Trine 4 Preview - E3 2019
We get a brief look at the upcoming new chapter of the puzzle adventure series
The first Trine game came out what feels like ages ago - ten years. It might feel longer because we got so many follow ups since. Trine arrived on the scene in 2009 with its beautiful backgrounds and creative puzzles, got a sequel in 2011 that was perhaps even better, then flamed out in 2015 with a third game that tried to evolve the gameplay into a fully 3D environment. In ten years we've witnessed the birth, life, and rebirth of the franchise, so when it feels like Trine came out forever ago, it kind of did.
I'm a sucker for the Trine games. I've always thought their hyper-focused mechanics helped make a tight and well-paced experience. So how do you revitalize Trine for a new generation? How does one make Trine relevant again? Well, as many video game franchises are discovering these days - it's not so much the need to completely reinvent something that worked previously, but taking going back to the basics - rediscovering why it worked in the first place. That's what developer Frozenbyte seems keen to do, and that's what gives me hope for Trine 4.
At E3 2019, we had a chance to see the new title at a closed doors meeting, where improvements and evolution of the game were explained. But really, it looked like more Trine as far as I was concerned, with fun puzzles that can be solved in a variety of ways, switching between Amadeus the Wizard, Pontius the Knight, and Zoya the Thief. Seeing Amadeus use his magic to make boxes levitate instantly brought me back to the previous games.
While there's been a concerted effort to bring Trine back to its roots, there are still new things being added. One thing that Frozenbyte developers mentioned a few times was their plan to make combat more interesting, and that certainly came through in what they showed us. There were multiple times that the demo showed off scenarios that placed an emphasis on combat, and Frozenbyte has clearly brought the concept of using multiple powers to solve puzzles to these battles as well. They showed a need to freeze enemies as the thief, then use the wizard's magic to slam them into the ground. Or, if you're playing co-op, how you can float them as the wizard and shoot them as the thief. Trine has never really been about the combat, but this concerted goal to improve that aspect of the game is interesting.
There are also some cool new powers that the characters can use while solving puzzles. The one that really stood out to me was Zoya's ability to freeze her grappling hook, turning it into a platform to walk up, or using it to push platforms or boxes around. These little touches are certainly nice to make sure that Trine 4 doesn't feel too much like the previous games, adding little bits here and there to spice things up.
After the presentation, we were able to go hands-on with the game. This was a great opportunity to see how well Trine 4 actually played. We only got to play the opening chapter of the knight, but it was still a nice demo to try out. Again, so much of this feels like tried and true Trine. The knight has a slamming ability that I used to break through floors, and his blade to cut through debris. His shield reflected light, water, and enemy projectiles which were needed to grow plants or break through barriers. It all handled crisply and cleanly.
Much in line with the series, Trine 4 looks to be a true beauty. The return of 2.5D is a good fit and the Finnish-inspired fantasy aesthetic feels alien and familiar at the same time. I'll say that Trine 4: The Nightmare Price has a little more darkness to it than the other games. Not that it's underlit, but the color palate felt more gloomy with lots of dark blues and purples.
The end of the demo featured a boss battle with a cursed knight, where you had to use the slam ability to create beams of light in the old mansion's basement. After the light was created, I could use my shield to reflect it at the cursed knight, stunning him before I sliced and diced with my sword. A nice mix of puzzling and combat.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince didn't blow me away. It's a simple game with modest ambitions, but that doesn't mean it can be dismissed out of hand. Chefs and food critics often talk about simple foods being the best, and even then they go back to the best ingredients. That's what Trine 4 feels like. It's using simple ingredients to make something simple, yet also wonderful. And I'm excited about that.
Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince is planned for launch in Fall 2019 on Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.