TRINE 3: THE AR­TI­FACTS OF POWER

Frozen­byte’s trio of re­luc­tant he­roes head into the hori­zon

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Trine 3 breaks with se­ries tra­di­tion in a num­ber of sur­pris­ing ways, but one as­pect that has re­mained com­fort­ingly familiar is Frozen­byte’s spec­trum-de­fy­ing in­sis­tence on find­ing even more colours to cram into each se­quel. The game’s stylised fan­tasy lo­ca­tions are even more de­tailed than be­fore, pre­sented as a rich haze of fan­tasy clichés that are ren­dered with such skill and pas­sion that they some­how feel fresh again.

The prospect of reach­ing each new vista re­mains a real draw, but Trine 3 goes fur­ther by al­low­ing you to step into them, too. You’re no longer re­stricted to a nar­row hor­i­zon­tal plane, and lev­els now twist and con­tort as you switch from tra­di­tional side-scrolling to in­tothe-screen hang-glid­ing and all man­ner of gra­di­ents in be­tween. It lends its worlds con­sid­er­ably more pres­ence.

“We ac­tu­ally started with tra­di­tional 2D Trine game­play, but soon felt that it wouldn’t be enough for a third in­stal­ment,” designer and Frozen­byte CEO Lauri Hyväri­nen tells us. “But our artists sug­gested that we con­sider full 3D, and although we knew it would be a tremen­dous risk and a lot of work, we de­cided to go for it. You have to raise the bar to keep get­ting bet­ter.” Whether that risk has paid off is still un­clear. It’s cer­tainly true that the added space cre­ates a more con­vinc­ing world, and dramatically in­creases the scope for com­plex puzzles, but it also puts more pres­sure on the se­ries’ rather flimsy feel­ing, physics-based plat­form­ing. The floaty, im­pre­cise move­ments of the main char­ac­ters are ex­ac­er­bated when they’re not kept on the straight and nar­row, and it’s of­ten very dif­fi­cult to judge depth when mov­ing into the screen. But there are plenty of pos­i­tives, too, not least in the way it im­proves the feel of com­bat when flail­ing Pon­tius’s sword amid a gag­gle of gob­lins.

“It’s been re­ally chal­leng­ing but it’s also show­ing a lot of po­ten­tial now,” Hyväri­nen ex­plains. “We had to re­design and re­write all the game­play stuff, and many of the tech­ni­cal as­pects as well. We’re still pol­ish­ing them and look­ing into the player ex­pe­ri­ence, and there are lots of lit­tle de­tails that we need to get right.

“On the art side it’s made it even more chal­leng­ing to make all the game­play-re­lated things clear to the player, while still re­tain­ing the vis­ual splen­dour of the pre­vi­ous games. We’ve al­ways had mi­nor trou­ble with cer­tain items get­ting lost in the back­ground, or some back­ground el­e­ments be­ing mis­taken for game­play el­e­ments, and that’s some­thing we have to fo­cus on. Ob­vi­ously get­ting the cam­era right was al­ways go­ing to be dif­fi­cult, and we’re still ex­per­i­ment­ing with the best an­gles to show the lev­els.”

There’s still time to get ev­ery­thing into shape. And the new ideas that the team have in­tro­duced are promis­ing, the best of which are the shorter chal­lenge lev­els that fo­cus on a sin­gle char­ac­ter. They al­low the de­sign team to cre­ate ob­sta­cle cour­ses tai­lored to a spe­cific set of abil­i­ties, in the process smooth­ing off one of the se­ries’ rougher edges: the pos­si­bil­ity of cheat­ing your way past ar­eas by spam­ming them with con­jured-up boxes. It’s an is­sue Frozen­byte is keenly aware of.

“The abuse and chaotic may­hem has been part of the in­tended de­sign from the very first game, but of course we’ve seen it some­times go too far and re­sult in too sim­plis­tic so­lu­tions,” Hyväri­nen says. “By­pass­ing a puz­zle as such isn’t a prob­lem – we en­cour­age ex­ploit­ing and think­ing out­side the box – just as long as it’s not done in a mo­not­o­nous one-so­lu­tion-for-all kind of way.”

This think­ing has, thank­fully, per­me­ated the main cam­paign, too. “It’s still pos­si­ble to abuse the physics and [char­ac­ters’] abil­i­ties, but we’ve paid at­ten­tion to mak­ing sure the player needs to think about the puzzles a bit and can’t use the same brute-force tech­nique for ev­ery­thing. So, while there’s still a lot of free­dom, now the dif­fer­ent puzzles should re­quire dif­fer­ent kinds of tac­tics.”

Trine things out

Trine 3’ s Early Ac­cess build in­cludes an odd ad­di­tion: a sprawl­ing physics play­ground in which pre­car­i­ous tow­ers of blocks wait pa­tiently for your in­flu­ence, and glid­ers cat­a­pult you across the world. “It started out as an in­ter­nal play­ground, re­ally,” Hyväri­nen ex­plains. “It was a lot of fun to try out dif­fer­ent con­cepts and physics ideas, and we thought if we were hav­ing fun, then play­ers would too, so we de­cided to of­fer it as some­thing spe­cial to our Early Ac­cess fans. It might even give some ideas to mod­ders. We’ll keep updating it con­tin­u­ally, and some of the el­e­ments might end up in the story lev­els later on.”

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