A baby cries and the cycle begins anew; she must nurture the Tree of Life rooted at the base of the tower Toren in order to ascend and right the wrongs that brought her here. Though she will fail, as she has before, each mistake serves only to prepare her for the future.
Toren tells the tale of a young Moonchild; the woman reborn countless times in her quest to slay the dragon guarding the spire to pacify the blazing sun. The Magician acts as her spiritual advisor and dream guide, reassuring her as she faces challenges and reinforcing the strengths she discovers within herself along the way. However, as the Tree of Life grows up the tower, we literally see Moonchild grow up as well. It quickly becomes apparent that our protagonist is something special as more and more of the story behind the tower is revealed. Why was it built in the first place? Why is the sun so unforgivingly hot? Where did that dragon come from? Moonchild reveals the answers to these questions as she solves puzzles to help the Tree of Life grow.
The game is heavily reliant on story and atmosphere as the animation, controls, and combat leave much to be desired. Best played with a controller, Toren sacrifices complicated movesets for 4 simple buttons that help Moonchild navigate the tower. Most of the button cues are contextual to what Moonchild is facing though, so sometimes the character will leap of a ledge instead of climbing to the next platform. However, the checkpoints are frequent, so a minute or so is all you’ll lose if this happens. Brazilian developer Swordtales even makes death a necessary step from time to time; a mechanic which grates against your common sense, but which also fits perfectly into the story.
Moonchild and the Tree grow together
For a linear, two-hour story, Toren does an excellent job of getting you immersed in the game. The subtle changes to the tree, the tower, and the main character are meaningful and necessary; the story drives everything else in this game. However, the dream sequences get very repetitive, the character’s walking speed could be taken up a notch, and the controls need polished. Additionally, most of the animations look like something on the N64. which leaves a lot to be desired. However, these minor issues are not enough to take away from the character, the story, and the atmosphere. Every aspect of the game works to build a cohesive experience.
She clearly is not afraid of that dragon behind her.
If you’re looking for an immersive story without hours of tutorials and waves of enemies, Toren may very well be the game for you. Just don’t go into it expecting a ground-breaking gameplay experience.