‘Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power’ – First Preview

After two, highly successful entries in the Trine series, spanning two generations of gaming and six platforms, Frozenbyte is finally ready for the third adventure. Curiously, instead of fully releasing it at a specific date, the developer has opted for an Early Access phase, taking into account players’ opinions, step by step. Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power promises to not only expand on its predecessors’ gameplay and visuals, but do so while bringing the franchise into the 3D world. If the game’s first Early Access phase is any indication, then Frozenbyte’s latest will definitely succeed.

The Astral Academy is under siege by a fearful, giant monster, and because the wizards’ magic seems to have no effect on the creature, the inhabitants of the crumbling tower decide to call in the aid of the series’ protagonists: Pontius, the Knight; Zoya, the Thief; Amadeus the Wizard. Just like in previous games, after three, brief adventures – one for each protagonist – Pontius, Zoya, and Amadeus are reunited by the Trine and teleported to the Astral Academy. After fighting a couple of monsters, one boss, and traversing about 30 minutes worth of land, our heroes arrive at the Astral Academy. Sadly, this is where the story ends. Besides these two, the first Early Access phase also offers a brief, challenge level in which you can only control Zoya, in addition to an “outside” playground, where players can further familiarize themselves with all three protagonists.

Right from the get go, players will notice the biggest change to the franchise, yet: the fact that everything is now in 3D. That said, the camera is still primarily locked like you were playing a 2D title, although our protagonists can now travel in a 360 degrees manner.

Even though the Trine franchise has always been a physics-based action/adventure title, Trine 3 decides to ease up on that – just a tiny bit, mind you – in favor of introducing a gliding mechanic to Pontius. Naturally, gliding is a totally grounded-in-reality activity, but not when the object used is a presumably steeled shield. The Knight’s main offensive lies in his sword, although he can also briefly dash in any desired location or fiercely stomp the ground, being able to clear up paths, in the process, as well. Naturally, besides gliding, Pontius’ shield is used as defense against whatever goes up against him.

On the other hand, Zoya can attach herself to different rings found throughout environments via some well-placed shots, in addition to dragging objects like crates to her desired location. She doesn’t glide or stomp, although she is considerably nimbler, as evidenced by her ability to jump off walls, akin to the Prince of Persia franchise. Ironically, however, the Knight is still preferred when making daring leaps, simply because of his gliding ability, which can make the difference between failure and success. Not only that, but our Thief can now tether one object to another, akin to the Just Cause series, adding another layer of depth to future puzzles. Naturally, her bow and arrows are Zoya’s means of offensive.

Another big difference going from previous installments is the fact that, in Trine 3, players no longer have to draw boxes or planks when playing as the Wizard. Instead, everything is now created at the press of a button. I’m guessing this is because console players have a harder time drawing up with the analogue sticks than PC players with the Mouse. It’s not a deal-breaker, although I prefer the old system. Of course, playing as Amadeus still allows you to manipulate most objects via telekinesis in the environments, him being the main puzzle solver, so to speak. If there is one annoyance noticed almost from the beginning, when playing as Amadeus, then that is the fact that manipulating objects is a bit clumsy, due to the fact that we’re now talking about 3D environments. You can move them left and right, up and down, but said objects move forward and backward only if our Wizard does so, too, which can become quite an issue if his space is limited.

Update! Apparently, you can indeed control the depth of objects using the Q and E buttons. The game fails to mention it, though. My thanks to user Mario Dimitrov.

The real magic starts when all three heroes are at your disposal, because, most of the times, you will need all three to solve upcoming puzzles. For instance, one of the first puzzles included two switches which needed to be pulled, at the same time. I used Zoya to tether both of these to a box, and then quickly switched to Amadeus and moved said box further away, so both switches would be pulled, simultaneously. As I mentioned above, everything is physics-based, so you there will be times when you will solve puzzles by accident or by simply moving faster than what the game anticipates. Still, don’t let the accident part push you away; every puzzle has its logic answer, only, sometimes, quick reflexes will prove better than sitting a few minutes and trying to figure out the exact answer. Simply put, experimentation is highly encouraged, this being one of Trine 3‘s highest points.

The game can be played either solo, or with up to two other players, both locally and via online. Sadly, at this time, the servers are highly unstable, as I was unable to access any kind of match. But, there is always the opportunity of playing with someone by your side, which is totally better than with complete strangers. Local cooperation seems a thing of the past in this day and age, so I will always appreciate a game including it. Playing with others also speeds up the entire pace, as you are no longer required to switch from one character to another. Not only that, but even the gameplay gets better, as all three characters can now directly interact with each other.

What will definitely separate the consoles versions from the PC is the fact that the latter can be modded. At this time, there is only a single such mod, one in which two Knights play football. And by playing football I mean both are trying to push a melon into their opponents’ gate. It’s a humble beginning, yes, but I’m eagerly anticipating the crazy mods people will surely get out.

From high-atop mountains to ancient ruins or serene beaches, Trine 3 is absolutely a sight to behold. The first two entries in the series were some of the best-looking titles I have ever had the chance of playing, and, while it’s no small feat, this latest entry has managed to raise the proverbial bar, once again. The colorful art-style is accompanied by a whimsical soundtrack which is equally delighting, inspiring a grand sense of adventure in every minute spent listening to it.

Unfortunately, some clipping through objects have been noticed, although it’s to be expected, seeing as this is but the first version of the Early Access phase. Additionally, the soundtrack has also suddenly stopped, multiple times, across the story missions. Trine 3 has also crashed on me a few times, be it while in-game or during a loading screen.

If you’re looking for content, for $19.99/19.99€/£14.99, you might want to wait a few more weeks/months. As I mentioned above, at the moment, Trine 3 includes four levels – five, if you include the mod – and that’s it. Of course, before its full release, the developer plans to add several more levels. That being said, the high-quality gameplay almost entirely makes up for said lack of content. Not to talk about the gorgeous visuals and pleasant soundtrack. I am confident that Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power will surpass its predecessors, in every possible way; it just needs time.

The game will be released sometime this summer/fall, on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.