragon and your sword gets knocked away. While trying to retrieve your sword the creature attacks faster leaving you with less time to get to the next statue. This is just one type of your encounters with the dragon and each one becomes more strategic and difficult as you progress.
If Indie games have taught me anything then it’s that a lot of them are visually striking and Moonchild may be the most striking offering yet. The gorgeous art style brings the world to life with vibrant and vivid colors. Even when venturing into the darker parts of the tower, the visuals still impressed and even seemed to mimic the Moonchild’s journey itself. Not only is the game gorgeous to look at it’s a treat to listen too. It seems that with every Indie title I play, the soundtrack is always a standout feature, and Toren is the best one yet.
Toren is a game that won’t appeal to everyone but it should. The game’s artistic design is one of the best I have seen and its musical score will definitely hit the spot. Toren’s story of life, death, and rebirth may be hard to follow but for those who who are able to keep up will surely find it as touching as I did. It’s just a shame that the game’s needless combat and bugs keep it from true greatness.