Trine games have been quietly doing their thing since 2009, experiencing slow but constant growth in audience and popularity. Except for Trine 3, a misguided attempt to bring the puzzle platforming into the 3rd dimension, all Trines followed the same straightforward, repeating formula. Some would argue that it became a bit long in the tooth. Is a concept of three distinct characters, solving the various 2,5D terrain puzzles with a pinch of combat in a fantasy medieval setting exploitable for the fifth time?
Depends on who you ask. Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy rises to the challenge with a cavalcade of puzzles aimed at the long-time fans of the series. After a relatively simple tutorial, designed to make you drop your guard, the game will start to bare its teeth. Halfway through the story, it will begin assaulting your cranium with such a powerful force of concentrated puzzle magic that will leave you reeling for the ropes. If this is going to be your first Trine, you might find it incompatible with the idea of relaxing puzzle platforming fun. This fifth installment wants you to sweat bricks, which is precisely what the veterans kept asking for after (overly simplified) Trine 4.
Placeholder fantasy melodrama
Zoya the Thief, Amadeus the Wizard, and Pontius the Knight step up again to save the kingdom. The story is, as always, just a basic fantasy melodrama. It will serve as a decent justification for deploying the famous trio and their abilities in the field. This time, the evil usurper of the throne turned public opinion against our heroes, using clockwork automatons to assert illegitimate authority over the realm. As before, you can expect progressively more difficult levels, with puzzles tightly integrated into the environment.
All three heroes start with the same classic abilities. Zoya can shoot arrows and use the rope to climb and tie/pull particular objects. Pontius, being equipped with the shield, can protect himself and redirect projectiles back to their sender, as well as charge and stomp-destroy the fragile obstacles. Amadeus can summon boxes and planks, which makes him rather dull by default, at least until he scores some additional skills. Speaking of which, the game wastes no time in introducing the new abilities. In turn, these facilitate the ever-complex puzzles, creating a circulus-vicious of fun and struggle.
These additional abilities make the Trine 5 distinct from its predecessors. There are lots of them – some are acquired during the campaign, and a few you can unlock by investing the accumulated points. The green bottles you gather from all around are automatically converted to XP on certain checkpoints, enabling you to purchase new or improved skills. Powers obtainable this way are mostly combat-related, such as triple arrow (Zoya) or useless wind AoE for Amadeus. Some, such as using the shield as a kite (Pontius) are useful all around.
The stuff crucial for resolving the story you’ll get automatically. Zoya’s ricocheting arrows, Amadeus’s summonable sphere, Pontius’ throwing sword, and the others are essential for progress. Some of those are also upgradable, enabling you to brute force some of the puzzles. The sheer number of options regarding talents, moves, and spells inevitably led to the game being lenient towards an experimental approach. You’ll gradually need more of that flexibility, though, as the game peaks in difficulty long before the ending credits.
Rock me Amadeus
One way to tackle the challenge is a co-op for 2-4 players. This time, you can play without character restrictions. Do you want three Zoyas or two Pontiuses and two Amadeous? You can have it! Some puzzles become absurdly simple when playing this way, and some turn into near-impossible struggles. If you decide to play a “normal” three-person co-op with unique characters, expect an additional difficulty layer in almost all puzzles. It greatly helps if all three people possess roughly the same skill level, though. Having even one klutz in the gang can lead to military-grade frustration.
Speaking of frustration… Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy is the most combat-centric Trine to date. Every once in a while, the game will have you battle automatons, ratmen, and whatnot. Unfortunately, only Pontius is properly equipped for combat. Zoya’s arrows are feeble, and by default, Amadeus, sans any combat upgrades, is useless. So the fights mainly involve switching to Pontius, spamming charge every time it’s off the cooldown, and using the shield as a reflecting board. In all, combat feels redundant and unnecessary. If there’s going to be Trine 6, devs must start with the heavy redesign of its violent aspects.
Picturesque beyond measure
The true difficulty of its puzzles is somewhat debatable, but the good looks of this game are undisputable. Trine 5: A Clockwork Conspiracy feels like a picture book came alive. The backgrounds are presented in glorious 2,5D with a dizzying amount of detail. I could watch the game all day if the streamer is competent enough to provide smooth transitions through challenges.
Puzzle platformers have come a long way since The Lost Vikings. The Trine series, except for Trine 3, is one of the better options for people looking for this kind of challenge. The first two games are still very playable, and since you can get them for pennies, you probably should start with them. If you are new to all this, don’t test your aptitude with Trine 5, you might find breaching this brick wall genuinely painful.
- New abilities and their upgrades allow for alternative puzzle solutions.
- Long-time fans yearning for a challenge had their prayers answered.
- Very pretty game.
- Lackluster combat focused on a single usable character.
- Some mid to late-game puzzles are very difficult.
- The story is a forgettable fantasy placeholder.