The original Toukiden took the Monster Hunter idea and put a classic feudal Japanese spin on it. Having originally released for the Vita it wasn't long before it saw both PS4 and the PC releases after having found success as a "Monster Hunter Clone". That simple status however is now no longer valid, as Toukiden 2 just set a new bar for the series with an open world that fans of the genre have only dreamed of.
One of the biggest staples of this style of gaming has been the mission based system. Each missions gets tougher and tougher as the foes that you face become more and more powerful. In order to counter this, collecting pieces of these foes to make new weapons and armor is a must short of the very sadistic and masochistic players that love to run around in nothing more than their underwear and a starting weapon.
It took me about six hours to remember that there was a mission based system. Six hours. It's there, and it's useful when you really need a specific giant monster to harvest parts off of for an armor set, but you can just as easily hunt them out on the field if you know where to look. The other reason that I could forget about the mission based system is that sometimes the foes that I needed were not yet the mission list because I hadn't yet proceeded far enough to face off against them when balanced against the story progression. It just meant a few more trips to specific locations in order to do battle.
This is really what Toukiden 2 is about. Instead of just constantly queuing up for missions, waiting for countdowns to both start and finish, you can just head outside of the village gate because you want to which leads to a much more organic experience. Need to face off against smaller foes for specific parts? They are a dime a dozen out there. Need to face off against larger foes? It won't take long before running into several of these, sometimes one right after another, as they are not hard to find and can be seen on the minimap. Hell with some of their sizes you can simply visually see them in the distance as they are fairly hard to miss. Once you've beaten them? You don't need to go back to town but can instead simply keep heading on in a direction that you want.
There are limits of course to how far you can go but they are done within a larger context that both works and that doesn't feel forceful. Like Toukiden, the world is a little bit cracked and different time periods have leaked through. Because of the Demons that have caused this merger, there are loads of Miasma in the air and because of that, you can only stay so long outside of protective barriers. The deeper the Miasma the less time can be spent inside of it but barriers can be found in order to both cleanse and allow yourself a safe haven to take reprieve for a few moments.
Sometimes a barrier may be too far in under the current conditions so following the story is recommended but even this exists outside of the mission basis. In order to advance you simply go talk to the marked person and more often than not they will team up with you in order to leave town towards their goal. Sometimes it's to find one of these barriers, other times it's to seal a Miasma hole which will bring down the overall levels allowing you to continue further. Either, or, these don't feel forced and instead come across as a more natural progression than simply clicking on the next item in the list.
In order to push further into the unknown, weapons and armors both new and old make an appearance. For those who already have preferences from the original no worries as those are just as ready to go as they have been. For those wanting something new? "Sword and Boards" as well as Riffles make their debut. Now, as "boring" as the idea of a sword and shield was, I went straight for it. Why would I go straight for something that I wasn't sure would even be fun to play? On the off chance that I was wrong, and I was, I wanted to make sure.
The Sword and the Shield was a very interesting addition to combat as the shield acts as both a defense booster and a second sword. In one stance your character uses their sword for larger sweeps in order to either hit more parts or enemies on each swing. The second stance allows for much quicker attacks to be pulled off by ejecting a second blade and essentially dual-wielding swords and hitting the enemy as fast as possible. Toukiden 2 didn't simply make the world open and leave it at that. Instead it's added in new gameplay features with new weapons as well as a new grappling feature known as the Demon Hand.
The Demon Hand in certain cases may have made Toukiden 2 easier than it's predecessor as there's less "running after" larger enemies. As a larger foe sprints away since you can simply launch a green hand made of energy in order to latch on and pull yourself close. The Demon Hand can just as easily be used in exploration to grab onto higher ledges and continue since there are no jumping or climbing mechanics. This new mechanic doesn't feel tacked on as it works very well with the other elements and it is referred to quite often by the other characters from a story perspective.
Making and upgrading various pieces of gear makes a return. Fire weapons? Lightning armor? Earth, water and no elements at all are all back for the variety of situations that you will find yourself in. Each of these pieces will still require a combination of materials found out in the field as well as materials from enemies both big and small and varying amounts of currency from your bank account. What is a bit different is that if you are having trouble picking off a specific material because it really isn't dropping there's a new material that can be used as a substitution. Not having to run back out because you are missing one or two parts especially when you don't plan on coming back soon was a god send.
Also making their return are the Mitama which are spirits of fallen warriors from across time and they are perhaps even more useful than they originally were, and they were useful. These spirits this time around are equipped through your Demon Hand though they still exist to add to your combat capabilities and can be set up into three slots. The first of these slots sets up which abilities you can use on the field such as being stronger, leech life or put down healing barriers for your allies. The second slot exists in order to grant you more defense abilities such as quickly dodging out of the way or putting up a temporary barrier to severely reduce the incoming damage. The third Mitama boosts the other two so finding one that compliments either one or both is worth sorting through in order to make the most of this system.
Mitama still level up as they are used when fighting against foes both big and small. As they level up they learn skills that can be equipped by the player when they are safely behind the protective barrier of a base location. Paying attention to what these skills do is important because they can affect both weapons abilities as well as other Mitama and if there's nothing to be used on then they get set to inactive, and are thus, useless. Making sure that all selected skills are up and running is for the best as otherwise you are setting a bit of a handicap on your fighting capabilities.
One thing that Toukiden 2 seemed to fall a bit short on is that large enemies seem to have been made "easier" and by more than simply the addition of the Demon Hand. There are a lot of times in the original that particular types of super large oni were simply a pain to take down, which is part of the whole experience, but this time around it's almost like they just stood there and took it as you hacked at their protected barriers, their limbs, and their health. From that perspective it felt a bit too easy at times while other times when diving down floor after floor certain enemies could remind you to pay attention with quarters of your health disappearing with each hit.
Toukiden 2 has set a new bar on the "monster hunter" style of gameplay. The open world taking control over the mission based system was a great direction for the style with progression feeling organic instead of simply checking items off of a list in order to move further. If you do need those items checked off a list because you REALLY need that final piece for an armor set and DON'T have a material to fill in the gap? That mission based structure is still there for you! If you've been holding out on Toukiden 2 as you were unsure as to how it could compare with its peers or the original? You can stop worrying and get back to more Oni Slaying!
Sony PlayStation 4
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Article by Pierre-Yves