Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll Review
Developer: Omega Force / Publisher: Tecmo Koei / Played on: PlayStation 3 / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Teen (Alcohol Reference, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Simulated Gambling, Violence)
“Dynasty Warriors with fewer enemy hordes, but larger bosses” sounds like a great idea for a videogame, but the concept doesn’t pan out in Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll. This unexciting PlayStation 3-exclusive looks more like a PS2 game. Worse, it plays like every other repetitive, hack-and-slash game that Omega Force has ever developed for the last-generation system. While there are some redeeming qualities, anything of value depreciates over the course of the agonizing 40 hours of tepid, not epic, gameplay.
With a premise built around vengeance and mystery, the Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll storyline is one of this game’s few saving gems. The trusted Chancellor of a land called Vyashion prophesizes that Emperor Balor will die at the hand of his unborn grandson, so the merciless emperor has his daughter killed, eliminating the threat. However, it turns out that his son, in love with a female elf, would be the source of the much-maligned offspring. Balor kills his son, too, but the elfin mother and his grandson remain at large. Twenty years later, the grandson returns to depose and dispose of the emperor.
The plot is reminiscent of the God of War series, but this game is set in a different era and there’s an extra generation thrown in there between Zeus and Kratos. Thankfully, that’s not the only difference between this Middle Ages-based game and Sony’s blockbuster full of Greek mythology. As the half-elf, half-human grandson grows up to become a surprisingly cunning warrior named Areus, he faces undertones of racism and a desire for acceptance in a world filled with humans, elves, dwarfs, and burly-looking Boldans. Areus’ status as an underdog figure only makes you want to root for him more, as he rises through the ranks of gladiator, adventurer, and soldier in the Balor army to get close to the evil emperor. Joining this sword-wielding character on his quest are two playable companions, a hulk-like Boldan warrior named Dagada and a nimble Darkenith Xena-type named Selene. All three characters have mysterious pasts that are slowly revealed as the plot unfolds. The problem is that while the story is convincing enough to make you want to find out more, the game’s length and the fact that much of the story is told through text-based dialogue make it feel like it’s told in dribs and drabs.
Pacing problems extend to Trinity’s never-evolving, hack-and-slash gameplay. A faulty camera system makes it impossible to fight large enemies in tight spaces. You would think that the developer would avoid such an awkward combination, but, apparently, narrow cave passages are where massive ogres like to dwell. Their main attack move is to charge at you, sending the camera into disarray and leading to more than a couple of unnecessary deaths and additional time on the game’s already-unbearable length.
Of course, enemies don’t have to be large to confuse the camera. A swarm of small bats is enough to keep your character spinning in place since this game lacks any sort of targeting system to help make the hack-and-slash gameplay more accurate. Blindly having to attack enemies by aiming with the left analog stick can often lead to a miss by a mere degree or two. Even more infuriating is when you adjust and miss a couple of degrees the other way. Just wait until the game reaches the ten-hour mark and adds translucent enemies to the mix.
Switching between Areus, Dagada and Selene and experimenting with their distinct move sets is enjoyable. Likewise, building up enough energy to pull off a Trinity Attack in which all three work together to damage an enemy is rewarding. But, you can’t help but feel scammed whenever the storyline ushers Dagada and Selene away from your fighting party without warning, especially when you just spent money and loot to upgrade them. Once you learn that there are a couple of portions where you fight as a solo Areus, you begin to upgrade him before the other two characters, and that causes the team to feel unbalanced.
The best part of having Dagada and Selene fight by Areus’ side is that battles become less difficult and more strategic thanks to the trio’s novel health system. As soon as you run out of health, you’re immediately shifted to playing as the next fighter while the fallen party member takes 15 or so seconds to recover. To prevent this idle-and-recover system from making the game too easy, the developer made sure that the health bar is never fully restored and is missing an additional small fraction of health every time the character taps out. This is reminiscent of the innovative health system found in Resistance: Fall of Man before Insomniac Games went to the more generic, easy-to-understand Call of Duty route for its sequel. It works really well here, striking the right balance between fair and challenging.
As much as the unconventional health system should be praised and the fun-to-pull-off Trinity Attacks stand out, the gameplay still consists of fighting and upgrading, followed by more fighting and upgrading. The game claims to offer a “non-linear adventure,” but all of the events you choose funnel down to the same basic outcome. Missions advance the story, while generic side-quests boil down to the same gameplay repackaged and don’t feel fun or necessary after a dozen hours. Knowing that the game is only a third of the way from wrapping up at that point, you’ll keep wishing Trinity was renamed Singularity and was two acts shorter.
Graphics and Sound
Treasure chests, enemy hordes, and miles and miles of sparse caves and corridors make up this generic-looking dungeon crawler. Some of the enemy designs are clever, like the Leaf Treant, which looks like an ordinary tree at first glance. Getting a little closer causes it to spring to life, as if this were a scene out of The Wizard of Oz. As you might expect, these trees don’t throw apples. They drop poisonous bombs. Notable bosses like the four-headed Hydra are well designed and look awfully mean, even if they don’t prove to be very challenging with the right team strategy. It’s pretty easy to figure out the attacks that enemies are weakest against and, if you can’t put your finger on the precise type of attack to use, you can always look in the very detailed Beastiary guide that lays out all of the information of each enemy. With over 100 enemies listed, you could spend another dozen hours reading through the Bestiary alone.
Sadly, besides the Leaf Treant and Hydra, most of the game’s other enemies aren’t very surprising in their appearance. You’ll find yourself remarking, “Oh, I’ve seen that scorpion enemy before in a Zelda game released 15 years ago.” Several hours into the game, “new” enemies begin to show up with color swaps that aren’t going to fool anyone. Level designs suffer from the same problem of repetition due to the basic look of every environment, while the sound effects and soundtrack prove to be just as dull.
Don’t let the “Trinity” label fool you; Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll doesn’t offer multiplayer support to liven up the stale gameplay. This is a single-player-only affair. Its name comes from the three protagonists, who are interesting to explore for a little while, but don’t hold up a third of the way through. This dungeon crawler is as long as it is generic, which is a terrible combination for a hack-and-slash game that appears to be a budget PS2 game selling on the PS3 at normal price.
4 / 10