Japanese Action RPG’s always scare me before I play them because they are really hit or miss. Suffice to say, picking up Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll to review left me wondering what I would find, since I never even heard of the game. I didn’t want to think too much into it and ruin the gaming experience, so I powered on my Playstation 3, popped in the game, and played for hours to get a good feel for the game, what it had to offer, and capture enough data for a good overall review. Let’s start from the top.
Story: The main character Areus’s grandfather, the emperor Balor, discovered that his offspring would one day destroy him. Balor discovered that his son, Areus’s father, had a hidden family with elven kind. In response to this blasphemy, Balor set out and killed his son. Unfortunately for Balor, Areus survived the attack and now fights in an arena. While at the arena, he takes missions from the Arena Guild to help out citizens of the world, gain experience, items, and two partners along the way. He trains so that he can eventually set out and destroy his murderous grandfather. The game reminded me of Oedipus, but not as messed up (the whole unknowingly killing his father and sleeping with his mother part was left out).
I had a rough time with how the game introduced the story because it started with a fight scene from the end of the game, went into an arena fight a year earlier, and then displayed the title and continued game play. I am perfectly fine with the Tarantino effect, but I feel it disconnected me from the story with the quick time lapses. Later on into the game, I felt like Areus’s story became mine, but the beginning of the game threw me off. Although the concept of the game is not really an original concept, I still enjoyed it. Revenge, dead fathers, bastard grandfathers? I can dig it. It seemed to work for the game, and the way they designed the characters definitely helped support the story. Areus is understandably very distant and a loner, while a partner you find along the way is a large, hearty man with a lot of spirit. It really gives a good balance and they bounce off of each other quite well, especially with the help of voice acting. The voice work truly gave life to the characters and I enjoyed listening to them.
Gameplay: No matter the story, the game needs to have good gameplay mechanics to back it up. What sets this game apart from the rest? What is unique and new to the world of gaming? Unfortunately, nothing much really popped out at me. I felt like I played this game already when I played Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core on PSP in the sense that you go out on missions, grinding through enemies in a level, completing the mission, and getting a reward. The problem I have with this is that it gets boring after a little while. Granted, you get experience, items, skills, and upgrades along the way, but even with the upgrades, it feels like the same thing for hours.Another game I can compare this to is the MMO Vindictus because you start in a town, go out on missions to a set area with no exploration, complete the missions, get rewards, and repeat. Where is the immersion into the game world? When can I feel like I am a part of this world set before me and I can see how it flows? To even further set me apart from the world, the town isn’t even available to walk around in. Instead, the town is a screen asking you which building you want to enter, such as the tavern or arena. It turns out that the only way to walk around is to go on a mission and walk around in that level. This setup may be better for the impatient gamer who doesn’t care about the immersion into the world and only wants to play it for the action, but for those who enjoyed games like Dragon Age or Oblivion, it just doesn’t cut it.
Combat: The combat is fun, however. As repetitive as it is, being able to select between one of three characters with distinct fighting styles gives it a different kind of feel. Instead of just having the two partners follow you, you can actually switch out your usable character with a tap of a button and use brute force instead of magic, speed instead of strength, and the like. Also, through leveling and scrolls, the characters learn different abilities unique to them. For example, Areus uses his sword and magic abilities in various combos, taking advantage of enemy weaknesses. One enemy may be weak against fire, so you may use a fireball. Another enemy may be weak against lightning, so you must change your available character and use lightning based ram attacks. Every enemy is not the same, which is one fact about this game that I was very happy about. Who wants to use just one move on everything? That gets incredibly boring. In addition, the enemies you attack may not always show you right away what their weakness is so it is up to you to discover. This gives the game a little bit of a challenge when you are in an epic boss battle, low on health, and have absolutely no idea what to do to kill it. It is not as complicated as say Shadow of the Colossus, but gives a challenge nonetheless and trial and error is your only tool.
Graphics and Audio: I was very satisfied with the graphics and the audio in the game. It wasn’t anything earth shattering and completely new, but it wasn’t as if the artists designed it blindfolded. Visually, the game is crisp, clean, and doesn’t leave you wanting much more. There have been some games that released on these next gen systems that really cause me to ask why they even bothered releasing the game looking as it did, but Trinity is definitely not in that category. I truly enjoyed the way that the game was layered with graphics. Depending on where you are, the graphic scheme changes slightly. When you are in the main town picking which building to go into, it is more of a brief beautiful view of the town in a menu setting. After you pick somewhere to enter, it shows a beautiful, artistically styled backdrop of the inside of the entered area while the characters are in still motion shots, conveying their conversation through text and poses. This style is incredibly similar to the previously mentioned Vindictus as well as Guild Wars 2, for anyone who checked out the videos posted from the recent PAX East event in Boston. Thirdly, while in an area battling, it is a well made, phenomenal looking environment. Instead of concentrating on making an entire integrated world, each area looks different than the next, making it completely unique and recognizable as its own place. As mentioned earlier, the voice acting truly brought the characters to life, but the environmental music gives life to the environment. The music makes sense and feels that if what you were doing had a soundtrack, it would sound exactly like the music playing. Audio and graphical integration is quite important because if the music doesn’t fit, it won’t matter what the game looks like because you will feel distant from the world you are in. It is like going to an IMAX movie and the speakers suck. It just doesn’t work out well.
Overall Reaction: Taking the game as a whole, it is fun for a few hours, if that. It is a beautiful game with an unfortunately clichéd storyline that is just too repetitive to hold any interest for an extended period of time. For anyone who enjoys just hack and slashing through a game, you will probably enjoy it, but anyone that really wants an engaging new story with a complete immersive experience into a new virtual world, I feel you will b severely disappointed. Definitely good for a borrow or a rental, but not worth the buy.
Our copy of Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll was provided for reviewing purposes.