I’d rather watch Troll 2
After sitting through some PS2-quality cutscenes, the first thing you’re asked to do in Troll and I is hunt some boar. Doing this is simple: first, you crouch. There’s a pretty good chance that the game won’t recognize your input on the first try, so repeat step one as needed. Then, hold down the spacebar to track your prey. This will turn your character towards the nearest boar, and for many people (including myself), it will also break the shader so that everything will be rendered only in red and black (I wanted to capture a screenshot of this error, but at the moment, the game is crashing every time I try to start it up.) You can fix the shading issue by un-crouching, but this will scare the boar if it’s close. Also, this whole process takes multiple minutes, because everything moves at a pretty consistent 10-20 frames per second.
Are you getting the point of this anecdote yet? This game is broken.
To be fair, some of these issues were slightly improved after I turned all the graphics down to the lowest possible quality and did a few other changes on my end. But this is still one of the most poorly-optimized games I’ve ever seen in my life. My computer’s not quite top-of-the-line, but it runs most Triple-A games at highest or close-to-the-highest settings and no issues, and even after doing everything I could to help it run a game that has no right to be as technically demanding as it is I was still plagued by horrible framerate issues, shading suddenly flashing between light and dark, low draw distance, invisible weapons, invisible enemies, enemies getting stuck in walls, weapons passing through enemies without damaging them, and more. Like I said, Troll and I is broken, to the point that it’s hard to look past the myriad bugs and appreciate anything else about the game.
Not that what’s there is really worth appreciating. For all its pretty colors and promised emphasis on storytelling, Troll and I‘s gameplay and narrative can best be described as “unambitious.” Set in Scandinavia in the aftermath of World War II, the game follows a teenage boy named Otto whose village is destroyed by a group of hunters looking for the mythical Troll. As he flees the wreckage, he is attacked by monsters and saved by the titular Troll, joining up with him in a – wait, why am I describing the story. You know The Last Guardian? It’s basically The Last Guardian. Or Papo & Yo. Or any of the other games about a quiet, lonely boy teaming up with a giant monster for a puzzle platforming adventure.
The biggest problem with Troll and I‘s story is that it feels like it expects you to care about the characters simply because they’re the protagonists. We don’t really know much about Otto other than the fact that he’s sad that his village was destroyed, and Troll is just the bog-standard gentle beast that everyone thinks is dangerous and wants to capture, something that was already a well-worn trope when E.T came out 35 years ago. There’s a few interactions between the two that might have helped the story feel more emotionally compelling, at least on paper, but they’re held back by clunky dialogue, goofy voice acting, and stiff animations.
Of course, maybe I would care more about Otto and Troll if they were more fun to play as. In theory, Troll is slow and powerful while Otto is weak but easy to maneuver. In practice, they both feel slow and sluggish in different ways, especially in combat. Troll doesn’t like backing up and has a turn radius like a semi on cinderblocks, so while his powerful attacks will eventually destroy your enemies, getting him to actually face them can be a challenge. Otto is “faster”, as much as anything in this game can be called fast, and just stabbing enemies or throwing things at them is a lot more convenient than trying to get Troll into position, but his finishing moves involve lengthy animations that quickly get dull. Come to think of it, a lot of the basic actions in Troll and I require you to wait through these long animations, whether it’s combat, crafting weapons, or the absolutely awful climbing sections, which are a bit like Uncharted if Uncharted was terrible.
All of these issues are compounded by a camera that’s almost never pointing where you want it to point and “exploration” gameplay that mostly just involves getting lost in a series of big maps. Exploration is all well and good, but there’s a difference between non-linear maps that encourage searching every nook and cranny for treasures and big levels full of nothing. The simple addition of a map would make the game feel a lot less tedious.
I think the lack of said map is part of the game’s occasional half-assed attempts at being a Far-Cry-like open world survival game. For example: the aforementioned crafting system, which never amounts to much more than pressing “E” near some raw materials and watching, you guessed it, a slow, unskippable animation of Otto attaching things to other things. Or the simplistic upgrade system, a handful of unlockable skills unlocked by collecting idol stones. The upgrades feel pointless, partially because Troll’s more than capable of smashing anything you come across, but mostly because the upgrades won’t fix the lousy camera, the sluggish framerate, or any of the other problems that are actually making combat difficult.
The game includes local co-op where one person plays as Troll and the other plays as Otto, but it feels like something of an afterthought. Many of the puzzles require first one character, then the other to do something, which is fine when you’re switching between the two in singleplayer but means that there will be times when one co-op partner is sitting around with nothing to do (of course, that’s something that’s true of the whole experience.) I’m always excited to see more games supporting couch co-op, something we’re seeing less and less these days, but believe me – this isn’t the game you and your player two are looking for.
There’s plenty I wanted to like about Troll and I. But in the end, I can’t think of any part of my time with the game that I really enjoyed. Maybe I could have overlooked the dull gameplay if the story was interesting. Maybe I could have overlooked the mediocre, derivative story if the graphics hadn’t been so ugly. Maybe I could have looked every other problem with the game if it wasn’t so technically frustrating as to be almost unplayable. Unfortunately, the game is dull, its story isn’t interesting, its graphics are ugly, and it’s all a broken, buggy mess. I wouldn’t pay ten dollars for this game, let alone fifty, and my suggestion to you is to avoid it at all costs.
Final Verdict: 1/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Xbox One, PS4; Publisher: Maximum Games; Developer: Spiral House Ltd.; Players: 1-2; Released: March 21, 2017; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $49.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Troll and I given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.