Torna – The Golden Country:
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was a massive, endearing, wonderful adventure on a system that is still struggling for new content. It came out far earlier in the Switch’s lifespan than it had any right to – I’m still flummoxed by how such an impressively massive game got out of the gates in the consoles first year – and here we are not a year later with a big, generous expansion to that game in Torna – The Golden Country.
Using the solid groundwork of the original and running with it in interesting directions, Torna deserves to be picked up by everyone who loved Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
Set 500 years before our original tale, Torna walks a strange line. You don’t need to have played the original to completion to play Torna, but because it deals with characters that don’t immediately rear their heads in the base game and their origin stories, it feels like a bit of a spoiler to play this one first, and longtime fans will definitely reap more from the narrative than newcomers.
The story is fairly standard good versus evil fair, with plenty of Xenoblade’s weird sense of humour thrown in. If the base game didn’t get you howling it’s unlikely Torna is suddenly going to find your funny bone, but if you were one of the people who thought characters such as Tora were a laugh riot then you’re in good company here (though no one on the new team is as objectively awful as Tora was, thankfully.)
Speaking of the new team, they’re a good group to get to know. Besides adding weight to Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s main story (which it does in spades – prepare for future playthroughs to feel much more impactful when playing with the knowledge of what goes down in Torna) the game has a good enough yarn in and of itself to get me genuinely caring about my party and the people they were helping. And you’ll be helping a lot – the game basically demands you be a good Samaritan as often as possible just to progress. Do yourself a favour and do every side quest as it makes itself available to you – it’ll save you time in the long run.
Besides the fact that ‘side quests’ are anything but optional, Torna manages to keep up a good pace for the 20 hours you’ll be playing. The core of Xenoblade is as strong as it ever was in Torna, with plenty of impressive beasties to take down and really interesting locales to visit.
Rex’s unique ability to unlock new blades and swap his loadouts – which essentially boiled down to a randomised loot system – is predictably absent in Torna. Instead your party is made up of people with specific blades, so it makes sense that these systems received a bit of a rework for this expansion. More emphasis is put on your existing partner, and the battle system incorporates new wrinkles that allow you to shift positions on the battlefield for different perks and buffs. It works in making it a more invested mechanic, one that usually demands your attention in ways that XC2 sometimes failed to do.
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