Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power Preview

The traumatic trio returns with a fresh adventure and new gaming modes

Some indie game developers are fine with creating bare-bones titles while others put forth an extra effort. With Frozenbyte's puzzle-platformer, Trine 3: Artifacts of Power, the meticulous attention to detail really shines through in everything from enhanced visuals to additional game modes to extensive game options. However, the biggest change in this sequel is the jump from 2D to 3D, and the result teeters between good and bad. It's a good thing that the release date is currently undetermined because there are still numerous issues that need to be addressed as it develops under Steam Early Access.

Like both its predecessors, Trine 3 stars Amadeus the wizard, Pontius the warrior, and Zoya the thief as they band together to undertake perilous adventures instigated by the mysterious Trine artifact. Amadeus' specialty is levitating objects and creating blocks that can also be levitated, while Pontius can easily destroy enemies with his mighty sword, glide long distances using his shield, and slam into heavy objects to move them. Zoya has always been my favorite of the three because she wields an extremely useful bow and can grapple objects to move them or utilize ledges to swing across chasms.

In addition to the story mode, players who purchase the Early Access can try out two Challenge Rooms as well as the new Amusement Park levels. Currently, both Challenge Rooms are created for Zoya only and consist of numerous difficult platforming puzzles that require utilizing her unique abilities with pinpoint, or should I say arrowpoint, accuracy. As for the Amusement Park, the aptly-named level is basically a large free-roaming area that's filled with countless obstacles and challenges. Like the story mode, players are free to switch between characters in order to try out different strategies and even combine abilities via quick-switching. It's fun to explore the Amusement Park by myself, but running around in co-op mode is even better.

What makes the Trine series so charming is the retro feel imparted by the 2D side-scrolling levels and the old-school visuals. The move to 3D partly diminishes the retro vibe because players move around the screen like most modern third-person games. Fortunately, the gorgeous visuals partially make up for this and also motivate players to keep playing. Despite the fact that this sequel features an incredible amount of detail accented by ethereal lighting, the visuals still look cartoonish, which is a good thing. My only complaint with the level design is that I wish there was more interaction with the backgrounds because some areas feel empty.

It also seems like the physics haven't made a flawless jump to 3D. Occasionally objects will jump across the screen lightning fast, conjured boxes don't interact with objects properly, and ropes will perform a squiggly dance. It's also much harder to judge ledges with the added dimension, so players will frequently and needlessly fall to their deaths. A third dimension also makes it more difficult to solve puzzles, as Amadeus now requires two extra buttons to move objects into and out of the screen. For a physics-based platformer, these bugs can be a dealbreaker.

On the other hand, I really appreciate how the developers of Trine 3 offer an extensive set of options. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to have large sections of the keyboard, as well as the mouse, unusable, but this is common with indie games. Not so with this game, as it allows the controls to be remapped with any button from the keyboard and the mouse or a controller. In addition, there are numerous other options that can be changed. This might sound trivial, but to me it shows an extra amount of dedication to ensuring that players get the most out of the game.

Like many games in development, Trine 3: Artifacts of Power has some problems that need to be fixed before the final release. Some people will welcome the move to 3D while others won't, but the game hasn't lost its old-school charm. I'm confident that it will be a worthy sequel, and I can't wait to try out the level editor.