Publisher: Versus Evil
Year Made: 2015
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4
Content Areas: English Language Arts, Art
Suggested Age Level: Middle School, High School
Play Length: 2-3 hours
Number of Players: Single Player
Difficulty Rating: Easy
More and more indie games are being developed with a focus on telling a good story and experimenting with new styles of gameplay. Toren is one of those games. Created by Brazilian developer Swordtales, Toren places players in the role of Moonchild, a young warrior who has lost her memories and forgotten her past inside a massive tower. Players lead Moonchild through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood as she climbs the tower and the Tree of Life on her journey to defeat the dragon atop it. Toren is a short myth that the player learns about and explores along with Moonchild as she grows up and recovers her memories.
By far, one of the most exciting parts of Toren is that it encourages failure. Encourages. In Toren, each failure is an opportunity to learn and can often provide with more insight to the story or help for attempting the challenge again. This not only encourages the kind of attitude toward perseverance and failure that many educators want to culture, but also lets players think outside of the box on puzzles.
Toren’s minimal guidance sometimes led to parts that were confusing to navigate. However, after a minute of wandering (or falling off the side of Toren), the path usually became clearer and it was easy to get back on track. Toren is also a rather short game, clocking in at two or three hours tops. With such a beautiful world and clearly rich backstory, it felt like there should have been more in the game than there was. Finally, the only real challenge in implementing Toren in a classroom is the needed controls. The creators of Toren themselves recommend using a console controller even if the game is played on a computer. In most classrooms, these controllers are not readily available. Toren can still be played with a traditional mouse, but it isn’t as smooth of an experience. If you want to achieve as immersive of an experience as possible, you can buy wired console controllers that connect to computers. The more game-based learning you do in your classroom or in your school, the better an investment of a class set of controllers is.
Toren features such a beautiful world where the visuals and symbols mean just as much as the story itself does. Art classes could extend their learning from the game by discussing these symbols and exploring what the world might look like in other aspects of these myths. They could even cross over with an English class and students could work together to design their own myths and levels or continue on with Toren in a new style or change up the story. Toren’s extensive use of personification (e.g. night, the sun, the moon) also opens the door for students to explore how different elements tie together to create a story.
With its more mature mythology and focus on learning through exploring and failing, Toren creates a gaming experience that has an excellent length for a cross-curricular focus in Language Arts and Art. Hopefully, funding and available classroom technology will catch up soon to provide as immersive of an experience in such rich stories as possible.
Educational Rating: 5/8
(Classroom Tech Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 6/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)