There is a certain kind of deriving pleasure from pain – playing games on Early Access. Sometimes developers roll out incomplete, barely running projects. Some really want players to find flaws and point them out to the makers, whereas some just want their product to generate income even before its actual release. The period between the launch of Early Access and the full release is unlimited, which means money can be pumped almost infinitely from the “dead horse”.
The more I was surprised that the developers of Frozenbyte released the new series of its flagship Trine on this very same Early Access. It would seem, they are not limited in any means, or in their experience, so why familiarise customers with the game so early on? Anyway, that was their choice, and we can have a glimpse of what awaits us.
Fair warning: the opinion presented here applies only to the current version of Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power, and possibly the ultimate verdict will be very different from this, so in any case the following text should not be considered final.
So, after two beautiful Trine platformers, which sold millions of copies around the world, it is time to continue the series. In the first part the player controlled three characters: a knight, a thief and a wizard who are stuck in one body. The player had to switch characters and use the skills of each to solve the brainteasers using jumps, stunts or the physics of objects. The second part of Trine offered players co-op for three in addition to a new story.
The third part, as it should be, also adds something new to the gameplay – the third dimension. Of course 2D-gameplay has been one of the pleasant aspects of the first two games (not counting the incredibly beautiful graphics), but this time it is depth that has undergone changes. The camera in the game is now, not only hanging from one side all the time, but also sometimes moves behind the characters, turning the traditional platformer in to a full modern fantasy adventure. However, the game is still not about beating the enemy over the head, but about solving various physics brainteasers and interactions with objects. Do we need have a periodically appearing third dimension? Well, maybe. Heroes now almost always can move not only forwards and backwards / up and down, but also move “inwards”, if the location allows it. This, incidentally, is not dependent on which camera is currently being used, whether it’s the static or pursuit one, because even the traditional Trine camera allows the use of all the possibilities of three-dimensional locations.
All seems to be well, new additions should increase the capabilities of the gameplay and make the puzzles even more difficult and, in general, it’s pursuing a noble goal. In reality though, the difficulty lies not in riddles, but in controls. Making an object move in three-dimensional space as necessary (eg, using the levitation powers of the wizard) is a difficult task and requires long practice. When it comes to the co-op, the complexity grows exponentially dictated by each new player added to the mix. It’s all fine when one player has figured out how to move in this new paradigm, but the game’s location always keeps moving forward and lagging partners … get killed by the game.
The last surprise waiting for players, who bought Trine 3 now, crept up in a completely unexpected place – the developers have given them only the first and second chapters to play. That is, it wasn’t even a full game: all that the developers have given the players can be done in about 15 minutes. Of course, that’s 15 minutes if you understand the controls, and if not, the first two chapters can take between one to two hours.
These are so far the only really obvious problems. The picture is still bright and oozing real magic. And in spite of that, at this stage, the project raises more fears than hopes. The authors had two really great games that were great to play, and it was interesting even to just watch someone play. But if they leave everything as it is, simply extending the story, I doubt that Trine 3 would achieve the same success as the first two. We can only wait for release and hope.