Torna ~ The Golden Country: An Exercise in Dramatic Irony


#1

Depending on if you’ve finished Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or not, Torna ~ The Golden Country could be a lovely, sometimes quite twee, 20-odd hour rpg(30 if you’re meticulous) about some likable folks making friends and having hijinks, on the way to saving the world. That, or it’s the most depresing, grim and foreboding 20 odd hours you’ll ever experience. And that’s real fuckin’ facinating to me.

The most recent Nintendo Direct called Torna a “perfect place to start” for newcomers, and I don’t think I can fault that, despite my initial scepticism. It’s mechanics are streamlined, dropping the micromanagement of the main game in favor of a set party, making it a more traditional RPG. There’s a lot of minor fixes I wish were in the main game too. And the focus on characters and relationships gives it legs outside of it’s connection to Xenoblade 2. It only really forefronts the plot side of things towards the end, and if that shift sits well with you, you’ll probably get along with the main game. But playing Torna first changes the way you experience the main game in a way I’ve not seen before.

Obviously it’s not the first prequel to do this, all prequels do, but Torna is the first time I’ve felt like the narrative was built with this in mind. By starting with Torna, you’re learning things before you would in the main game, sure. Character identities, relationships, lost histories, plenty. But an effort’s been made to ensure that these early reveals change the perception of the plot, not spoil it. There’s a version of Torna that makes playing through the main game a drag, as mysteries are set up that you already know the answers to, making for hours of characters very slowly catching up to you. Instead, by omitting certain details, you’re left with a different set of questions than the characters. You’re still going through an arc of understanding, picking apart of a mystery, just not the same one as you would be if you played the main game first.

And the other way around is just as interesting. Spoilers ahead for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, of course: There’s little done in the game itself to lend Torna the foreboding, bittersweet edge that permiated my 30 odd hours with it. The sense of dread that came from characters sharing close emotional moments wasn’t done through music or camerawork. It’s a flavor that comes out with the spice of knowing Torna’s fate.Outside of a vaguely threatening box/digital store page description, you’d never know how badly things would go. How doomed this place was.

It sometimes feels like the world of Torna was built to mock you. The Capital’s residents will gladly talk to you for days about how much they love their country. Torna is prosperous and peaceful while all you hear and see of other Titans is varying degrees of strife. There’s a whole mechanic centered on building up a “Community” through sidequests, establishing detailed interpersonal relationships between side characters. Side characters you, if you’re anything like me, will love a whole lot, and who will inevitably have their home destroyed. Such a huge difference is made by knowing Torna’s fate that it never left my mind throughout the entire game.

All this is to say that, obviously, I loved my time with Torna. I spoke little of the mechanics, but the streamlining works so well in it’s favor. I honestly I think I prefer it to the main game overall, though the two are different enough that there’s room in my heart for both. And I’m always here for shorter big-budget RPGs. Not everything gotta be 200 hours long(but also please port Xenoblade X, I need to put in another 500 hours). Absolutely reccomended weather you played Xenoblade 2 or not.

So anyone else enjoying the golden sands of Torna?


#2

I started back into the base game to finish it up and put about 3 hours into Torna yesterday… and I kinda love it.

The characters are all “known” but the main game only gave us snippets. It already feels different playing as these folks we knew from the base game. Mechanically, there’s so many tweaks that I wish were in the base game now. I had planned to go back and play some of the NG+ content, but it will be hard to return to after Torna.

One unexpected change is that since I know these are the characters and blades I’ll be using the entire game, it feels worthwhile to invest in making sure I progress their affinity grids. In the base game I didn’t bother because I never knew if I would end up benching a blade after spending hours unlocking their grid.

The tweaks do streamline a lot of things, but I wonder if Torna is actually more friendly for someone that didn’t play Xenoblade 2 because of the way it very quickly dumps so many systems onto the player that Xenoblade 2 took its time doling out.


#3

I really love it so far. The systems are more focused than the main game which I think does it wonders. I did grow to really enjoy the chaotic nonsense of all the weird not-quite-all-the-way fleshed out systems in the main game but the scaled back approach works so well for this expansion.

Also wow they finally let you look at tutorials in the menu instead of just showing you 400 of them in the span of 5 hours and then NEVER LETTING YOU LOOK BACK AT THEM


#4

Honestly going back to the main game the quality of life improvement from Torna I miss most is just having actually useful details on affinity chart chalanges. Wandering around for ages trying to find a specific enemy or guessing at favourite pouch items can get very irritating very fast.

Still gotta bo back and polish off the last big postgame thing in Torna though, the golden monsters. Big fan of the final sidequest though, I got to send my second favourite driver/blade lesbian couple in Xenoblade on an adventure, and the reveal at the end is very good.


#5

Now that I finished Torna, damn. I love it. I wish the mechanical tweaks they made for this expansion were present in the base game. Even if that were the case though, I think the base game remains weaker because of the gacha design of the blades. The base game makes them feel like glorified equipment rather than additional characters.

The way it fleshes out the world through the little side quests is great. It feels alive, especially as the stories start to overlap… all of it overshadowed by the events you know are coming. I love that the big events are already known from the story of the base game so the story in Torna can be more focused on the characters involved.

I’m taking a break for other games now, but will need to make time to come back and finish out the last few quests and challenges I have to do.


#6

I bought the season pass when Torna came out and am very much looking forward to sitting down with it, but I refuse to do so until the base game finally gives me KOS-MOS, just out of principle.


#7

Just checking in case anyone knows, but I’m confused about how to buy this digitally.

If I don’t own Xenoblade 2 in any way, does purchasing the season pass still work to allow me access this standalone game?

Just curious because the physical copy I can find in store is €10 more, but that might be the physical tax.


#8

No. If you don’t own Xenoblade 2, it costs $40 to purchase Torna as a stand alone. It’s available on the eShop if you prefer the digital download. Or you can buy the physical cart as you saw.

Buying Torna includes a season pass if you choose to buy the base game later, or if you purchased Xenoblade 2 + season pass you’d get Torna included.


#9

I can’t find it on the eShop, at least on the Nintendo UK site. I can double check on my Switch, because I can’t see why it wouldn’t be available standalone just here.


#10

Apparently you’re right. They didn’t make the digital stand alone available in the UK.

“Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna - The Golden Country will be available as DLC as part of the Expansion Pass from September 14th 2018, or as a standalone retail version from September 21st 2018.”

Quote is from the UK eShop store page.


#11

Can confirm, I went onto the eshop with my Switch. From the Xenoblade 2 page I can click the expansion pass. From the expansion pass page, I can click Torna. There I get to the page for the Torna DLC and see “this item is not available for purchase”.

Weird!