Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power, the third installment of the magically infused physics based puzzle platforming game, returns with loads of changes. Although the three main characters, Pontius the knight, Amadeus the wizard, and Zoya the thief are more-or-less the same ones fans have grown to know, the world around them has changed. The most prominent difference being that levels now feature depth, and characters can run in or out from the screen to complete puzzles.
Too Much Depth
As gorgeous as the game is with its more open gameplay, I'd happily trade out the extra depth and return to the 2.5D style from previous games if it meant better controls. Levels can't be rotated, so it's not uncommon to accidentally fall off a ledge when running around a back area that's obscured by walls and objects. It's not always easy to see where the floor ends when running outward from the screen, leading to many accidental deaths. Add to that how Pontius' new charge move can cause him to run off a cliff too, and you've got a lot of death on your hands, even for a platforming puzzle game. Fortunately, character spirits return and can be picked up by nearby allies.
For those who aren't familiar with the Trine series, three distinct characters are magically bonded to each other through an artifact called The Trine. Those playing solo can switch between the three characters to use their combined skills to solve a series of puzzles. Amadeus can summon boxes and levitate objects, Zoya has a bow and grapple, and Pontius has a sword and shield. It takes timing and coordination, but it's all worth it just to explore the gorgeous scenery, marked by giant creatures and spectacular artwork.
Those who would rather not go it alone can team up with two companions in local or online cooperative play. This makes the game significantly easier, since it's possible to have duplicate characters running around, solving puzzles, and grabbing up magical pyramids called Trineangles. But even with help, the game has a tendency to get in its own way, with resurrection spirits appearing in hard to see locations and camera angles that look straight at a wall instead of the character.
Not the Trine You Thought You Knew
Artifacts of Power kicks off with the main characters accidentally breaking the artifact, then discovering the object's history while trying to put it back together in time to confront an eminent threat to the world. The game has a number of significant gameplay changes compared to previous games. Besides the added depth, the game does away with the skill tree system, so the characters remain more or less the same throughout the game and there's no real sense of character progression.
Instead of skills, collecting Trineangles goes towards unlocking new areas, accessible through a hub that looks like a wood carving. You can't access new areas unless you have a minimum number of Trineangles, which requires players to revisit previous areas and side missions to try and grab them all up. As pretty as the hub might be, it presents a noticeable break in the gameplay. There's no smooth, continuous, adventure like the ones seen in previous games, and the hub is likely a means of distracting from how short the game is.
The puzzles themselves offer a nice challenge, but not many stand out. There are a few too many that involve swinging over a pit of spikes or other hazards, and too few challenges that involve memorable bosses like the giant junk monster seen at the start of the game. Then there are the side missions that focus on single characters. These short sequences end up taking away some of the game's charm instead of adding to it, since dying means you have to restart the level from the beginning if you're playing alone. There's also the fact that you have to play these side quests, even though their stories don't add anything to the main campaign, because you need the Trineangles to unlock campaign levels.
Working Independently Together
Although Trine 3 has full gamepad support, it is one of the few platforming games I prefer playing with a mouse and keyboard. Things felt a little unwieldy for me using the gamepad, from moving levitated objects around, to tying off the Zoya's rope, to picking targets with the bow. There's a sequence where Amadeus must fend off waves of creatures by smashing them with a magical box, and it's twice as difficult when maneuvering with a gamepad. Mouse controls just feel faster and more intuitive.
Artifacts of Power hits most of the right marks. There are some wonderfully creative physics based puzzles, multiplayer support, and breathtaking graphics. There's even some nice humor in the game, like when Amadeus briefly tries to explain why getting into the Wizard's Academy is so weird and difficult.
At the same time, there's a feeling that the game lost something when it went fully 3D. Perhaps it's appropriate that the game starts off with The Trine breaking. The game does an admirable job at piecing things together, but there is still something noticeably off about it.
This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power is now available on PC for $21.99.
Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power
- Gorgeous graphics
- Creative physics puzzles
- Cooperative multiplayer
- Some camera issues
- Short campaign
- Returning to hub breaks the action
Steven Wong posted a new article, Trine 3: Artifacts of Power Review: Power in Threes
Sounds like they fell for one of the classic blunders, the first of course is to never get involved in a land war in Asia, but the second is to make sure you only keep what you need in a 2D to 3D game transition.
Nice writeup. It really looks gorgeous but I think this will be a steam bargain title for me.
Apparently the reason the game is so short and includes a shoe-horned "cliffhanger" ending is because the developer ran out of cash:
Crazy they actually admitted it.
They went overboard, which given the graphic fidelity of their initial offerings was definitely not out the realm of possibility.
That's quite the underestimate - it would cost at least three times as much to do what they thought they could?