Fans of the big monster slaying genre have been getting restless as of late. Especially those on PC. While Capcom catapulted the genre to fame with the Monster Hunter series, it’s difficult for a Western PC gamer to get in on the hype with the franchises’ PC outings being IP locked to various parts of Asia with patchy English support. There’s alternatives, sure; but it’s difficult to scratch the itch. Tecmo Koei want to take another stab at it with Toukiden 2 - but how does it handle with those already familiar with the genre?
Well, for the most part, it’s a half-decent attempt - but things can get a little lost in translation along the way. Despite its best efforts, it’s still more or less a game about putting 4 somewhat human individuals against hulking beasts ready and waiting to cave in their skulls. Taking up arms against the monsters plaguing the outskirts of a small town, it’s up to these brave Slayers to put the beasts down despite them being demons that can not only regenerate limbs on a whim, but effectively respawn and carry on their eternal crusade.
With around 10 weapons to choose from right off the bat, you’re not left waiting for your preferred playstyle to become available to trial before deeming it not right for you. Though you pick a starting weapon during the character creation screen, you’ll free to swap to another whenever you’re at a storage box back in town.
Fists, swords, twin knives, naginata and a whole host of somewhat authentic old Asia weaponry are available to beat your foes to a bloody pulp with bows bigger than your entire body and a classic Enfield rifle also making the cut for those gun enthusiasts. Upgrades are handled through a tree-like system by offering the various remains of slain beasts alongside materials found out in the field to turn a weapon into something new or to augment its currently available parameters.
Once you’ve settled on a style - it’s time to settle the score. Much like other titles of the genre, quests and, for the most part, dished out at a desk ranging from killing copious amounts of smaller beasts like imps, hot-headed flaming skulls and small spiders to the far more interesting monstrosities that require a little more direct attention. And while most of the joy comes from picking an interesting beast to fell from a list of scary quest titles, Toukiden 2’s single-player mode means the gates to the town will open even without picking up a mission. You can stroll out into the open world to gather materials at your leisure and run a few errands for the brave locals out there while you’re at it. Handle your jobs through the desk, however, and you’ll be ported straight to the relevant mission location as soon as you approach the doors with selectable AI team-mates filling any of the other 3 slots not taken up by your online buddies.
Once you’re out there, it’s time to mash buttons. Being a more fantasy-like approach to similar games, Toukiden 2 ranges from ultra-fast combat with weapons like the Dual Knives, slower, stronger approach of the fists or the ultra-slow yet far more safe ranged combat with weapons like the bow and rifle with just about everything in-between.
Your goal here is to essentially back the opposing Oni into the corner and just have your way with it. Its attacks are only telegraphed by its somewhat questionable animation transitions, meaning getting in too deep could spell disaster if your gear isn’t up to snuff. Play it cool, however, and there’s a good chance you’ll knock it off its feel too much for it to rarely become much of a threat.
Should you start taking a beating in return, however, you’ll have to take a step back and chug recovery supplies that, rather than coming from your inventory through bought potions or expertly crafted restoratives, you’ll cycling through the offerings brought by your currently equipped trio of Mitama - the souls of game-famous warriors captured from felling powerful Oni. Swappable at will back in the town, it’s down to the player to select a set that’s best suited to both their playstyle and upcoming hunt. While one might offer consumables mapped to the major face-buttons of a controller, another might spawn a decoy upon ‘purifying’ a dead monster or removed limb with another simply offering a buff on a strict timer - all of which are accessed by entering the ‘purify’ state by holding R1/RB which, incidentally, rapidly refills your stamina allowing for a quick pop of a potent ability following up by more frenzied attacks on the enemy.
On a personal level, having myself and a friend take on the game’s growing selection of big monsters alongside two curiously named AI partners felt a little overkill. The combined onslaught of dual knives and fists meant most of the monsters would rarely stand on their own two feet with their attacks being interrupted by either the full destruction of a limb or by just negotiating when to make us of our slowly charging guaranteed knock-down abilities.
Most monsters wouldn’t last more than 5 minutes with our Mitama barely serving their various purposes as we just mashed the X, Y and B buttons with little reason to take a breather in-between. There’s even server-linked equipment boxes that allow you to throw old gear away for strangers to use - meaning they might suddenly become 200% more capable of taking down a particular monster within a 5 minute romp through the wilderness.
While being fairly accessible, the game’s opening tutorial sections introduce a story that just seems to want to stop you from getting on with the good stuff by introducing you to the futile politics of the town’s feuding families. In a similar situation, key abilities like the ‘Full Destruction’ Demon Hand move is locked behind single-player progress, meaning there’s every opportunity you could run into a player who’s incapable of one of the main tide-turning skills. Problematic limb repeatedly slamming you against a wall? Shame. It’d be nice if someone could crush it between their fingers. For the most part, the Demon Hand is used to grapple onto enemies to fling yourself above for a good shot at their otherwise unreachable limbs; but it’s handy for pulling off severally damaged body parts and making sure they don’t return: skill gauge permitting. Something we can imagine will be severely broken in a 4-player environment.
In a price to performance ratio, we’re having to seperate Toukiden 2 from the status-quo. While the general asking price of £50 will likely put a lot of people off giving this one a shot, chop the price down a little and it’s not a bad pick-up so long as you’re able to find someone else willing to join in on the ride. Playing solo might be broken apart by insignificant plotlines, but multiplayer still offers a fairly robust, straight-forward hack n’ slash experience.
Friendly co-op would be the right way to go, but playing with strangers is better than going it alone. Performence-wise, we had no problem keeping solid playable framerates on both systems running a recent RX 480 and a laptop running a GTX 960m. Tecmo Koei titles don’t tend to be the most graphically intensive operations, but they’re stable ports for the the most part.
TOUKIDEN 2 VERDICT
Toukiden 2 ends up offering something that’s lacking in all departments.There’s too much fluff between the good stuff, but it still offers a somewhat exhilarating experience in short bursts. If you’re looking for a combat-heavy co-op experience on PC, it’s not a bad choice at all - but if you’re coming from similar games, you’ll likely be left feeling generally underwhelmed.
Where to Purchase
While we can’t much vouch for the full £50 asking price of this particular title, Green Man Gaming offering it at £38.29 makes it far-sight more recommendable. Just make sure to sign-in to get that price.
Generally enjoyable combat and weapon choices, but feels imbalanced and lacks any real depth
Monster designs are interesting for the most part
Demon Hand offers a new approach to the typical limb-removal system of similar titles
Open-world approach seems under-utilised and otherwise unnecessary
Story offers nothing of worth and just detracts from what players typically want from a game of its kind
Environments and soundtrack offer nothing to write home about
Janky animations make for some questionable situations