Ender Quest: Trine
Ender Quest (En-DURR kwest): A gamer’s unrelenting quest to finally complete a game, whether for the story or for Trophies and Achievements (or both).
Trine 2 just came out: with it came fond memories of the action/side-scrolling platformer that started the franchise, Trine.
I started Trine half a year ago: having heard how good it was and taking a chance in the Playstation Store, I downloaded Trine and was very pleased. Never heard of Trine? Well here’s what it’s about.
Story and Presentation
Trine has as basic a premise as any game: a wizard, a knight, and a thief run into each other in a magical school and get bound together by a magical artifact called the Trine. They are forced to go on a quest to save the troubled kingdom from destruction and find a way to free themselves from each other. Simple, right?
Yeah, the story isn’t anything to write home about. There isn’t anything incredibly deep about it. But that’s where it shines.
It seems game developer Frozenbyte decided to keep cinematic custscenes out and (not so) lengthy expositions to loading screens.
Trine puts you into a beautiful game with fantastic visuals (especially for a downloadable game) and gives you three simple characters whose backgrounds and personalities are laid out through the narrative and with their banter throughout the levels. Amadeus, the Wizard, is a magician desperately trying to learn the fireball spell to increase his social profile among the wizarding community; Pontius, the Knight, is incredibly serious about his duty to serve; and Zoya, the Thief, is out to find the ultimate treasure.
As the game goes on, though, it balances a charm unseen since perhaps PS2’s Prince of Persia with a subtle hint of maturity: try as he may, Amadeus comically finds himself creating all kinds of spells but just can’t nail that fireball spell (and maybe he’s better off with the spells he has); Pontius finds that his often (self-)lauded strength and skill can serve a greater purpose than just as a misused knight; and Zoya finds herself haunted by the tranquility of the wilderness they journey through—a tranquility she has never found before.
But it isn’t just these few elements that make Trine enjoyable: no, most of what makes Trine really fun is actually playing it.
Everything comes down to the Trine: the three characters are bound mind, body and soul. In gametalk this means you have a reason that rationlizes why you can switch between the Wizard, the Knight and the Thief during gameplay. Each character has a role: the Wizard plays a supportive role, creating objects that provide a means of exploration and puzzle-solving. The Knight is your aggressor, solely used for defending and attacking against the enemies you’ll encounter. The Thief is the bridge between the two, providing long range attacks with her bow and arrow and a further means of exploration with her grappling hook.
The greatest thing about the roles, though, is that as the levels progress, the lines between them begin to blur. You’ll find the Wizard dropping metal crates out of thin air on top of hard to reach enemies, the knight knocking down barriers, and the Thief becoming more of a boon with her upgraded arrow attacks and her grappling hook attaching to the Wizard’s creations. It’s in these ways that the game’s narrative—with the three needing to work closer together, as one, to soldier on through their obstacles—really makes itself known in the later level design.
You don’t just know that the team is supposed to be growing closer together as they continue their quest: you experience it and feel it in a way words could never do justice. It’s not even explicitly forced on you. Trine gives you little instruction, forcing you to come to these intuitive realizations on your own. It’s an evolution that just becomes second nature, to the extent you may not even understand how subtly Frozenbyte layered the story and gameplay together.
What follows in the game’s 15 levels is an onslaught of undead warriors, tons of secrets and experience to find, and puzzles that can only be solved through experimentation with the game’s fantastic physics engine—an engine that allows everything from the Wizard’s crates and platforms to the Knight’s weapons to the Thief’s arrows to interact with nearly everything in the world. It’s in this way that such a linear game can offer such creative freedom in problem-solving: think of real ways you’d solve a problem like the ones offered, and it’ll probably work in the game. This gets even more challenging—and perhaps more rewarding—when another player joins in, forcing you two (or three) to really work together to get the most effective results. Trine is probably one of the greatest ways to test one’s ability to communicate.
So Why Did I Stop Playing?
Trine has a few problems. Occasionally when the action got heavy, there would be large frame rate drops, making actions more of a hectic flurry of stop-motion violence than gorgeous 3D animation. Also, for whatever reason, the physics engine occasionally went haywire and glitched just enough to disturb things for a moment. But these problems were infrequent and not bothersome enough to be a gamebreaker.
The game’s puzzles are challenging at times, though not nearly as challenging as some other games I’ve played before. Finding ways to find “secrets” and experience is just a little more difficult, although, again, this becomes easier when you’ve unlocked more abilities and decide to backtrack previous levels. The difficulty comes mainly in the enemies you’ll encounter periodically: skeleton warriors of several different enemy types who will spawn and be a pain in your ass for a few minutes until you’ve killed them all. But, like any game, this is something you’ll get used to as you play, and with attack upgrades giving your characters more abilities and items giving your characters stat boosts, this becomes less of a problem when you’ve become accustomed to these foes and their weaknesses.
So what really stopped me?
I was lonely.
I had this fantastic game whose very story and underlying gameplay encouraged comraderie, and I had no one to share that experience with. I had friends who played with me briefly, but these were short periods of times accentuated by the fact that Trine could only be played locally.
Also, when you did play with others, the aforementioned glitches came out every so often, and made the experience either slightly less fun, or waaaay more fun as you and your buddy (or buddies) laughed at the random way physics got ignored in Trine’s world. But these were generally only in the most cluttered moments, which happens maybe once or twice towards the latter end of the game.
A few other annoyances were present, too. The lack of enemy type, for example: bosses, for example, were limited to a giant skeleton with a sword and some weird monster armadillo with a glowing Godzilla-like dermal plate on his back. Both are pushovers in terms of difficulty, especially if you exploit them just the right way. Another is the way that the physics work against you, as with the later ability to make floating platforms. These pyramid-shaped platforms moved in three dimensions in a two dimensional world: meaning if you tried to use it to stand on and float up to a ledge it would wobble uncontrollably with the slightest movement until your character fell off for the tenth time.
Finally Completing The Game
Without spoiling anything, I can say this: finally completing the game was a bittersweet experience. I had a ton of fun braving and manipulating the world of Trine again. I even got to bring along a buddy again to overcome some obstacles later in the game. But when I got to the last stage, the “Tower of Sarek” portion, I was met by a challenging, mostly-vertical level that seemed to build up to this possibly crazy boss fight, and ended with… well, nothing.
I was… content enough with the story’s ending, even if it was a little bit of the “happily ever after” ending (that makes me wonder how the three would come together again for Trine 2). But overall that build up of anticipation led to a largely bland ending that felt very weak and… unfinished (which may be why the three were brought back together for Trine 2).
All in all, it was an extremely fun journey,one that has made me excited to replay it after all this time, and makes me especially excited to tackle Trine 2. Warts and all, this is a fantastic Playstation Network Exclusive and deserves to be played by anyone with $5 to spare (that is the current discounted price on the PSN) or a little more on the PC.
(Seriously, it’s $5 bucks).