Review: Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power

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When I first heard about Trine 3, my first thought was, “Why another one?” It’s not exactly a healthy way to view a game franchise, but my reasoning was thus: Trine 2 was an incredibly well made game that offered plenty of fun for solo or co-op play, in a beautiful fantasy world of puzzles and challenging combat moments. Did Frozenbyte really need to delve yet again into the Trine universe?

I stopped asking that question about five seconds into playing the opening level. But there I was asking it all over again by the end.

As with the previous two installments, Trine 3 starts off by introducing players to each of the main characters in a solo level. Opening the game as Pontius, I was immediately blown away by how well the familiar gameplay had transitioned from a rich two-dimensional, side-scrolling, puzzle-platforming adventure to a full on three-dimensional world, using the brave and blusterous knight’s shield to glide through the air in a gorgeous canyon while chasing after a dastardly sheep thief. No longer is the amazingly detailed world just a background set dressing; rather, the game world is now a gorgeous, fully realized environment that allows for open exploration–and the camera simply follows along. 

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Getting to each new level is handled a bit differently from past titles as Frozenbyte has now created a woodcut-like tabletop overworld that allows players to move freely and pick the level they want to play. The downside is that access to each level is gated behind a collectible requirement. “Trineangles” are the currency necessary to unlock new levels and can be found throughout or are awarded for completion of each level. “Optional” challenge levels offer additional Trineangles–which basically means these challenges aren’t optional. Since the challenge levels are designed specifically for each of the three main characters, the game begins to show a few flaws.

In Trine 2, when enough of the equivalent to the Trineangles were collected, points could be spent to unlock new abilities or attacks across each of the heroes.  This concept is completely missing from Trine 3. In Trine 2 you often had to carefully judge how points were spent to maximize the heroes’ effectiveness in a given level. With this feature missing, Trine 3 feels almost too easy because the combat and puzzle solving has been simplified due to no longer needing to be designed around that lack of those extra powers and abilities. Even though the world is fully realized in three dimensions, there is always only one linear path forward. Gone from this game are the very specific needs of having two or three players help to gain every Trineangle. (Though the game does support co-op for up to three players, locally or online.)

I’m not saying that the level design is bad; in fact the lush visuals are a true sight to behold. The environments are wonderful eye candy, no doubt about it. But once an area has been passed through, there isn’t any real reason to go back. Combat feels the same way. For the most part when combat occurs, the easiest and fastest way to dispatch enemies is to switch to Pontius (who has a shield and sword) and mash the attack button until the enemies are dead. Playing through one of the challenge levels as Amadeus the wizard, I realized his style of “combat” was pretty satisfying. The ability to summon a large metal cube over the heads of enemies and then have it smash down on a group was a lot of fun, if not a bit unorthodox. Since Zoya the thief’s wide array of ice and fire arrows (or becoming a shadow figure) are no more, her role in battle is very meager, especially once you also factor in how much trickier it is to target arrows now that the world is three dimensional.

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Trine 3 largely disappoints when it comes to story. The premise this time around is that the three heroes have grown tired of their connection to each other and the mystical object known as the Trine (or as this game reveals, is the Artifact of Soul). They set out to try and reverse what was granted to them, and in doing so manage to destroy the Trine instead. Meanwhile exposition is presented about an old King who tries to use the Artifacts of Power (similar to the Trine) to keep from dying. Without the Artifact of Soul, the King becomes a corrupt spirit names Sarek, bent on controlling the Trine. Once broken, the parts are collected by the corrupt spirit of Sarek and the heroes resolve to restore the parts and stop the King. Unfortunately, as this quest plays out, the game abruptly ends after the heroes only collect two of the parts. Yup. The game ends before the story is complete and has reached a satisfying resolution.

I’m not one to complain about games being “too short,” but for the game to just give up before the story is complete (while showing a cutscene that clearly alludes to further action needing to be taken in order to save the day) is downright baffling design choice. There has been much said from Frozenbyte about why they released the game as they have. I can understand their point of view, and even with its faults the game is good fun to play. Visually, Trine 3 is a treat, and the music by Ari Pulkkinen adds to the Trine magic, as it always does. But the experience could be so much more. The game, which even began in Steam Early Access, simply doesn’t feel finished and, after a wonderful start, becomes underwhelming by the end and doesn’t fully satisfy in the way that it should.

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Pros:
+ Visually amazing
+ True three-dimensional exploration

Cons:
– Levels are gated by collectible Trineangles, impeding story progression
– Game ends before the story is complete
– Lack of ability upgrades causes puzzles and combat to feel too easy and linear

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Frozenbyte
Developer: Frozenbyte
Release Date: 8/20/2015
Genre: 3D Puzzle-Platformer
Players: 1-3 (local and online co-op)
Buy From: Steam, GOG, Humble Store

Source: Review code provided by developer.

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.