Hunting-action games have been a standby for years now after the surprise success of Monster Hunter and its growing popularity in the west. We’ve seen various takes on the concept; Soul Sacrifice added risk-and-reward elements to the gameplay along with a more action-focused style, while Freedom Wars’ Thorn was a great example of how verticality could add to this style of game. Toukiden 2, sequel to 2013’s Toukiden: The Age of Demons, has its own elements to add to the mix and ends up being one of the strongest games in the subgenre as a result.
Bad news, guys: demons have showed up and wrecked everything. In fact, they didn’t just wreck everything, they’ve wrecked everything, are wrecking everything and will wreck everything, because these are time-traveling demons and that plays havoc with verb tenses. There’s only one way to deal with baddies who abuse grammar in such a way, and that’s beatings and dismemberment. As a Slayer, a custom character of your own design who is flung into a different time and place after a demon encounter, it’s your job to administer the appropriate punishment.
Said beatings are accomplished in the traditional hunting-action style: giant monsters vs. you and your weapon of choice. Toukiden differs from the norm by replacing consumable items with Mitama, powerful spirits from history that provide healing, damaging and defensive skills in a variety of forms. Your Mitama as much as your chosen weapon defines your “class;” Mitama can offer you area control, party support or just plain ol’ nukes depending on what you’d like to use. As for your weapons, you’ve got a vast selection, ranging from the traditional giant katana to the more esoteric whip or the transforming sword/shield combo. You’re bound to find a combination you enjoy one way or the other. On top of that, you now have access to the Demon Hand, a sort of grappling hook that’s useful for clambering around huge demons or just ripping off their limbs directly. It’s great!
Toukiden 2 also takes the whole hunting-action thing in an entirely different direction by going the open world route. Now I’m aware that popular opinion is starting to turn on open world games that aren’t called Zelda or The Witcher, but the formula works surprisingly well here too. The strictly regimented instancing of previous hunting-action games was restrictive in a lot of ways, but here you’re free to roam around as you’d like and kill whatever you run into along the way. It’s not a perfect transition; namely, multiplayer uses the standard instanced model, but being able to explore the world in single-player does a lot to make that mode more digestible than the average Monster Hunter-styled game.
That’s not to say it’s all perfect; Toukiden 2 shares the first game’s obstinate insistence on having a plot, for instance, and that plot’s nothing you haven’t seen before. That would be fine if you were more capable of skipping through it if you wanted to just get to the action. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, so a lot of time is spent mashing through dialog box after dialog box. Other than that, though, this is generally a solid hunting-action experience that’s well-balanced between exploration and giant boss battles.
It looks and sounds great as well, of course; voice acting is all in Japanese, which shouldn’t come as any surprise, and the monsters and characters look appropriately menacing. There’s a vast and impressive selection of outfits to choose from as well, giving you a reason to slay certain monsters to collect their parts and make some new duds. The game also runs at a nice, smooth clip regardless of platform. Multiplayer is, of course, a big draw to this game, and while it’s flawless on PS4, the PC version of Toukiden 2 could use a little more work to address bugs and issues like being incapable of turning off voice chat.
Aside from these relatively minor quirks, though, Toukiden 2 makes for an easy recommendation. The hybrid of hunting-action and open-world gameplay makes for two great tastes that taste great together, like blood and wine. Fans of either genre would do well to check this one out.