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Toren Review – Undercooked Video Game Goulash (PS4)  October 5, 2015 – 03:56 pm

Toren_20150517165311In Toren, a mysterious little girl leads you through a beautiful, perplexing world. She doesn’t speak, and there is only one cryptic, unhelpful character who does. I was excited for Toren after watching the trailer because of the eclectic visuals and the narrative tease involving a little girl as the main character at various points in her life from birth to coming of age. After completing the game, I was left with a question mark over my head. Why was there a dragon? What did the beginning cutscene have to do with anything? What are the dream sequences?

Toren_20150517165459The story is made up of a handful of folktales and legends from various cultures such as The Tower of Babel, celestial deities, and the Tree of Life. If any of those pique your interest, don’t get too excited. Throughout the game, hardly any of them are fleshed out or explored other than surface symbolism. There is hardly any emotion tied to any inclusion of lore, aside from the beginning cutscene and the Knight, Solidor, trying to save the Moonchild throughout the entire story.Toren_20150517170448 There was no investment in the game bestowed upon the player. I was not given a reason to care about the little girl. This could have been partly because the narrative base you are given at the beginning is almost non-existent, consisting of a few scenes that serve to confuse instead of provide intrigue. It was like when someone says something cryptic just for attention so the listener is almost forced to inquire ‘what the heck are you talking about?’

The problem with the story is the smooshed-together conglomerate of folktales. This doesn’t work as a storytelling device unless you explore one tale fully on it’s own, or many tales in turn, one after the other, serving as mini trials or learning experiences. It does not work unless you set up each tale as it’s own meaningful piece of a complete, bigger-picture puzzle. Toren does no do that. It sprinkles a little of this here and a little of that there, with no regard to how it all fits into one game, one experience, and one narrative.


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