July 20, 2015, Author: Dan Moore
Toukiden: Kiwami is probably the best game its developer, Omega Force, has made. Please do not confuse that statement with it being a good game; it most certainly isn’t. It does at least work, the graphics are fairly bright and pretty, and to be fair there is plenty of content.
Unfortunately, Omega Force is a developer known for its highly repetitious games, and there is no change here. While it tries to be Monster Hunter-lite, what you actually get are wasted opportunities, the same enemies to kill over and over again and environments that barely change – all this while receiving little reward.
The setup for the game is simple enough. You play as a slayer in a band of warriors who defend humanity from the Oni, a force of demons spawned from something called ‘The Awakening’ several years before. The Oni come in various shapes and sizes, some taking a decent amount of time to take down while others are taken out with just a few hits. Each time an Oni is taken out, you can run up to its body and hold L1 (I played on PS4) which creates a ring around your character and retrieves loot from said body. Quite why you can’t just hit X to retrieve the loot is beyond me; I think it is to create a risk/reward mechanic, except that there is little risk involved. I will get to that in a moment.
The game is set up to be loot-centric, as you constantly receive new items as rewards for killing monsters and pickups in the levels. You can even send out a small pet you receive early in the game to the various ‘ages’ to collect more loot. The problem is that the idea of the ‘loot game’ has been fundamentally misunderstood. Whereas games like Destiny, Diablo and Monster Hunter give you loot in the interests of making you more powerful, Toukiden grants it for seemingly arbitrary reasons.
The reasons seem to be mainly completing ‘quests’ which are not the same as missions. Quests are requests from various people around the small village the slayers call home that require certain items to complete. You might slay 200 of a certain monster or collect three of an item. They grant you money, known as haku, and sometimes more loot or a bigger item box… and that’s it. No cool new weapons, nothing that is just a bit more powerful or has a new status effect, no more powerful armour; just more small items.
Being fair, some of this stuff is required to upgrade or create weapons and armour. The downside to that is you don’t really need to create anything new after an initial splurge. I am still using the same armour set I had created on my first try, but I don’t get anything more powerful, nor can I create anything more powerful than the upgraded version I am still using. On the weapons side of things, I did create new ones, but only twice and mainly to see if anything would change. It didn’t. My character doesn’t feel any more powerful now as she did when I started the game.
These quests clearly indicate that you are supposed to go do missions over and over again until you get the right loot. However, the writing in the quest description is such that you have no idea where the required items might reside, and combined with the lack of any real point to the loot you get in addition to those needed, make it feel pointless to even try and grind them out.
The game is almost entirely centered around combat. There is a tiny element of a socializing mechanic; however, it is poorly implemented and has exactly zero effect on the story or characters you interact with. The fighting itself does the job, but is fairly simplistic. Hitting the face buttons will attack in a couple of different ways and holding L1 will allow you to activate magic attacks and boosts – all of which are almost totally ineffective, or if they are, you have absolutely zero ways to tell other than from a slight aura appearing around your character. Magic attacks look and feel weak as hell, when they should be your most powerful attacks, especially considering that you have a limited use of them.
A bigger problem with the combat is the fact that the enemies are boring to fight, and I mean boring. Tactics rarely change aside from a brief foray into an enraged state, which means that your tactics do not change to match. When I say ‘tactics’, I am using the term extremely loosely, as literally all you do is target a monster and hit the attack buttons until it dies. Which in one sense is all you do in pretty much every other game, but they at least make an attempt to change enemy behaviors to give you more of a challenge.
Here, somehow, fighting a massive multi-armed twenty-foot hellspawn is just dull. You target the monster when you see it and pound on it with up to three AI teammates (or online friends) until the creature dies. The creature will not change tactics or do anything other than attack. While some of them do have alternate forms, this means nothing – it doesn’t provide more of a challenge or force you to switch up and think differently. You still just hit the face buttons until it dies.
This is compounded by the fact that the biggest creatures in the game have multiple body parts that need attacking. By taking out these areas, apparently you reduce the creature’s armour and can actually hurt it. This doesn’t come across in any way, and the game doesn’t even tell you that explicitly; I had to go look through the help menu to find that information out. Once I had, and had also looked through it to work out how to activate the vision mode that will allow me to see just how damaged each part is, I realised it matters not. I was still just pounding on that monster until it died.
The game doesn’t even let you target those body parts. Once you lock on, you target the whole creature, and are not able to switch to specific areas, meaning that you hit and hope you manage to get something you need to. This isn’t so bad for the legs or lower areas, but some of these enemies tower over you, and while there is a jump button it doesn’t help to actually hit what you want to hit. Basically, anything above the waist or head is pretty impossible to actually destroy with targeted and coordinated strikes.
The other side of the combat, and why the aforementioned risk/reward mechanic doesn’t work, is that I never once feared for my character’s safety. I went into every mission knowing I wouldn’t die and the one time that happened, I respawned, re-entered the area and continued on from where I left off. At no point does it give any kind of real challenge, and this doesn’t change while playing online in four player co-op as you are just playing the same missions over and over again, except this time the other players (and there aren’t that many) are probably feeling the same way.
The absolute most egregious thing the game does though is set up scenarios that might change the gameplay in some fashion – a mission to rescue a stranded scout for example – and then makes you do the same thing you always do. There isn’t anyone to actually be rescued; it just means you have to go into the main world and fight a bunch of enemies until the game deems you have completed the task at hand. It is shockingly bad design and the dialog that sets this up shouldn’t exist in the game if it doesn’t follow through.
It could be that Omega Force was aiming for a low-challenge game that you can casually play with your friends. The problem is that what they actually made is a boring game that you can’t bond over because there is no challenge and no cool loot to get, so its players are much better served in this regard by other games.
When playing the missions that do not provide a huge boss level creature, you don’t even have to play. Your AI-controlled friends will kill anything in the area while you run around and pick up items on the ground. There is absolutely no need for you to get involved, and it’s not even like you need to manually level up these characters; they start out able to take anything on, and it sucks. Having useful NPCs is one thing; having them take away the requirement to actually play the game is quite another. This is almost the straw that breaks the camel’s back, making me want to put the controller down and never play it again.
There are some redeeming qualities, however. It can look really nice, with very few framerate issues; attacks light up the screen at times; and the characters animate fairly well, if a little stunted. The artwork for the dialog boxes during cutscenes are nicely drawn, and the in-engine scenes are even better than the graphics in-game. The biggest problem with the visuals is that the levels you actually play in simply aren’t varied enough. Playing through the Age of Grace looks very similar to the Age of Chaos in terms of structure, and with no platforming or any kind of diversion to break things up the visuals get old fast. I ended up feeling like I was running through the same level over and over again, just with the textures having been swapped around a bit.
It doesn’t help the game feel like a quality product worthy of your cash, and comes across as lazy design. This feeling of laziness on the developer’s part is made more apparent by the sound, because while the monsters roar and screech with the appropriate level of viciousness, the human characters retrain their Japanese voice track. This might not sound like much, but it throws you out of the story at every turn, especially when characters are trying to emote and push things forward but you have to read the dialog box that appears while they are actually talking with a voice.
It is just insane to me that they thought this was a good solution to the problem, and while there is something to be said for sticking to your guns and saying “this game is developed in this country and we want it to be known”, it doesn’t help you tell any kind of story. If they had had it so that all dialog was written instead of a combination of written and spoken this would be fine, but hearing Japanese come out of a character’s mouth while English is displayed via a box at the bottom of the screen with that character’s portrait makes it tough for anything but the most over-the-top emotions to come through.
The story itself actually takes a couple of surprising twists, but I got to the point where it felt like it got in the way, and was skipping dialog as much as I could. I just didn’t really care about any of the characters or the overall fate of the human race, and if your game about a team of people trying to stop the destruction of mankind fails to make you care about the species, something has gone wrong somewhere.
So you didn’t like it then?
As I said at the start, Toukiden: Kiwami is probably Omega Force’s best game to date. The problem is that it has many of their hallmarks, none of which are particularly good. They are learning, however slowly, but the sheer repetitiveness and total lack of any understanding when it comes to how loot should function mean that they still haven’t crafted a good game.
If you have some friends who are into it and they play regularly, you might get some enjoyment out of Toukiden: Kiwami, but as a single-player experience it simply isn’t worth the time. Even with friends you will be better served elsewhere as you will be able to chat about tactics, weapons and armour and more aspects of the game. Here it is just hammering buttons until the target dies, over and over and over again, with little in the way of real progression.
You might get some entertainment out of it, but I can’t recommend dropping cash on a game where you don’t even have to play the majority of the missions because your AI teammates will do it for you. The game is poorly designed from top to bottom, and if you want something to play with your mates, your money is better spent elsewhere.