Review: Trine (Frozenbyte)
JULY 17, 2009
Note: Played through the entire game in single player mode for this review. The co-op mode was untested.
On paper, the concept behind Trine sounds like a real winner. Switching between characters with different abilities in order to defeat enemies and get the better of platforming-based puzzles sounds just like my cup of tea.
Yet while Trine is incredibly polished and play flows along smoothly, Frozenbyte also miss the mark in many areas, leaving a feeling of unbalance and wasted opportunity. It had the potential to be fantastic, but have no fear - it's still damn good fun.
The concept goes something like this: A wizard, a thief and a warrior are stuck together by forces unknown, and set out on a quest to find means of separating themselves. Oh, and there's an army of the undead on the loose too.
Our three heroes can only be summoned one at a time and are useful for different situations. The wizard can move objects around with his levitation powers and conjure up objects like boxes and bridges - clearly advantageous for progressing. The thief can use her ninja-like rope swinging skills to traverse chasms and the like (as long as there is a helpfully placed wooden ceiling, of course) and hold enemies back with her bow and arrow.
Last but definitely not least is the rather cliched strong-but-dumb warrior who swings his sword around and can reduce a room full of animated skeletons to piles of bones. He is easily the weapon of choice when taking on any baddies.
And this is where the first problem with Trine lies. Meeting enemies is a regular occurrence and, while the wizard can shower anything evil with objects and the thief can arrow the undead, there really is no substitute for simple slicing anything that moves to their second death.
This means that generally I spent the majority of my time lugging the big fat brute around. He can kill easily, he can traverse platforms just as well as the other two classes and really the only reason to switch is to pass puzzles which honestly don't come about as often as I would have liked. This unbalanced nature of play leaves a sour taste in the mouth. A better spread of combat and puzzles would have eased this problem.
See, if I had it my way, I'd like to see more use of the wizard. Creating objects out of thin air is great fun - especially when combining all your creations in the construction of a tower, bridge or other useful structure. One strange design decision, however, comes from the wizard's levitation powers. Picking up carets and the like is fine and they spin satisfyingly around your point of pickup. However, try lobbing your ammo of choice and you'll find it simply stops instantly in the air before falling straight downwards. It baffles me as to why Frozenbyte would choose to deny their near-perfect physics system something which could be great fun.. Perhaps during testing the team decided chucking huge rocks around made everything a little too easy.
I should probably get round to mentioning those graphics, right? Yeah, it does look as stunning in action as it does in the trailers. An incredible amount of effort has gone into creating a gloriously detailed fantasy world full of personality and charm. From the dingy dungeons to the beautiful outdoor ruins sections, Trine really sets the bar for how independent games should look, yet gives off a feeling that it's all done with relative ease.
In fact the whole game as an experience feels pretty easy going and it's that feeling which was most enjoyable. Take death, for example: If you die as one character, you simply spawn as one of the remaining three a little way back and continue until your comrade is revived at a checkpoint. Even the collect-a-thon that is grabbing lots of green and blue bottles isn't much of a chore - I found myself keeping my eyes peeled for them along the way because I actually wanted to find them all. That's rare for me!
Yet it is this laidback attitude which digs Trine into a hole that gets deeper and deeper with progression. The enemies aren't exactly varied - we've got skeletons, skeletons with shields, skeletons with armour, skeletons with bows and arrows, skeletons with shields AND armour... oh, and bats. Those damn bats. OK, so there are a couple of slightly larger enemies too now and again, but that's pretty much it. After killing the same enemies for 5 hours straight, it does get slightly boring.
Trine is great platforming fun let down by a number of silly niggles, but the question is should you give it a go? I'd say if you really enjoy the demo then go for it - the rest of the game follows suit, so you won't be disappointed. For anyone else, it might be best to wait for a Steam weekend sale and pick it up then instead, as it's a little pricey at $30.
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