After toiling away for several years following their formation, Finnish developer Frozenbyte hit the big time in 2009 with the release of Trine. The fantasy-based platformer garnered praise for its pleasant looks and creative puzzles, and the 2011 sequel achieved even higher scores, as the studio refined their approach to the genre to near perfection. Having already conquered the world of 2.5D platforming, the studio decided to aim even higher for the next chapter in the franchise, Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power. After hitting Steam Early Access this past summer, the sequel has now officially made its way to the PlayStation 4.
Eschewing the 2.5D world which had been a staple of the franchise, Trine 3 opts for the 3D route. Our trio of heroes, Pontius, Zoya and Amadeus can now fully explore the various fantastic worlds they traverse. While not a full 3D adventure, the bigger environments allow for the three to explore the foreground and background of each area. By bringing in another dimension, Frozenbyte has been able to craft new puzzles that take full advantage of both the open space and each heroes’ ability. Zoya can swing on a full three dimensional plane, Pontius can move freely during battle and Amadeus’ box maneuvering has a wider range of motion.
While the more layered environments are nice to explore, I can’t help but wonder if the decision to move away from the formula of the past games was a bad idea. Moving into the foreground and background of each area feels clumsy, and with the camera staying in the same position most of the time, it’s easy to lose track of your character. It often feels like an early example of 3D platforming, one where the developers struggled with understanding how to handle the extra dimension. It reminds me of the early Crash Badicoot games in some ways. It’s functional, but not on the level of most of the competition out there.
I also worry that by spending more money working on the bigger levels, Frozenbyte chose to eliminate the progression abilities of the three heroes. The previous two entries allowed you to use skill points in order to open up new abilities, and for some odd reason, that feature didn’t return this time around. Now, these powers could have just been removed because the extra dimension was too hard to program abilities for, but it still feels like a step down for the franchise. There’s little to each of the characters outside of their very basic skills. No new weapons for Zoya and Pontius, and Amadeus can no longer create more than one basic box at a time.
Although strange that some of these features were cut from Trine 3, the title at least retains the three-person cooperative play introduced in the previous entry in the series. Unfortunately, online play is not included in the PS4 version, but you can still gather two other friends together for a solid multiplayer adventure. If you can’t get anyone together, though, playing through the story by yourself is just as manageable. Like most multiplayer focused games, playing with buddies is better here, but there’s nothing bad about playing all by your lonesome either. Except for the crushing feeling of loneliness that accompanies that playthrough.
Once again, the story focuses on the heroic trio of Amadeus, the wizard, Pontius, the knight, and Zoya, the thief. The three are called into action by the Trine, a mystic artifact that blessed the three with unique powers (which aren’t really on display here, but I digress), in order to save a wizard academy from danger. However, in an attempt to break free of Trine’s power, the three unwittingly unleash a long-hidden malevolent force. Now, with slightly diminished powers, the group must wage their hardest battle yet.
The Trine series has never been particularly strong story-wise, and this outing is no different. The characters are loosely defined and the plot is barely touched upon. Previous titles have at least tried to expand on the history of our heroes and what they are supposed to be doing, but there is pretty much nothing going on here. The story sputters around until it comes to a shockingly abrupt ending.
You see, after about five hours or so, and just when things appear to be moving forward, Trine 3 ends on a cliffhanger ending. To slightly spoil things, our heroes need to collect three different pieces of the shattered Trine. A solid quest, but the title wraps up after you literally collect only a portion of the artifact. And considering the fact that the story takes place over eight main missions, it’s a little bit of a gyp to think that the first three missions are tutorials for each hero.
There are some smaller side missions as well, but they are both short and inconsequential to the plot. I feel bad about coming down too hard on Frozenbyte for this, as they claim money issues prevented them from expanding the title, but the game really does feel unfinished.
At least Frozenbyte was able to bring the same colorful palette to Trine 3, as the visuals are once again on point. The environments, as few as there are, are richly colored and have a surprising amount of detail to them. Branches and leaves for the outdoor sections, and tomes and potions while you are inside the Wizard Academy. The character models are a little on the rough side, however. You don’t typically notice it during the gameplay segments, but once a cutscene starts, you’ll notice the iffy models and bad clipping. At least it has those rich, rich colors, though.
Coming into Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power, I was well aware of the divided opinions on the PC version of the title. Unfortunately, outside of one additional quest and a small epilogue, all of the issues that plagued the Early Access release are still found here. The move to 3D gameplay was a poor decision, as clumsy controls and camera issues make playing the game more of a pain than it should be. And even with the added conclusion, the story still feels too short and poorly concluded. With the state of the franchise up in the air following this release, it would be a shame if this was our last adventure with Pontius, Amadeus and Zoya.
This review was based off the PlayStation 4 version of the title, which we were provided with.
In many ways a step down for the franchise, Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power is an unfortunate combination of lackluster 3D platforming and unfinished storytelling.