Toukiden: The Age of Demons Review: Monster Hunter's Japanese myth-inspired cousin
There was a time when Monster Hunter was king of. . .well, monster hunting. In the recent years, we've been treated with games like Gods Eater Burst, Lords of Arcana, and Ragnarok Odyssey. Even Soul Sacrifice offered a take on the monster hunting genre, and each game had its own unique twists. You can now add Toukiden to that list, and it just so happens to be one of the better examples of the genre.
Toukiden draws inspiration from Japanese mythology, putting players in the shoes of demon hunters, protecting the land from various demonic monsters called Oni. You take refuge in a small village that slowly opens up during the course of the game, help out various NPCs with missions and take on quests to build up your character through better gear. If that sounds familiar to Monster Hunter veterans, it's because the formula is relatively identical, but that's not a bad thing.
Toukiden's strength lies in its combat, which compared to Monster Hunter is much more fast paced, and by that same token, not nearly as challenging. This is certainly subjective, as some players prefer the methodical and tactical combat of Monster Hunter, and thus might not appreciate the quick, button mashing style of Toukiden.
Monotony of combat is avoided thanks to Toukiden's many different weapon types, from long katanas to powerful gauntlets. They each have a slightly different combat mechanic, but they're all easy enough to pick up and understand right from the beginning.
The game's difficulty is actually two-fold. Going up against smaller enemies presents very little challenge, which is only slightly disappointing since they basically act as fodder. It's the big Oni monsters that put up a real fight and amp up the game's difficulty. These fights are certainly the highlight of Toukiden, and button mashing won't be enough to win these battles.
You and your NPC companions have the ability to purify monsters on the battlefield, and this gameplay mechanic translates into defeating large Oni as well. These large monsters have various targetable body parts that can be cut off and purified. This exposes the monster's weakness and leaves him susceptible to more damage. This is also how you gain access to better items which can be crafted into new equipment and weapons.
Purified monsters and body parts become various materials, which in the monster hunting genre is the main way to raise your character's stats and attributes. Since there is no traditional leveling, you'll have to grind for materials regularly to ensure your character's survivability in upcoming missions.
There are also items called Mitama, which are souls of fallen warriors that can be slotted into your weapon. These souls provide your character with various consumables and enhancements during battle. For example, one of the early Mitama's is focused on Attack Power, giving you the ability to increase your damage, gain health through attacks, and heal. Some you'll get through the storyline but most of them are random drops.
Toukiden is about grinding in the end. You'll need to take on missions to get better items, replay missions to get more of that item, then take it back to your village and make better equipment, only to set out on harder missions and do it all over again. But it's overly satisfying and quite addicting. It's a formula that's worked for years in Monster Hunter games, and certainly works just as well in Toukiden.
The game's main problem is that it really doesn't distinguish itself from Capcom's established franchise outside of its combat mechanics. It sadly also doesn't take the risks Soul Sacrifice did. With that said though, I still found myself coming back to Toukiden regardless of how many times I'd killed a specific monster for an item. That's my takeaway for Toukiden -- it's fun gameplay overshadows its imitations and limitations. Monster hunting fans, this is certainly one to pick up.