Torna: In the Eye of the Storm
by Stephen A Adegun | published Oct. 23rd, 2018
You've run through the plains dozens of times, and once again, it chased after you. You couldn't outrun it and found your party wiped out for the umpteenth time. Then, you finally founnd yourself strong enough to stand up to the beast and engage it in combat. You spent 15 straight minutes of positioning yourself, stringing together combos and micromanaging your team to prevent your untimely demise. Then, at last, it cried and fell. After being a menace for hours, you killed that Unique Monster — only to remember they're all over the world. Unique Monsters have been a thorn in players' sides since the very beginning of the "Xenoblade" series. The series' latest release isn't any different.
Released at the end of September 2018, "Torna — The Golden country" is the latest addition to the "Xenoblade" Series. It follows the third title of the series, "Xenoblade Chronicles 2" — a role-playing game released by Monolith Soft for the Nintendo Switch in December of 2017.
Although "Torna — The Golden Country" was released as a standalone game, it is actually an expansion to "Xenoblade Chronicles 2." This prequel is set in Torna, a country whose history 500 years prior to "Xenoblade Chronicles 2" is integral to the motivations of several central characters in the base game. This expansion tells players Torna’s story. While "Xenoblade Chronicles" 2 was released nearly a year ago, "Torna — The Golden Country" might be some players’ first taste of the "Xenoblade" series and acts as a fair introduction.
I played and enjoyed "Xenoblade Chronicles 2," so "The Golden Country" was something I was interested in. While I was on the fence about buying it, the game was definitely worth the investment. It had everything that I enjoyed about the base game and more. Its story was captivating, the gameplay was fun and just running around the world doing nothing in particular was satisfying.
On The Tornan Front
As players learn from the very start, the world of Alrest is being devastated by a man named Malos, the Aegis. The Aegis is said to be a manifestation of the word of Alrest’s God, the Architect. The main characters of the expansion are fighting against Malos to stop him and his trail of destruction.
The story of Torna is not a surprise to players of the base game of "Xenoblade Chronicles 2," as it's mentioned several times. The "Xenoblade" games are often revered for their stories. So, some might question why Torna even exists, when many players already know how the game’s going to end before the moment they hit start. In the case of "The Golden Country," the story is more about the journey than the destination. I knew how the game would end the moment I began, yet I still enjoyed the quest that the main characters undertook to get to there.
After being out for nearly a year, "Xenoblade Chronicles 2" has been thrust back into the spotlight by this expansion, rekindling the love that existing fans had and bringing in new fans. For those who are not privy to the story of the country of Torna, the game is sure to draw them in. While the story lures them in, it's the characters that hook them.
In the case of "The Golden Country," the story is more about the journey than the destination. I knew how the game would end the moment I began, and yet I still enjoyed the quest that the main characters undertook to get to there.
"The Golden Country" has nine main characters. The cast is strong and likable and they have their moments that add to their charm. Complementing the main characters of "The Golden Country" are the citizens of the eponymous kingdom. However, most of these citizens don’t make their mark in the story of Torna, but in the side quests that players can undertake as they traverse the world.
Trials and Tribulations
The main cast’s opposition of Malos makes up the bulk of "The Golden Country," and there is a lot to do to that end. All of the content in "The Golden Country" is impressive given the fact that it was an add-on to an existing game.
"The Golden Country"’s gameplay is an enhanced version of the base game’s, and the improvements are evident.
As is usual for "Xenoblade" games, "The Golden Country" gives players a breathtaking world to explore. It is tiny compared to the entirety of Alrest — the base game’s setting — but that single country still keeps players occupied for quite some time. As players explore, they will find themselves beset by leagues of different monsters, some more hostile than others. In its combat, "The Golden Country"’s gameplay is an enhanced version of the base game’s, and the improvements are evident.
Basic gameplay is the same as previous "Xenoblade" games, with characters attacking on a timer without player input. With each attack, characters build up powerful Arts, which players can use at will.
On Alrest, beings known as Blades empower their partners during combat, humans who are called Drivers. In the base game, players can switch between three separate Blades while in battle. In The Golden Country, the main difference comes in its Team System. Each Driver and their Blades make up a team. In battle, Drivers and Blades can switch at the press of a button so that players control a completely different character. This Team System makes the battles seem more fast paced and action packed.
Combat and character customization is incredibly complex. Though, once players get the hang of it, it can be incredibly satisfying to pull off combos and see towering monsters fall before your might. There is no shortage of challenge in "The Golden Country," even though it’s small compared to the base game. In addition to the required story bosses, there are field bosses, which the game calls Unique Monsters, a staple of "Xenoblade" games. Taking down a Unique Monster is not easy, but players are sure to feel proud when they finally kill one and a grave pops up to mark the achievement.
"The Golden Country" goes beyond running around the kingdom and killing monsters. Another tradition of "Xenoblade" games — which "The Golden Country" continues — is offering a wealth of side quests to the player. In the case of side quests, I feel like the smaller setting helps greatly. The smaller setting allows for a smaller cast of side characters, and with a smaller cast of side characters, each can be more developed. With the small cast, many characters have multiple quests. These quests have you helping the people in several ways, whether it be by killing monsters or collecting materials so someone can make a vase. As the players do the quests, they come to like the people of Torna more and more.
"The Golden Country" has a Community menu, which tracks all of the characters the player has helped. Players can feel a sense of fulfillment as they see the list fill up, from that first side quest when there’s a single name to the end of the game when there’s dozens. It makes the player feel like they’ve made an impact on Torna, knowing that so many of its citizens are thankful to them.
Glory of The Golden Country
Exploration, combat and side quests make up "Torna — The Golden Country." Assuming players don’t rush through the story, those things will keep them playing for hours. My personal play-through of the game took me a little less than 29 hours, and I wasn’t done. I beat the main story and did all the side quests that I could find, but I knew there was more. For true completionists, "The Golden Country" has even more content: more Unique Monsters to kill, more people to help build your Community and more skills to learn.
I beat the main story and did all the side quests that I could find, but I knew there was more.
"The Golden Country" was meant to give players a glimpse into Alrest’s past. It also gave them a glimpse into its future. The last thing that players see after the credits of the game is the beginning of a scene from the early hours of the base game. Experienced players know that the events of "The Golden Country" lead to that moment. For newcomers, it is another lure. After everything they’d have gone through, the game teases them, telling them that they’d have to go and play the base game to see what happens. I played the base game, and after "The Golden Country," I’m tempted to play it again. For anyone who started the expansion and enjoyed it, I hope that they go on to play the base game. Everything they enjoyed and more is there, most notably hundreds of hours of more content.
For what is was, a small expansion to explore the history of the world of Alrest, "Torna — The Golden Country" is engaging, fun and challenging. For anyone who is a fan of RPGs, especially ones like "Xenoblade," it is definitely worth the investment.