Developer: Monolith Soft
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Expansion Pass Release Date: September 14, 2018 (Worldwide)
Release Date: September 21, 2018 (Worldwide)
Now that you’ve learned the story of the Aegis War, it’s time to live it!
Once upon a time, video games didn’t have DLC, they had what was referred to as “Expansion Pack” or even just “Expansion.” Expansions were add-on content that added things like new areas, characters, and extra story for games that were already released. Expansions could come in varying sizes and sometimes could go on to be prequels and even sequels to the games they were meant to be an expansion to and that’s precisely what we have with Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country.
I did not need to spend a whole weekend playing it, to know it was the greatest DLC ever, I knew that the second we got a good look at it during E3, but I’ve got to admit, Monolith Soft have really impressed me these few years.
Xenoblade Chronicles X may not have been to everyone’s liking, but it is a great game and is still reason enough for some to buy a Nintendo Wii U, but it was 2017 where Monolith Soft really upped their game. Not only did they reveal Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Nintendo Switch, but they stuck to their guns and made sure it released last year.
In no time at all, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 became the most successful game in its series and Monolith Soft was still not done with it. During the months that followed they listened to fan feedback, improved the game in various ways, added some great content as part of the Expansion Pass and now they’ve given us Torna and it is beautiful.
You could watch both the Gamescom and E3 footage for hours on end and it would still not be enough to prepare you for what lies in store. It may not be as large as the main game, but thanks to a number of adjustments and tweaks, it is still quite the meaty ARPG (Action Role-Playing Game) that could give the base version of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, a run for its money.
Now, although this is as good a time as any to address any questions you guys might have regarding Torna – The Golden Country, in one singular area before carrying on with the review, instead we will be answering things here and there when necessary, but we have compiled an article dedicated to Torna questions, which you can check out for yourself, by clicking here.
For all intents and purposes though, we will mention here and now though that Torna is an upgraded version of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 in some ways, due to it actually being rendered with a new engine that Monolith Soft are currently tweaking and intend to use for future games.
It also has a brand new soundtrack composed for it, which does include some revised tracks from the main game. As for handheld mode, improvements have been made, but it’s far from perfect. So if you really want to get the most out of Torna, docked is the way to go.
With regards to the game itself, it story and setting concerns the Aegis War, the Kingdom of Torna and the relationship between Lora and Jin. Although we got to hear quite a bit about what happened 500 years ago, that doesn’t mean we know why it happened or how it played out the way it did but thanks to Torna, we do.
Only, instead of starting from the beginning, Torna opens with the player being thrown slap dab in the middle of a world is already at war. Malos has already been awakened from his core, Amalthus is commenced his rise in power and Jin and Lora, well, they’re looking for Lora’s mum, whom she hasn’t seen in a long time, but the first time we see Jin and Lora, they’re running from monsters.
Fortunately for them, once they have dealt with the monsters that are currently attacking them, their hunt for Lora’s mum will soon come to an end, but it is simply the beginning of their journey as very soon they will come upon the Blade Mythra and the hero himself, Prince Addam, fourth in line to the throne.
Being from Torna, Addam recognises Jin as the Paragon of Torna, a blade stolen 17 years previously and doesn’t seem to mind about that as he is instead interested in how well Jin and Lora work together, especially how they share a weapon. (In Torna, Drivers don’t use the Blade’s weapon as they have their own, but Lora doesn’t because she couldn’t afford to buy one.)
Before you know it, a team up comes to be and the hunt for both Lora’s mum and Malos, can commence. Now, although there are plenty more story details I can share, I won’t go any further into detail than what I have done already, as we do want this review to be spoiler free for those who haven’t played Torna yet, but just know there is a much more serious tone afoot.
Rex and the gang may have faced their own series of troubles, but for the most part, during their journey through Alrest, the majority of the NPCs had no idea what was going on. In their minds, everything was hunky dory, but in Torna, everyone is aware of the war and Malos’ onslaught of destruction. The only differences is, life must go on and the people of Alrest are still trying to have a life, by making do, but they know the wolf could come knocking down their door at any minute.
For me, it is things like that which made Torna more enjoyable for me. It isn’t just more Xenoblade and a side story, it’s a story of substance and depth and easter eggs. On top of many, many references and comments that link to Xenoblade Chronicles 2, there are also smaller things that you might not realise. For example, Hugo Ardancah, Emperor of Mord Ardain and one of Torna’s 3 playable Drivers (Lora, Addam and Hugo,) will say the words “Think you can take me?” whilst in battle.
If you played the main game from the beginning, you’ll know that this phrase is something Ardainian troops would say before it was patched out and replaced with “Don’t forget me.” Well, clearly Monolith Soft did not forget that line, since they gave it life once more, by giving it to a main character.
As far as presentation goes and general gameplay, Torna and the main game are pretty similar. Both games have a similar menu set-up where players can access settings, save their game, consult items and of course, check on their characters. You can equip Aux Cores to your blades, there are Affinity Charts to fill out for both Drivers and Blades and pouch items are back as well.
Not to mention, exploring the overworld is the same as well, there are two Titans, (Torna and Gormott,) which you can freely explore, discovering landmarks and significant areas, whilst interacting with objects such as collapsible trees and geysers, provided your Field Skills are level up enough, to activate them.
Heck, even the screen display of a map that can be toggled on, off and have appear larger in size is back, and so is an expandable menu for details on the current quest you’re in the middle of doing, but where the game differs, is in the actual combat and a couple of features.
Whereas before in the main game, where players can only play as the Drivers, Torna will give you full control and allow you to directly control the Blades. It will also allow you to control a team of three units (one Driver and two Blades,) which you can take into battle and switch between in a bid to execute Driver Combos, Blade Combos and even recover health.
With the Vanguard Switch, battles aren’t just more engaging than in the main game, but they feel more fluid, quicker and they better convey the bonds between a Driver and their Blade/Blades. There is a certain intimacy as to how it is handled and it works great. You’re not just a Driver in the main game using Arts with your current Blade before swapping them out, but you’re well and truly part of the process.
You are a team and you fight as a team and, provided you have the likes of Addam and Hugo’s teams included, together the nine of you can not only act as three singular teams doing their own thing, but also as a collective serving a higher purpose that can deal a devastating amount of damage if you time your Chain Attack just right.
While some might hate the idea of Torna only letting you have 6 Blades to play use, with no others available for you to summon from Core Crystals, others will no doubt, like this aspect of the game, as it helps to form even more of a closeness to them, it gives lesser characters and Blades the chance to grow more.
Still, because there is such a huge emphasis on working as a team, you’re only as strong as your weakest link, so it is always important to upgrade the arts of both Drivers and Blades and not just the Vanguard arts either. The Rear Guard arts matter as well. (The vanguard is whoever you in control of your party.)
Whilst out of battle, aka exploring, players can not only swap between which team they wish to play as, but they can even swap between the members in that team with the directional buttons, which means you don’t have to bring up the character screen and make tweaks to your time, as you can do it anywhere at any time.
Find yourself in a desert and feel like Lora should be the lead, then swap. If you’re standing in front of Addam’s house and feel like he should be the lead character, swap. Find a collection point, which will even tell you what kind of an object can be collected to them, swap to Mythra and listen to her moan about why she’s got to do it. In fact, you’ll actually hear Mythra voice an opinion a lot in Torna.
While Torna is essentially the Lora and Jin show, Mythra will always attempt to steal the scene and come across as being quite cold at times. Sure, she’s not exactly the nicest of people in the main game, like Pyra is, but if Mythra is a diamond, then the version we got in Torna is the polished one and the one in Torna is unrefined and a work in progress.
Where there is Yin, there is Yang and Mythra’s opposite is Milton, a Gormotti boy is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with her and put her back into line, when Addam doesn’t. The interactions between the two of them are just as good as the ones with Milton and Mikhail, it’s just a shame that there isn’t more of them as they always left me wanting more, only, come a point, there was no more. Thankfully though, there is a theatre mode and the scenes that we do get can be viewed at any time.
Something else that is new to Torna, is Camping. With the events of Torna taking place 500 years previously, the world of Alrest is something of a rugged one, especially Gormott since it’s not the developed version we know it to be in the main game and the camping aspect fits it perfectly. (You can’t stay at an inn when there isn’t even one built.)
With camping, Drivers and Blades will assemble around a fire and three options will be available to the player. They can choose to use materials and items they have collected to craft things like items, meals and key items. They can “Talk” and watch characters engage in varying discussions similar to Heart-to-Hearts and they can rest. Like in the main game, resting grants players the means to spend their spare EXP earned from completing quests and level up should they wish it.
Like with everything, the camping again reinforces the aspect of intimacy and closeness, which again is a nice touch and certainly one of Torna’s most redeeming features but there is always a negative for every positive and in this case, the negative concerns Community.
If you have played Xenoblade Chronicles 1 or Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Community is very similar to the Affinity Charts in those games, only now it is the means to keep track of quests, being notified of new available quests and demonstrating the goodwill your heroes have created by completing quests.
At the moment, that doesn’t sound too much like a bad thing but wait, there’s more. The more people you help, the more you level up and rank up your Community Level, which is vital since you’re going to need Community Level 4 if you wish to actually beat the Torna. Yep, Torna actually compels you to do side quests and already that has proved a little too much for some of those playing Torna.
Personally, although it’s an annoyance such a roadblock is present in the game, I myself never hit it. From the second I started playing Torna, I was captivated by it and I was in no hurry to rush to the end and engage in the final battle. I wanted to experience the game in its entirety, so every time a side quest popped up, I did it straight away, unless it was a really long one like “find and destroy 70 Green barrels,” but I happily did them and took the time to hunt some Unique Monsters.
In fact, 12 hours in, although I was all set to show-down with Malos, I took a huge 10 hour detour to grind side quests out of choice and earn myself a total of 88 supporters. I then did the battle, only to spend another 10 hours maxing the affinity chart for every Blade and Driver and killing the Golden Beasts.
Sure, it is a grind to do them, but another way to look at the side quest, especially later on in the game, is a way of rebuilding a destroyed community. Helping a town get back on its feet and attempting to survive an apocalypse together. Not to mention the fact that by doing all of them, you can extend the amount of time you can invest into Torna considering how short the story actually is.
Still, at the time of writing this review, I am already 30 hours into my first playthrough and when I do begin a New Game Plus playthrough, I will at least be spending another 15-20 hours trying to complete the game, so as far as content goes, just because Torna is packed out with side quests, the locations of the Torna Titan itself, are breath-taking, especially the Secret Areas / Viewpoints, but you really will get hours upon hours of gameplay and content out of it.
The only difference is, if you start now, you can most likely do everything before the likes of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! Still, as near perfect as Torna is because it is near perfect, there are a few issues I do have with it. Whilst playing in handheld, the occasional loading time when leaving camping would feel like it’s dragged on too long and the game has frozen. Performance seemed to take the occasional dive every now and then, when in battle and I feel there was a missed Uraya opportunity.
I know I should be grateful for all that we got with Torna, but when there was a mission that involved sending a party to Uraya, it would have been cool if a small part of Uraya would have been playable, even if you could only access one area. Or you know, have the thing available as a Merc Missions since Addam does have a militia, but Merc Missions are only a thing in the main game. But hey, just because Torna isn’t fleshed out a little bit more, that doesn’t mean it is not deserving the title of “Best DLC ever” because it absolutely is.
Being an expansion, although Torna – The Golden Country does not hold a candle to the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 we have now, due to the updates it’s had and the Expansion Pass but in all honestly, Torna is just as good, if not slightly better than Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was at launch. It’s easier to get into, has a more grown-up vibe to it, due to its story and setting and the combat system is better.
Torna isn’t just DLC at its finest, but it is DLC done perfectly and if you have yet to get into the Xenoblade Chronicles series, there is no better game to start off with than Torna. It can and does hold up rather well on its own, it’s a game players can immediately become addictive too, but most importantly, it well and truly was worth the wait and is a fitting end, or beginning, to the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 saga.
THE VERDICT: 9/10
Should you wish to check out another of our reviews, you can do so by clicking here.Tags: #XenoWeek, Monolith Soft, Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, review, Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country
This post was written by Jack Longman