About the GameTrulon: The Shadow Engine is a spin-off from the original novel by Johan Lillbacka and Jak Koke. It is a fantastical and magical world, exploring the diversity between two Kingdoms. A story with Royalty, lavish castles and of course, the occasional monster and nefarious Villain or two. You know a book must be good when a theme Park stages a theater production of the tale, such as Finland's own PowerPark, who will be bringing all the magic from the page to the stage in Summer, 2016. At first glance. it’s easy to see that it possesses medieval European influences and more than a slight nod at Steam Punk, with the flare of character design and in-game mechanical conception.
The book may be amazing but does the mobile application reflect all of the hype? How does the game visualize the new fable that has captured the heart of a country?
OverviewThe world of Trulon can be categorized into it’s two dominant Kingdoms. Tripudia is a lush green valley where the people take pride in their agricultural developments and maintain a peaceful co-existence with their neighbor, Maelon. What Maelon lacks in greenery, it makes up for in polluted starving desert wasteland and towering cities, investing all their resources in making mechanical marvels. Each country has their own energy sources. The blue Gaudium and the yellow Dolorum. It’s when these two mystical elements are combined, that the real magic happens.
The plot takes the gamer along Gladias’ adventure throughout Trulon. Gladia is a monster hunter, following in the footsteps of her father. Hired by the mayor to dispatch monsters, which are causing more trouble than usual, she ends up getting caught in escalating events, questing to cure the disease ravaging her land, to unravel the tangle of political intrigue and avert a clash between the two dominant powers that could devastate the world as she knows it.
Along the way she makes new friends, all with the same goal, to maintain peace throughout the lands and thwart evil where it lies. They all have their individual quirks and specialties, providing all the classic RPG combat roles. Gladia is an archer with a handy crossbow. Roth is a tall tank with an oversized flaming techno-blade. Violetta is a mysterious rogue with more than a vivacious figure to rely on. Ferra, the wizard, supplies spells that attack your foes and heal the team.
Overall the plot is easy to follow. The Linear story moves the gameplay along at a steady pace with clear direction through popular recognizable themes; good versus evil, friendship and teamwork, and even paints a distinctive contrast between city and country living. The locations all have their own appealing aesthetic, from the flourishing forests, to the lifeless machine factory, to the wading brooks in the valley. The world unfolds around you from the start, from your humble home to interacting with NPC’s throughout the towns, learning as you go, the lore of the land.
Gameplay MechanicsThis single player Indie game takes the gamer on a journey through two methods; character dialogues and strategic battles. During the dialogue scenes, the characters are displayed with expertly hand-drawn avatars, though they only get one each, which can be disappointing, but it doesn’t mar the experience.
The World Map is pleasant to walk around. At random times, you receive a pop up message asking if you’d like to investigate the area. This can turn out to be an ambush of Monsters, Animaes (mechanical contraptions) and Soldiers, or a helpful Gaudium experience orb with a chest containing an item to beef up your assault tactics, which is a blessing not every RPG provides.
The battle system reflects a card combat method with strategy aspects thrown in, known as “Tactics.” To start with you will do nothing more than simply “attack” back and forth but the more victories you achieve, the more tactic cards you’ll collect and the more diverse your strategies will become. To add extra zing to your zap, you will collect items on your journey to boost your stats and apply “Assault Tactics.” These are random boosts to your basic cards that can enact special abilities, such as healing, a raise in defense or even set your opponent on fire. The battle system is easy to learn, even for players unfamiliar with this particular play style. Even so, despite your knowledge of the deck, achieving victory requires a mixture of planning and more importantly, luck. You cannot plan ahead for what random hand you will be dealt, which can make combat extremely challenging. Having 5 healing cards makes no difference if they never appear in your load out. Chance can make all the difference between obliterating a team of enemies or being wiped out by a single foe, no matter how often you level up.
In battle attacks are always carried out with one or two very similar actions per character. These animations are amusing the first few times you see them, yet a couple of hours into the game you may find yourself wishing for a skip button to appear as these consecutive repeats take up precious seconds of play time. The game was originally designed for mobile apps. Yet, having played it on Steam for Mac, I found the point and click system to be very finicky, both in traversing the multiple areas to solve puzzles and in battle. On occasion the characters were so close together while fighting it was difficult to be precise with selecting tactics and targets, resulting in unintended actions happening more than once.
When taking all this into consideration the gameplay is very repetitive and can leave you feeling stranded and desperate at times, especially during a tough boss battle with no specific strategy available.
ConclusionThere are more than a few bugs that need to be addressed in Trulon: The Shadow Engine. When backtracking through previous areas, dialogue scenarios will repeat themselves, regardless of where you are in the story. The chance factor in battles can be really off-putting, losing solely for not having the tactics you expect. It’s not a long game. On Steam, you can even earn an achievement for completing it in 5 hours. The wonderful world makes it such an easy game to pick up and get into but also very simple to put down, due to the battles and bugs, without you wanting to come back for more.
Even for a mobile app, it contains the sort of issues you’d expect to find in a Beta and not in the final product. It looks beautiful and feels retro in a good way. However, even though it contains a decent story, the game just feels unfinished. Despite all the wonder there is to see in the two Kingdoms through the story development aspects, the lack of minor attention to detail in gameplay makes the whole package seem incomplete as a game. I think it could have been more entertaining if the Developers had taken the time to resolve these issues before release. A little more work would have created a more authentic and cleaner gaming experience.
+ Beautiful artwork and concept design
+ Atmospheric music
- Obvious bugs
- Gameplay lacking certain mechanics.