Back in December 2019, Shin'en Multimedia wowed us with a unique Switch exclusive: The Touryst. Defined by a stunning voxelised engine with a beautiful post-process pipeline, The Touryst looked like nothing we'd really seen before and now it is available to play on Xbox One, Xbox One X and PC, arriving day one on Game Pass. I highly recommend that you check it out.
The idea behind The Touryst is extremely straightforward - it's an exploration-based adventure that has you travelling between various islands, solving mysteries that lie beneath the surface. What's wonderful about the game is the sense of discovery and exploration. At no point does The Touryst tell you what to do, or bring up a large pointer ordering you where to go. With that in mind, figuring out what the game expects from you is half the fun.
And it's all delivered with that remarkable engine. Yes, the aesthetic is 'voxelised' but everything is still built from triangles, though the game worlds themselves are built using a tool known as MagicaVoxel. This makes it very easy to craft environments, which are then given a visual boost via Maya and injected into the game. A voxel-like aesthetic typically brings Minecraft to mind, and while The Touryst has a similar simplicity, the islands can be rich and dense in detail. The deferred lighting system is simply sublime with a wonderful dynamic range.
On Switch, Shin'en delivered a nigh-on perfect 60 frames per second and achieved this via dynamic resolution scaling with outdoor areas typically rendering at 810p to 900p with 1080p more common in the internal spaces. In mobile mode, resolution tended to vary between 612p and the display's native 720p. There are few surprises with Xbox One consoles: The Touryst runs at 1080p on the standard console, scaling up to full 4K on the Xbox One X. Just like the Switch version, there is no anti-aliasing - and this is by design, as pixelated edges are an essential part of the game's look, which would not benefit from today's post-process or temporal AA.
On PC, you can select your own preferred resolution of course but curiously, there is an anti-aliasing option. By design, The Touryst is relatively light on GPU resources, so Shin'en's chosen AA technique is brute-force super-sampling, which is to say that if you run at native 4K with AA enabled, the game is actually rendering internally at 8K instead and downscaling to your display resolution. In most other respects, The Touryst is essentially the same as the Switch version - just stripped of a dynamic resolution scaling system that is no longer required.
The one exception is shadow map resolution and associated resolution, which is significantly improved. Xbox One X and the PC version support 4096x4096 shadow maps with three cascades, which drops to 3584x3584 on the standard Xbox One. There's refinement then, but fundamentally, The Touryst doesn't really need improved shaders, extended draw distances or higher precision post-process pipelines. These ports from Switch deliver superb results simply from a push to higher resolution and improved shadow quality - though it would be interesting to see actual native 8K or indeed ray tracing added to a prospective Xbox Series X conversion. Shin'en Entertainment tells us that these conversions were all about getting to grips with DX12 - so why not DXR too?
All of which leads us on to performance, where perhaps not surprisingly, a game architected to run at 60 frames per second on Nintendo Switch runs flawlessly on Xbox One and Xbox One X. The only controversy surrounds the PC version, which does not support frame-rates in excess of 60 frames per second. Indeed, the game actually launched in a state that demanded that PC users at higher refresh rates dial back refresh rate to 60Hz before the game would boot. This has been addressed in a patch: the game will now play on a high refresh rate screen. However, it'll still be operating at 60fps - it's how the game was architected and there are no plans for this to change.
Regardless, it's great to see a firm traditionally associated with Nintendo exclusives branch out to other platforms and the results here are impressive. This port is a cleaner, crisper rendition of one of my favourite games of 2019 that has lost none of its charm in the transition to PC and Xbox One. It's also a remarkably small download (around 550MB) and in common with the Switch game, there are no real loading times whatsoever. It's beautifully slick in every way and I highly recommend playing it.
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