30.05.2024

Review: Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy

4

The end of summer was hot for releases. And if the developer is not FromSoftware, it would be suicide to release his brainchild between Baldur’s Gate 3 and Starfield. Trine 5 seems to have passed almost unnoticed against the background of the mastodons. But Frozenbyte once again surprised with its imagination in terms of puzzles and offered to plunge into the warm atmosphere of fantasy adventure.

  • Developer: Frozenbyte
  • Publisher: THQ Nordic
  • Release Date: August 31, 2023

The Trine series is amazingly stable. Apart from the threequel’s experiments with translating the gameplay into honest three dimensions, almost the same game awaits us every time. And I don’t want to be offended by this at all. The permanent trio of heroes – the thief Zoya, the knight Pontius and the magician Amadeus – again find themselves in a whirlpool of adventures when an invitation to a dinner party turns into a trap. Lady Sunny (no joke) decides to seize power in the Kingdom with the help of an army of animated automatons.

And although the villainous villain does not invest personal beliefs in his insidious plans, it is still fun to watch how old heroes fight with the creatures of progress – either a coincidence, or meta-irony of the developers in relation to the unsuccessful Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power. Modern cars are soulless tins without brains or honor, or is it just the good old knights and magic! If you’re good at making beautiful 2D platformers, then why try new ideas? Total risks.

As a continuator of traditions, Trine 5 is certainly a success. The series has always been distinguished by its wonderful visuals, and A Clockwork Conspiracy can easily claim the title of one of the most beautiful games of the year. The landscapes are lush and bright, full of small details and, despite the two-dimensional mechanics of the game, surprisingly three-dimensional. Every now and then the virtual operator slightly lifts and tilts the camera to demonstrate another breathtaking view – a forest at the foot of a hill, a port city from the height of a tower, mines going into the bottomless darkness.

Over the course of two dozen levels, divided into five chapters, the trio will visit many picturesque places. But it is worth noting that we have already seen all this in the series: fairy-tale forests, gloomy caves, and luxurious castles. The familiar style is only given freshness by a dose of steampunk. Trine 5 is a compilation of everything that players loved about previous releases. The same goes for the gameplay.

As before, the player takes control of a trio of heroes. In single-player mode, you switch between characters, and only one of them is always on the screen, but in a network game the group acts as a team. Both the classic mode is available, where each of the trio is present in a single copy, as well as the co-op for four, which appeared in the fourth part, with any combination of heroes. And the riddles are designed in such a way that in any mode you can find the key to them.

It seems to me that a single playthrough only benefited from this approach. After all, one puzzle can have many solutions using different abilities. The protagonists’ specialization is still the same: Zoe wields a bow, clings to steel rings and connects various objects together; Pontius clears the way for the team with sword and shield; Amadeus, as before, can conjure a platform or cube out of thin air, and also move things with the power of thought.

The complexity of the puzzles increases gradually. The first levels fly by, especially if you’re already familiar with past Trine releases. Anyone can master using a magic crossbar to cross an abyss, make a rope bridge, or break an obstacle. But the further you go, the more intricate the puzzles become, and the sequence of actions that will allow you to move forward becomes longer and longer.

Heroes unlock new abilities, which immediately add another layer to the puzzles. And now you need to calculate the solution three moves ahead: create a cube and change the direction of gravity for it, tie an object to it with a rope, create a clone of Pontius, which at a certain height will “freeze” the taking off structure with a beam from the shield, and so on, and so on. At some point, you don’t even understand whether you put together the puzzle as the developers intended or whether, with the help of non-obvious interaction, the mechanic found a new way.

Thanks to the variety of available skills, the tasks replace each other without repeating ideas for a dozen and a half hours. They manage to thoroughly test your imagination and ingenuity, but do not turn into a routine – just when you think that you have found some kind of universal key, A Clockwork Conspiracy adds another variable to the rules. The game combines almost all the ideas that were encountered in the series before.

Sometimes puzzle solving is interrupted by battles. They, as before, do not differ in depth, and play the role of a secondary distraction – a break to unload the head, shoot at dummies and throw heavy boxes on their heads. Ordinary opponents can only be overwhelmed by numbers if you are suddenly locked in a cramped arena. But the bosses turned out to be entertaining – they, too, are more likely to be tasks of ingenuity rather than reaction.

Of course, the diversity of possibilities is respectful. Despite its considerable length, Trine 5, surprisingly, does not get boring. But I can’t shake the feeling that the series format is very close to hitting the ceiling. We saw most of everything that the fifth part offers in previous issues. Yes, opening new horizons can be scary; there is always a risk of stepping on an unknown rake. But sooner or later you will have to move on so as not to fall into stagnation.


However, do not pay attention to my deliberate “dissatisfaction”. Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy is definitely a good game. With an extremely unfortunate release date. Perhaps it should have been released sometime in the winter, after the storm of blockbusters. And its cozy, sunny atmosphere would look especially advantageous against the background of winter landscapes outside the window. If you missed it now, make a note on your calendar to remember Trine 5 when you’ve played enough of the big hits. She deserves it.


PROS

  • Stunning world and effects
  • Retains quality whether playing solo or co-op
  • Challenging puzzles & Solid platforming
  • Great environments and atmosphere

CONS

  • Not-so-great combat can feel like a chore in-between the great platforming

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