Tales From The Fireplace – A Trine 2 Review

Tales From the Fireplace – A Trine 2 ReviewMade for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC. Developed by Frozenbytes, published by Atlus

The narrator speaks with a warm, friendly voice. He has a British accent. How could he not? It is a voice that could only be used by a storyteller. The only other sound audible is the crackling of the burning firewood, which also bathes the room in an orange-red light. The light reflects off the eyes of the eager and anticipating audience. The narrator takes a deep breath, preparing himself. The adventure is about to begin.

Like many other things in Trine 2, the specific information the narrator gives is not important. The way he says it is what matters. With his eager and inquisitive voice, his sole purpose is to put the player in the right mindset when playing the game. After introducing our three heroes Pontius, Zoya and Amadeus, his has served his purpose, and he fades from the audience’s attention, as they instead focus on the world he creates with his words.
The three heroes’ first adventure concluded with them settling down in a peaceful village in the kingdom, after having destroyed the the Great Evil in the first game.Their adventuring days were not over yet, though. Adventure has a way of returning to those who yearn for it. The eponymous shining artifact the “Trine”, which bound their souls together in the first game, reunites them again in the outskirts of a forest, where wild, carnivorous plants and menacing, cruel goblins have taken hold. The Trine seems to have a life of its own, often appearing when the heroes are lost, to light their path in times of trouble. The story is grander in scale than the first one, taking our heroes from sandy shores to frozen mountains as they attempt to save a princess who has been turned into a plant, and vanquish a mysterious Great Evil that is disrupting the peace they established in their first adventure. In the end, though, the contents of it are irrelevant. It does not require you to analyze or question anything. It simply exists to instill wonderment in the minds of the players. Although I adore the grey morality of The Witcher and Deus Ex, it feels oddly refreshing to have a story that does not require you to ponder fundamental questions of morality, but simply know that the good guys definitely will win.

Emphasis should be put on “players”, as this is a game best experienced in the company of two others. Then the three of you can frolic together in this beautiful world, not caring for the greyness and cruelties of the real world, for a moment at least. The co-op element of Trine 2 works in the a lot like Portal 2’s co-op, as it necessitates a play style completely different from many other multiplayer games, even when they are allegedly cooperative, such as the co-op in Left 4 Dead and Dead Island, which are more about raking in points//kills than helping each other. This is because Trine 2’s co-op focuses on the interdependence of the players. This is further strengthened by every character having their own strength, all of which must be utilized if the heroes are to have any chance in succeeding in their quest. The thief, Zoya, can easily reach distant ledges, and swing past danger using what I presume is a grappling hook. The knight does what knights do best, which is bashing stuff with his sword or his hammer. Ironically, the other skill knights are generally associated with, chivalry, is absent in Pontius’ case. Finally, the mage, Amadeus, can conjure boxes and planks that are vital in helping players out of precarious situations. The striking differences in their abilities is mirrored in their contrasting personalities. One is fearful, one is foolhardy and one cares only for profit. Yet they still manage to work towards a common goal, together. In these darkened times, that’s a valuable – if simplistic – lesson to learn.

These skills are used primarily in puzzle-solving, as they players encounter many of these in their travels, most with multiple solutions. To get past a massive pit full of wooden spears, the thief could swing from ledge to ledge, or the mage could conjure some boxes to act as stepping stones across the pit. Unfortunately, one easy way to get out of troubles is to simply stack two boxes atop one another, and then have the mage move you to safety. Playing singleplayer is also considerably easier than co-op, as you only need to get one character pas whatever danger lies ahead of them. In the co-op, the players must find a way to get everyone across in one piece.. On the other hand, in the co-op all the heroes’ skills can be used at the same time, and in that way they compensate for that.

Besides solving puzzles, the players will spend most of their time fighting hordes of goblins, giant spiders and other monsters. Combat was one of the first Trine’s weakest points, as it suffered from the pitfall of spawning enemies out of thin air. In Trine 2, you instead see them approach in the background and then enter into the player’s field, which – given the game’s nature of being “2.5D” – makes excellent sense. In Trine 2 the developers have also, in some instances, opted for separating puzzles and combat completely. Although it might sound like a bad design choice from Frozenbyte’s side, since it could seem like the combat was just a tacked on feauture designed to satisfy the action-needing types, it actually works quite well as you aren’t distracted as much from actually solving the puzzles. While the enemies are more aesthetically pleasing to watch (despite them being goblins) and the combat made more engaging, thanks to a marginally improved AI that doesn’t always charge at you maniacally, combat is still overshadowed by the puzzling. In fact, it seems as if the combat hasn’t gotten the same attention from the developers as the other aspect, as many of the combat sequences are constructed in the same way. There’s roughly the same number of enemies attacking, and they do so in the same patterns. I suppose Pontius the Knight wouldn’t have a lot to do if the combat sections were removed, but don’t think it would hurt the game if combat was removed entirely. It doesn’t even add as a factor of challenge, as the puzzles often require more time, and equally often more deadly than combat. It’s the weakest point of the game, but thankfully isn’t overly detrimental to the quality in the end, as the combat sections are short and endurable.

Trine 2 aims to convey a high fantasy adventure, and succeeds. The backgrounds and visuals are colorful and varied, supporting the feel of a fantastical world distinct from our own. The developers may have gone overboard with the bloom though, as the world – particularly in the sunny and snowy levels – is covered by a very bright light, which occasionally makes it difficult to actually see what’s happening on the screen. Musically, the game is also far from the bombastic tones of fantasy epics like Dragon Age and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, with their kettledrums and brass. Instead the tunes are dominated by flutes and violins, that relay a magical and wondrous atmosphere, the kind that don’t pump you up for a massive, vital battle, but make you want to continue to explore this world just to see what secrets it might still hide.

I suppose I should put up a spoiler warning, but…ah, well just did! I find it very fitting that at the end of their adventure, after vanquishing The Great Evil, the three heroes simply sit down beside a fire, and exchange tales far into the night. Despite their obvious and contrasting differences, the three still manage to be great friends. In the times of grimdark fantasies , economic recession and a world often beset by war and violence, perhaps Trine 2 gives exactly the tone we need. There’s a sense of wonder in every area you pass through, and even in the deepest pits of the mandatory evil castle you never feel alone or as if you could truly fail. For this is a tale from the old days, when there were still heroes in the world.