Toukiden 2 begins with a huge battle in Yokohama. Monsters known as Oni have wreaked havoc across the world of man and are advancing down from the North. There is a plan to stop their advance in Yokohama by leading a force of Demon Slayers against them. However, things aren't looking good as the Oni are on the rampage and the city burns.
You are one of these Demon Slayers and, after a simple bit of character creation, you get to join the fight. During a battle against a giant, fearsome Oni, you get sucked up into a big storm and sent through an Oni gate. You're then found lying unconscious in the woods and taken to a nearby village.
It turns out that you're not in Yokohama anymore: you've actually woken up in a place far away, and as if that wasn't bad enough, ten years have passed and you've lost your memory of everything that happened before the battle. Most of humanity has been wiped out, but there are a few places left that act as the last bastions of mankind. Mahoraba village is one of these few remaining places; it's surrounded by the Otherworld, which is land where the Oni live and time has been warped beyond recognition. The village has managed to survive so far because it's protected by a barrier created by a Shrine Maiden, which prevents any Oni from getting through.
Considering there's imminent death and destruction waiting just outside, humans are doing what they do best and fighting amongst themselves. There are two main factions in the village. The Insiders, led by the Guards, are people who were a part of the village before the Oni came, while The Outsiders, led by the Samurai, are people who came to reside there after the great 'Awakening' of the Oni. The last village chief died during a battle a couple of years ago and since then, there's been no successor. Tensions have been increasing in the village as the time to select a new chief grows near, especially as both the leader of the Guards and the leader of the Samurai are up for consideration of the role.
Amidst the backdrop of all this tension you arrive in the village and start working for a woman known as the Professor as her assistant. The Professor is researching an ancient technology known as Machina, and agrees to share some of her knowledge with you if you help. You'll also get to work alongside her number one assistant Tokitsugu, who looks like a steampunk version of Final Fantasy IX's Vivi. It doesn't take long for you to make friends and gain allies in the fight against the Oni.
The story set-up is interesting, but it plays out in a mostly predictable fashion. That said, it does have really good pacing throughout, and it never feels like there's pointless padding. The characters are well written and likeable, and we found ourselves pushing forward with story quests to find out what happens next, and to see the main characters interact with each other.
There's an awful lot to get to grips with at the beginning of the game. With 11 different weapon types to choose from and numerous different battle styles, skills, and boosts, trying to work out what everything does and what the best set-up is can feel overwhelming. It's great to have so much choice in how to play through the game, but when you're just trying to steady yourself in a brand new adventure, it's a bit much. Fortunately, you're not tied down to any of the choices that you make, and you're free to change whenever you want. We definitely recommend that you take full advantage of the training tutorials and spend an hour or two trying various different weapons to find the playstyle that suits you best.
Of course, once you do find your preferred playstyle it's time to explore the Otherworld and kick some Oni ass. The Otherworld is filled with a poisonous miasma that slowly kills any who venture into it for too long. To begin with you can't explore too far, but by defeating the resident Oni you slowly begin to purify the land. There are seven different open areas to explore, and each one is beautiful, boasting its own unique style. These areas are an absolute joy to explore - you never know quite what you'll find. Sometimes you'll even come across other slayers in battle, and by helping them, they'll temporary join you in your fight against the Oni.
There are a range of different Oni, many of which are small and quickly defeated, but the real fun lies in battling the giant demons. Fighting these humongous monsters can take a while as you have to give them a good beating before they reveal their true form - only then can you deal damage to their health. Thankfully, the combat is fast paced, so even though some of these battles can stretch on, you'll never get overly bored.
You and your allies have a piece of Machina technology called a Demon Hand, which can be used to grab enemies or things in the environment - it's pretty fun to use it to get up close and personal to the giant Oni. What's more, when the Demon Hand is at full strength, it can also be used to rip off Oni body parts. There's nothing more satisfying than ripping the legs off of a Manhunter and seeing it whimper away from you.
Your team mates are naturally a great help in battle, and we were quite impressed with how good their artificial intelligence is. At times, though, it's possibly a little too good - it's great that you don't need to micro-manage your allies, but at the same time, you sometimes can't help but think that they wouldn't really notice if you weren't there.
As well as purifying the land, defeating Oni has another additional benefit. Some Oni have devoured Mitama - the souls of historical heroes. By defeating them, you'll free these souls and be able to use their power to fight the demonic scourge. There are 200 different Mitama to collect, and you can equip them to your weapon, armour, and demon hand. Each Mitama has different effects, and will enable you to use varying skills and boosts - they even gradually gain experience in battle, enabling your skills to become even more powerful.
Although you can play through the main storyline fairly quickly, there are plenty of other things to do in the game. There are loads of side quests and missions to complete, as well as things to collect. If you're a completionist, then you'll likely salivate at the thought of 200 Mitama to find as well as inscriptions and crests hidden across the Otherworld. And, in typical monster hunting fashion, you can also create new weapons and armour from the materials that you stumble across.
If you tire of playing on your own then there's an online mode where you can meet up with other players and take on missions together. At the time of writing, there aren't many other players around, but we're hopeful that'll change once the game's released. One really nice online feature is the Reliquaries, which are hidden throughout the Otherworld. These Reliquaries act as containers that players can place weapons and armour in that other players can retrieve - and it's always nice to find that someone's left a nice present behind.
Touikiden 2 is gorgeous to look at, so it's a bit of a shame that the HUD is so cluttered. At the end of battles, all the different materials that you've collected scroll across the screen, and these sometimes overlap with other messages such as when a character's affection increases. This means that you can't properly read what's popping up, and while these messages aren't essential, it is a bit annoying that you can't see everything. Another minor annoyance is the number of grammatical errors and typos in the text - it's not enough to be overly distracting, but they do feel like silly, careless mistakes in what is otherwise a polished action role-playing title.
Minor annoyances aside, Toukiden 2 has some truly addictive gameplay and tonnes of content to chew through. The game's dripping with atmosphere and looks great, with plenty of varied, large open world areas to explore. Meanwhile, the battle system is satisfyingly fast paced, and nothing quite compares to the power trip of ripping off the body parts of a giant demon.