NS Review – Trine 3: The Artifact of Power

Having never played any of the previous instalments in the Trine series before, I was instantly allured by the wondrous medieval, fantasy-like scenery. Developed by Frozenbyte and initially released in 2015, this 3D puzzle solving platforming adventure game finds its way onto the Switch, following in the footsteps of the previous two titles that launched on the system within the last year. Trine 3 is the series’ first foray into 3D platforming, with the previous two titles having been 2.5D side scrolling games. But sadly, that foray doesn’t seem to have paid off. Trine 4 is due for release later this year, and it’s returning to the tried and true 2.5D formula, and I can see why.

Stunning scenery brings Trine 3 to life, just like a fairy tale.

I can’t say Trine 3 has benefited greatly from the transition to ‘fully 3D’; neither has it truly embraced the idea of being a ‘fully 3D’ platformer. With a fixed camera that chooses to mostly maintain a side scrolling perspective, and on occasion explore other angles, it’s impossible to compare it to the likes of 3D platforming giants such as Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie. Instead, it feels more like a 2.5D side scroller that lets you explore the background, with very little value. When we are treated to the addition of a forward-facing camera, it just seems to hinder spatial awareness. On occasions I would jump towards a trineangle, the collectable currency found throughout each level, and not realise that I was further in the background or foreground than I initially thought, leading to my inevitable death.

Depth perception.

Despite the change in dimensions, the three main protagonists return in Trine 3: Ser Pontius, a beer bellied knight equipped with a sword and shield; Zoya, the thief, who can utilise rope with conveniently placed grappling points, and Amadeus the sorcerer, capable of conjuring boxes. We’re slowly introduced to each character with their own level dedicated to highlighting their unique abilities; playing through these introductory levels quickly taught me each character’s usefulness in puzzle solving and their skills in overcoming platforming challenges.

Left to Right: Pontius, Zoya and Amadeus.

Pontius’ abilities consist of swinging his sword, obviously helpful against enemies and cutting down objects. He also has a shield that is used for gliding, a charge attack for breaking walls and a ground pound, just like everyone’s favourite Italian plumber. Zoya on the other hand is more elegant in her approach. She has a bow, equally useful for combat and puzzle solving. In addition, she can use her rope to grapple objects towards or away from her, she can even use those grappling points to clear large gaps like a rope swing. Lastly, Amadeus can conjure boxes out of thin air, useful for reaching high areas, whether that be climbing on top of the box for the added height or its use as a counterweight on seesaws.

Pontius shield gliding past a beautiful aurora.

Upon completing each character’s level, we are given the option of switching between them on the fly, which leads to some more diverse puzzle solving. I found that some obstacles clearly set up for one character were also achievable for another. This was especially useful when a character died, and I was left with a different set of abilities to overcome the obstacle. You can collect a fallen character’s spirit to bring them back into the squad, but this wasn’t always possible as it requires you to stand near their spirit for a few seconds, which proved difficult when surrounded by enemies.

Poor guy has lost his arms, no wonder he’s angry.

Throughout the levels, previously mentioned trineangles can be found, which are used as a currency within the game to unlock later chapters. Each level has multiple checkpoints that can be accessed from the overworld, and it’ll even tell you how many trineangles you’ve found in each section. I found this to be of great use when backtracking through previously completed levels to meet the required amount of trineangles to continue. The overworld is used as an interactive level select screen and has a playful board game-like feel that fits perfectly with the whimsical fantasy theme seen throughout the game.

A magical overworld awaits.

In addition to the main levels that progress the story, there are side missions that can be accessed upon collecting enough trineangles. These are tailored to a specific character depending on which level is selected. They offer shorter, almost bite-sized levels that lend themselves well towards a handheld experience. Again, the purpose of these challenges is to collect trineangles, allowing us to continue the main quest if you’re falling a little short, but they still offered some unique puzzles along the way.

Side mission specifically for Zoya and her grapple.

A witty narrator introduces us to the story of Trine 3, he fulfils his role in telling the story in a whimsical fairy tale like fashion as we continue through the game. This does wonders to add character and a sense of identity to Trine 3. Whilst most of the jokes fall flat, you can tell a lot of care went into the scripting and voicing of the characters, it’s not trying to take itself too seriously, which perfectly fits the light-hearted fantasy theme seen throughout. Enhancing these enchanting themes further is a wonderful soundtrack by Ari Pulkkinen. The bright and bold, catchy main tune resonates and sets the tone for the big adventure that’s about to unfold. It really does capture the feeling of that magical, medieval, fantasy style that Trine 3 is bursting at the seams to show off.

Overall Trine 3 has suffered from its transition into 3D gameplay. I’ll still applaud Frozenbyte for trying to deviate from their usual Trine formula, but I’m happy to see that they’ve chosen to return to their wonderful 2.5D style for Trine 4, which is due for release later this year. Despite Trine 3 attempting to push the series forward, it lacks progression-based skill trees and opts to simplify character abilities in comparison to the previous titles. Trine 3 is severely lacking in in these aspects. But of course, the puzzle solving is the main driving force here, and I did still come across numerous inventive ways to solve them with the abilities that had managed to survive the cut and make it into the sequel.

Abandoned Ship…

Frozenbyte have done a good job at porting Trine 3’s vibrant visuals and picturesque settings over to the Switch, which look great regardless if you’re playing in docked, or in handheld mode. However, I did notice some frame rate drops when using certain abilities, such as Zoya tying two items together with her rope. For some reason this would absolutely tank the frame rate to the point I would restart the software just to give my eyes a well deserved rest.

All in all, If you’re looking for a light-hearted puzzle solving adventure game in 3D, then Trine 3 might just be what you’re looking for. However, I can’t help but feel the previous titles, or even the next instalment, might be a better first experience into this enchanting series. The style of game play here unfortunately works better in a different setting, but that’s not to say Trine 3 won’t give you some fun along the way. I guess the lesson we all learn at some point is, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’

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