[Review] Troll and I – A mess
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, NSwitch
Developer: Spiral House
Publisher: Maximum Games
Release: 21th March 2017
Price: 39.99 (PC) / 49.99 (Consoles)
Review Key provided by Publisher
With Troll and I Spiral House tries to revive the story driven local coop genre, which recieves less and less love every year. Can it offer a compelling Gameplay and Story or does it fail at its plans? Well, let´s just say this: It´s a horrible mess.
We play as Otto, a young boy who lives a peaceful live in a small village deep in the nordic wilderness. This changes however, when bandits invade his village, in search for a mystical creature, the troll. Once he escaped it doesn´t take long till Otto meets the troll himself and so the journey of Troll and I begins.
To be honest, the story is absolutely horrible. While it tries to tell a generic good vs evil story, with “twists” that can be seen miles away, it fails at it. Not only are the dialogues and characters so unremarkable bland and uninteresting, which was to be expected, the relation between the Troll and Otto just doesn´t work. On one hand the game fails to make the characters appeal to me, I never identified with Otto and never even liked him, he often just acts like a brat, especially during the beginning.
The Troll on the other hand can´t even build up a personality that consists of more than “I protect and help Otto”, Spiral House just fails at giving him a personality through his actions, since he stays silent the whole time. These two bland, generic and not likeable characters, combined with the mediocre to bad writing, results in a relation I never cared about and never got explained enough. Games like Majin and the forsaken Kingdom showed how such relations could work, it´s clear that Spiral House didn´t know how to properly characterize their main characters or make them appealing. I can´t really say much more about the story, its bland, generic, bad written and fails at the core parts.
Yet Troll and I doesn´t need a good story or characters, if it can offer a compelling Coop experience and good Gameplay. Sadly nothing Spiral House implemented is fun or good designed. One of the main features, the “open world” which allows you to travel back to any location you visited, is empty, doesn´t offer anything special and is mainly used to send you back to collect ressources. The riddles aren´t much better, except smart puzzles that require the interaction of both parties, they consist of “find the right item to cross the gap” without any creativity. Only one positive thing can be said about the world, the areas in which the missions take place are fairly big and offer some different ways to progress.
While they tried to copy elements like a Skill tree, hunting, climbing and crafting they didn´t understand what to do with them. The climbing feels slow and unresponsive, mixed with a design that sometimes can´t show where you have to go or forces you to start from new. The hunting is only present at the beginning, making it useless like everything from the Skill tree and leaves the question, why implementing them at all? Additionally the crafting just works as a backtracking tool, often you will stumble upon obstacles that require a certain element on your weapon, for which you have to go straight to the start again to collect the crystals, since they´re so rarely placed.
Besides these elements Troll and I also requires you to fight, in order to survive and believe me, it´s as broken as the rest. First of all the combat system actually works against itself, due to the fact that you´re forced to fight with the troll nearly all the time, since Otto´s weapon break far too fast, resulting to an endless search for crafting materials. If you play as the Troll you´re able to kill the most enemies with one hit, leading to an endless repetition of mashing the same button because you don´t want to spend 5 minutes to craft your weapon again. Spiral House also tries to spice up the amazingely tiny enemy variation with some boss fights, which suffer from the same problems as the rest. They don´t tell you what to do, confuse you and are just repetitive and boring.
Despite all these flaws Troll and I could still be fun in Coop, right? Well, they even managed to fuck this up, due to the level design. In addition to all these flaws that make it nearly impossible to enjoy this game a whole new layer of boredom gets added in Coop mode. If you play as the Troll prepare to wait a lot, since a lot mission or objectives require Otto to go through a small passage etc. to hit the trigger, resulting in long phases of waiting for the Troll and no fun or cooperation in Coop mode most of the time. For me, there was no way to enjoy this game.
On top of its story and gameplay flaws Troll and I is an ugly looking game. Spiral House didn´t seem to have any idea for the artistic vision of their game, instead they somehow tried to offer a photorealistic look, created with mushy textures, horrible lighting, stiff animations and bad models. Nothing at this game feels unique, the world looks and sounds bland and the Troll scares me more than anything else. There were no passages that impressed me with their style or presentation, Troll and I is just an uninspired looking game that doesn´t know what it wants to be or how it wants to look.
Additionally it´s buggy as hell, there were no play sessions without at least 3-4 bugs, if it didn´t crash right away. You will see everything here, from crashes, to bugs that prevent the progression or graphical bugs, forcing you to restart it. Even the slightest moments of enjoyment get destroyed like this.
Troll and I is a horrible game, it doesn´t offer a good story or characters, doesn´t understand how to copy its gameplay-elements successfully and suffers from a consistent flow of bad design choices. Spiral House clearly didn´t know what Coop games need and how to design them, had no consitent vision for their game and failed at nearly everything they tried. Combined with the amount of bugs and gamebreaking moments, I could never enjoy the game or understand how this got through playtesting. However, the worst part for me is, that it even fails at delivering an enjoyable Coop experience.
All these flaws, the bugs, the graphics and the way too high price make Troll and I one of the worst games I´ve seen in years, that didn´t come from the Steam shovelware hell. Troll and I is a surprisingly well fitting title.