To start on a personal anecdote, this particular editor had the pleasure of playing Trine 2: Complete Story for his first review at Push Square two years ago, and much to our surprise, we were delighted that it was a magical indie title that boasted some of the greatest visuals we'd seen with phenomenal puzzles and platforming to boot. Needless to say, we jumped on the chance to turn the pages in a new chapter for the series' three heroes with Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power, so with a drastic transition to 3D environments and gameplay, does the series transcend to new levels of wonderment and possibilities or has it veered off the path to unhappy endings? We're sad to report that the latter is true, and in more ways than one.
What Trine 3 has going for it are the visuals, which have always been a staple of the games that Frozenbyte has produced. You'll find the same fantastical forests and tropical paradises here that set these games apart from other platformers with grand views, stunning graphical effects and physics, pristine lighting, and insane aesthetic work. For the third time, the developer has spared no expenses in going above and beyond its previous titles with cutscenes, more fluid, realistic character animations, and much more. It's truly a spectacle to behold.
We originally remarked that since Trine 2's environments are designed in 3D, it looks like you could walk down corridors and around obstacles if it weren't a 2D platformer. It's commendable to be sure, and now you can actually do this and jump into those beautiful backgrounds and foregrounds with the new, natural layouts of levels. This serves for some more gorgeous set-pieces, and with the camera smoothly panning around with you, it almost feels like you're watching a 3D animated cartoon fairy tale. One of our favourite sections was when the heroes were pulled into a book, where the backgrounds were parchment strewn with ink drawings, and transitions occurred with page flips opening to new sections. However, in the pursuit of admittedly gorgeous art direction like this, the gameplay has been cursed.
While the three heroes retain their main skills from Trine 2, the jump to 3D has simplified their abilities to an unforgivable degree. Amadeus can still conjure and slam down boxes and levitate objects, but he cannot create planks or differently-sized crates anymore. Pontius retains his shield and sword but loses his hammer, and Zoya – besides being able to attach ropes to objects now to pulley them in clever ways – no longer has her arsenal of varying arrows. This makes the puzzles and platforming ever so easier since the lack of equipment and abilities ruins the depth puzzles used to boast. Indeed, numerous areas from the previous games were sprawling with challenges that spanned multiple rooms. Here? Everything is contained with smaller, one-dimensional trials that are less creative compared to what's been done in past instalments. There isn't even a skill tree for the characters, which means that they retain the same moves throughout the whole game.
It doesn't help that the 3D environments also hurt spatial awareness, with us having fallen down ravines and missed intended marks while using Amadeus's magic and Zoya's bow on numerous occasions. It's no hurdle to move around or jump around on average, but these issues put dampers on the fun factor, especially since there are hardly any boss fights and a lower amount of enemy types. It's not to say that Trine 3 isn't worth playing, but it certainly lacks much of the enjoyment its predecessor gave us.
At least Ari Pulkkinen has come around to score another charming soundtrack, which complements the universe with a cheery, whimsical tone, and Terry Wilton is so charismatic when he provides exposition with his grandfatherly voice. Speaking of exposition, the narrative itself takes place after the heroes defeated Rosabel and saved her sister Isabel from imprisonment. With yet another adventure on their hands this time, they decide to give back their powers to the Trine artifact in an attempt to stop having their lives interrupted by it summoning them. In attempting to do this, Trine shattered and unleashed the enclosed soul of an ancient evil that had been kept in check by two other good souls inside. Now the heroes must attempt to imprison or defeat this villain once more and repair Trine.
We honestly felt more engaged with the story this time, since a lot of great backstory is added that explains the history of the Trine and who the villain is that shaped the fate of this world ages ago. The dialogue is endearing and funny with the banter between characters as well, but what's shocking is that the story comes to a complete halt out of left field. It ends right when events are becoming interesting on a minor boss fight, which is part of the game lacking serious content.
It's over half as long as Trine 2 at around 6 hours, but this is including the optional The Lost Pages quests, which only took us less than 10 minutes each to complete on average. And we had to do them anyway since the seven story levels are locked depending on how many "Trineangles" you collect in levels, which aren't a worthy substitute to make up for the lost fun with gameplay. The additional level "The Quest for Cake" only exemplifies the flaws even more since it drags for too long with a plethora of boring encounters and obstacles, and local co-op is less enticing overall since it would be a journey with paltry excitement compared to playing solo.
We extend our sympathies toward Frozenbyte since Trine 3's weaknesses are due to unforeseen costs that exceeded its budget, but this doesn't alter the reality of the game's state. While it may surpass expectations as a picturesque fairy tale come to life with a lovely score and promising tale, your childlike wonder will fade and be cut short due to abrupt closure, trite puzzle-solving, and dumbed-down gameplay that spells a fumble for this middling entry.