Review | Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy

Originally published at: Review | Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy - XboxEra

The heroes of Trine are back once again, and this time they’ve got a lot on their plates. The Knightly Order has all but been replaced by Clockwork machinations, the academy and kingdom have gotten the Reach treatment, and the Wizard’s kids have been kidnapped by the snivelling beauty Sunny and some guy that follows her around. Worst of all, all blame has been pinned on Zoya the Thief, Amadeus the Wizard, and Pontius the Noble Knight. And so the heroes of Trine set out once more to save their land and clear their good name.

I won’t lie I had a bit of a moment when I saw the number ‘5’ next to the word Trine. Yes, Trine 5, developed by Frozenbyte and published by THQ Nordic, is at sequel number five and I’m not sure how I’ve just noticed. Granted I’ve only briefly dabbled with the first game way back when. knowing that it was primarily a cooperative-focused title, so when I loaded up the game I made sure to bring along my siblings to make sure I got the intended experience the series is known for.

Let’s just see how well these clock gears turn.

A Revolution Begins

Trine 5 starts off with our heroes split up, doing their own things. Zoya raids the local library for a treasure map, unaware that she probably could’ve put it out on a loan. Pontius is on the hunt for justice, and Amadeus is busy relaxing at a nursing home (par for the course, it’s been five games). Everything goes tipsy turvy however, and the team are back together once more in this very beautiful 2.5D adventure puzzler.

In this game, players will primarily solve puzzles while taking on the occasional combat encounter. These puzzles have to be solved with wits and the diverse arsenal of our three heroes, which expands overtime as you clear the game’s five acts. These can be as simple as shooting an arrow to cut a platform down to building an elaborate setup to move a box out of the way or trudge water from its source to a pot or something (the game loves this one). Though typically a three player experience, you can play this entry with a fourth player by choosing a setting when beginning a new game. Since we were a three-man party however, we stuck to classic mode.

Expanding on the our characters, we have Amadeus the Wizard who can materialize three object types (a cube, ramp, and sphere) to build a path somewhere high or push things out of the way. Zoya is a skilled archer who can shoot multiple arrow types and hook herself to anchors in the world and to her companions certain abilities. Lastly we have Pontius who is the combat afficiando, but as the rounder individual of the three he can use his weight to shift seesaws and make some dicey jumps with his charge ability.

Now as I said, these three do get more abilities down the line. And they’re really useful for the rather interesting ways Trine presents its puzzles. This game from the get-go encourages a sandbox approach to progression. Sometimes a solution is as easy as setting up a box and jumping to the next room, but don’t be surprised if you have to make a rather elaborate creation consisting of all three heroes just to get the next door open.

The game offers multiple difficulty levels that impact combat and puzzles, and depending on whether you play in singleplayer or multiplayer mode the puzzles will automatically adjust to best fit your play session. I like this idea and I played around with it a bit, switching to solo when my coop partners needed a break. Puzzles will shift certain aspects like removing barriers or adjusting positions of your objective to work in solo and become more complex if you start the game as a cooperative session.

The best part is your current save is compatible across solo and coop play, so you can always progress if you don’t have anyone around (or if you’re too online-shy). Now, puzzles will not dynamically adapt while you’re in-game, however—if a friend joins you mid-session, for example, the game will simply warn you that you may not be able to progress and to restart the session and vice versa if players drop out of a coop session. Though I never had issues with players joining me in a singleplayer game and even then, checkpoints are very frequent in Trine so having to restart a session (or dying a bunch) is no trouble at all.

Though I’ll be frank, playing this game alone isn’t all that fun. I do recommend having a mate or two for the ride.

But Trine 5’s puzzle design is where I take issue with the game. The game’s puzzles are varied in objectives and can good fun when you figure them out (especially with mates), but for every puzzle we were able to solve there would be two to three that’d follow that we felt there was no way to solve other than bruteforcing our way through or building some bizarre elaborate shematic to cheese our way to the next area.

Let me put this way: imagine you are taking something apart and you run into a torx screw or something. You don’t have a torx screwdriver on hand and you really need to take this apart right now, so you find a pair of scissors and begin prying the screw to the left, shredding the indentation and the scissors in the process. You’ve busted up the screw and the scissors, but hey! You’ve taken the screw out, but then you’ve noticed more. Lovely.*

In my eyes, it calls the whole sandbox style of puzzle solving to question because yes, it can fun to build a solution to a grander problem (Nuts and Bolts says hello), but too often it felt like our solutions were put together with duct tape. Moments of fun puzzle solving would quickly be halted as we’d run into a head-banging puzzle that had us all scrambling to fuse random objects together or simply vaulting over the problem at hand.

I am also of the belief that we probably overthought some of the puzzles, but we ended up crafting funky solutions often enough that it really started to grate on us. Dealing with the game’s rather finnicky lock-on system didn’t help, either.

Tick Tock

Besides puzzle solving, players will also tackle foes from the Rat Gang, the Clockwork Knights, skellies, and bosses at the end of an Act. Combat is simple and not all that interesting as well as being occasionally clumsy due to the way the game handles physics. Enemy encounters usually consist of swarms of rats and clocks rushing your characters and you plus the gang swinging and firing away arrows like a comedy sketch of sorts. The boss fights are quite fun, however.

And to the game’s credit, there are a lot of ways to bonk baddies such as using your environment, using the Wizard’s sphere ball to KO’d multiple foes with Pontius’ charge, Zoya’s arrows, etcetera. And there are additional combat and mobility options you can unlock in the game’s skill tree, which can be unlocked by collecting experience shards and passing a ‘Grand Checkpoint’ to convert them to skill points. There’s a quite a few useful ones, such as Pontius’ shield glide, that I highly suggest you grab once you’ve garnered enough points.

Trine 5 is also a gorgeous, colourful adventure. Backdrops range from green forestry to sky-high places where clouds breathe in and out as you pass by. The cutscenes feature good animation work and the script offers funny banter between the main leads and the rest of the cast along with entertaining performances by the voice actors. The music is pleasant medieval-style melodies with the occasional electronica, though depending on how long you get stuck in a level you might find yourself scrunching up rather than humming along.

My siblings and I ultimately had fun with Trine 5, even through our gripes with the game’s puzzles left us feeling sour on our run. It felt like we were encouraged to skip puzzles than to try and complete them, and I feel that sort of gameplay is simply not encouraging for a player to keep playing, especially if they were to go solo. But we could see ourselves replaying this game or checking out the older titles and I think that says a lot.

For fans of the series and its world, I think they’ll definitely find yet another fun, physics-based adventure here. ∎

*This may or may not be a reference to something I’ve unfortunately done.