Sunday, August 4, 2019

Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power (NSW) Review

August is here at SuperPhillip Central, and we're hitting the ground running. SPC's first review of the month is for a game that is approximately four years old, but it arrived on the Nintendo Switch within the past week or so. It's Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power, and SuperPhillip Central has a full review of this Switch version.

A (hopefully) temporary stumble for the Trine series

Changing up a series from a formula that has been well received for two entries is one heck of a risk. However, developer Frozenbyte and its Trine series both did not wish to rest on their laurels. Opting to take the series from its 2.5D roots and moving it to three-dimensional environments, Frozenbyte saw great resistance and even worse reception with the final result. With a lackluster overall execution, Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power is a misstep and misfire for the Trine franchise, but it's not all bad either.

Trine 3 regathers the trio of heroes: Pontius the Knight, Amadeus the Wizard, and Zoya the Thief and brings them together once again against their best judgment courtesy of the mystical Trine. As with past games in the series, you begin playing as each character by their lonesome with their own exclusive level in order to learns the quick ins and outs of them. Then, by the fourth level, the three join forces and are able to be cycled through with the L and R shoulder buttons.

What's Amadeus's favorite holiday? Why, Boxing Day, of course!
Each hero has their own use with Pontius being the main attacker of group, with the abilities of charging into foes and walls with his shield, and colliding into the ground with great force with a downward smash attack. Meanwhile, Amadeus can conjure up one active box at a time, using it to hold down pressure plates as well as use it to reach greater heights. Finally, Zoya can shoot arrows as well as use her grappling hook to cross chasms and connect two objects together with a chain. However, with no skill tree in this installment of the Trine series, the three heroes are stuck with the abilities they start out with, making it so that puzzles that might have had multiple solutions to them only have one or two tops. This brings down the longevity of this already short game immensely.

Zoya uses her arrows to take out some of the local vegetation.
I call Trine 3 "short" because it unfortunately is. Right when the story is at its most interesting, you face a no-name boss, defeat it, and poof--the credits roll with one stone cold cliffhanger ending. It seems to me that transforming Trine from a series that focused on 2D environments and transplanting that into 3D made the developers underestimate the budget and time the game would cost, resulting in the adventure needing an abrupt ending.

Perhaps the team realized how short their game was because story missions are locked behind the forced collection of "Trine-angles" which replace the XP vials of the previous two games. Though, to be fair, this collectible aspect of the Trine series is improved by having the collectibles sorted by checkpoint from the world map screen. Thus, you need not scour an entire level just to search for a missing Trine-angle, as you can see which section of a given level you're missing Trine-angles in.

Regardless, apart from the eight story missions, there are also side missions where you play as one character exclusively. Some of these are standard puzzle-themed romps, while others are purely combat-centric, which definitely doesn't play well to the Trine series' strengths. Combat has always been sloppy and stiff in the series, and throwing that into three dimensions makes for an even more frustrating experience.

Time to hit the books, Pontius, before they start hitting you.
Trine 3's 3D environments are at first amazing and a nice fresh take on the franchise. However, when levels get more complicated and require more precision-based platforming, the fixed camera angles belie some truly tricky jumping at best and utter aggravation at worst. This is because it's next to impossible to calculate depth perception, as shadows are usually camouflaged by all the visual clutter in levels. Fortunately, death isn't too punishing and checkpoints are plentiful enough.

Moreover, at least in the Nintendo Switch version of Trine 3, some of the platforming delivers some... interesting results. On way too many occasions, I would attempt to grab onto a ledge, only to have my character swirl around in a circle in the air and be flung across the room. These particular platforming glitches happened way more often to the point where it was unacceptable and annoying to have it happen so often.
Despite the issues with Frozenbyte's transition to 3D with this third Trine installment, one part of Trine 3 that remains as stellar and as impressive as past entries is the gorgeous, GORGEOUS visuals on display. The game is jaw-dropping to look at, and that's whether you're playing it on the big screen or on the Switch screen in handheld play. Some visual aspects and effects can take away from the gameplay experience, sometimes making it difficult to tell important objects from the environment, but overall, Trine 3 is a delight to look at. It's also a delight to listen to with its whimsical fantasy score and excellent, charming voice acting.

The environments and the details within are so stunning to look at in Trine 3.
I commend the development team at Frozenbyte for taking a chance on the Trine series by fundamentally changing things up, despite this experiment not ultimately being a success. Unfortunately, even with the moments of pleasure and engagement I found with Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power, there were far too many points of frustration and downright aggravating glitches and issues to recommend this installment of the Trine series. It's good news that the upcoming Trine 4 will be returning to its 2.5D roots.

[SPC Says: C-]

A review code was provided for this game.

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