I’m always interested when new studios try their take on classic RPGs. Whether it be trying to be spiritual successors or using mechanics, a series is known for but in a modern setting. They get even more interesting when they bring on big RPG talent onto their teams to give it that “blessing.” Or rather, their talent to make their attempt to follow up the talent’s game with their experience while introducing something new. This was all applicable to Trinity Trigger, developed by FuRyu and published by XSEED Games and Marvelous. With a development team including Secret of Mana‘s worldbuilding artist, Yki Nobuteru, Xenoblade‘s character designer, Raita Kazama, Octopath Traveler‘s scenario writer, Yura Kubota, and more, the development team for Trinity Trigger felt stacked. Yet it fell short in almost every way of the goals it was aiming for.
Trinity Trigger follows Cyan, an adventurer who explores ruins for treasure or anything to help his humble family. During one of his adventures, he finds a little creature called a Trigger, a sentient being who can transform into a weapon. After meeting up with his trigger, Cyan is quickly thrust onto a journey of self-discovery along with two other companions, Elise and Zantis. Cyan quickly learns that he is not only the fabled Warrior of Chaos, but he must fight the Warrior of Order as the gods foretold. Will Cyan, Elise, and Zantis fold to destiny and reset the world after the fabled clash? Or will they do anything in their power with their mystical Triggers to rewrite their fate?
The story may sound generic… and that’s because it is. While it has what could’ve been an interesting premise, it instead trades that potential in for horrible pacing. There were numerous times when it felt like the characters just forgot what they were doing. Or worse, they just didn’t care that the world was in danger. That’s not to say that the story had to be all serious or doom and gloom all the time. Other RPGs do a great job of balancing humor or lightheartedness with bleakness and hopelessness. In Trinity Trigger‘s case, it’s like the characters had the attention span of a dog. They’ll be going on their grand quest after a massive revelation. Then at the next possible opportunity, they get distracted by a tomb that could have an altar to power up their Trigger.
Then they move along to the next city, where a massive brick wall of revelations comes along. It was like the game punched me in the face regularly to remind me what the stakes were. There wasn’t much depth to the main cast, either. All leading to so many last-minute twists that could be seen a mile away. Every time some new moment felt like it wanted to be a jaw-dropping reveal always felt like massive duds. Those hoping that even gameplay could make a bland story better may be as, if not more, disappointed than I was.
The gameplay itself is like a top-down dungeon crawler. You freely control one of the three characters and can switch between them at any time. They’re all out on the field following the lead all the time too. But the companion AI may be the dumbest AI I’ve experienced in quite some time. Trinity Trigger feels like it’s been made to be exclusively played co-op, even though it’s only local co-op at launch. During my review, I never got the chance to play it in co-op, so I can only speak on my experience with the game as a player playing it solo. And that experience is rough. Companions won’t do anything except attack an enemy or move around without your direct control. What does this mean? Well, they won’t change weapons. They won’t activate their special attack boost, they won’t activate their special attack, and they won’t move out of danger.
Nearly every enemy and every boss leading up to the final boss was a cakewalk. I can count on one hand how many times I got a game over screen. That’s not because I’m good at games. That’s because the dungeons, enemies, and everything felt overly repetitive. Even the dungeon layouts and areas felt like they had one new oversimplified mechanic, like sand pits that pulled you in or water that slowed you down, while also just being a fresh coat of paint over the same stuff I’ve been doing the whole game up to that point. There were no memorable bosses or areas except for the final boss. And that’s only because the companion AI ticked me off to no end during the fight.
I genuinely wish I had recorded myself during the fight or at least slowly getting increasingly frustrated at my companions. The fight isn’t just a jump in difficulty, bringing back a mechanic that was used half a game ago that it expected you to remember. This mechanic was a color pattern that made the mandibles of the boss receptive to only taking damage from two of the eight types of weapons. Again, this was mentioned once half a game ago, and the game expects the player to know that pattern like the back of our hands. Then, the boss throws massive AOE circles while running around the arena. What did my trusty companions do? Did they run around the very obvious danger zones?
Of course not. They tried running right through them. But taking damage staggers and pushes you back a little. So my trusty companions, who I’ve conquered numerous massive threats with, were nearly killed because they couldn’t sidestep a circle. This all led to me burning through all the potions and elixirs I could carry before the boss even lost a quarter of its health. Thankfully there is a debuff that automatically applies to bosses if you die to them. This being a ten percent reduction in their shields, a stagger bar that must be cleared before you can even damage a boss or hard enemy, which stacks five times. Without this, I doubt I could’ve killed the final boss and cleared the game. A beyond frustrating mechanic of the game that was basically out of anyone’s control without being pin-point-moving the other two characters around every bubble that spawns while keeping on the boss.
That’s not where the tedium of Trinity Trigger ends, either. Every single weapon form that a Trinity unlocks can be equipped with three stat-boosting glyphs. These can do anything from raising that weapon’s attack, reducing stun damage, raising health, preventing negative ailments, and more. It’s an interesting way to make each weapon feel different. But with the focus being mainly on boosting stats, this felt more like there were two to three runes always to put on a weapon. And when you kept getting more and more weapons, each with its own six abilities that could be upgraded, new runes, it all felt like a chore to get anything new up to the same level as everything else.
This makes me feel like I was just ignoring a cool new weapon that I COULD be used for weapons that my character actually favored (because there are weapons that each character actually does better with). Even though the game forces you to weapon swap regularly since each enemy has a weapon it’s strong and weak against. You’ll be using weapons that aren’t up to snuff until I farmed enough points to upgrade abilities that raised that weapon’s base attack and money to create more of the same glyphs that actually felt like they made my characters stronger or less squishy. By the end of the game, when you’re managing six to eight weapons for each character, each with their own levels to upgrade or glyphs to a slot, it just becomes incredibly tedious.
The icing on all this? Glyphs can’t be shared. And every new weapon you get always starts at level one for every ability. Thank goodness those early-level abilities are extremely cheap. Again, doesn’t make much sense why there are six abilities that can be slotted into a weapon’s regular three-attack combo, and there are clear abilities that are WAY stronger than the others. This is all before even mentioning the stamina bar. Every attack lowers a character’s stamina bar slightly, and that amount changes depending on the weapon. If a character runs out of stamina, you need to literally just run around until it recharges, avoiding attacks, or you risk doing much less damage than usual. Why? To prevent spamming? The game tries so hard to feel like a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler. But this superfluous mechanic just gets in the way of the fun way too often.
Trinity Trigger had so much promise. It had great talent associated with it. It looked like it could be a fun and grand adventure. But everything just fell flat on its face. From the story to just about every gameplay mechanic felt more tedious than enjoyable. More mechanics that felt added to try to make it more fun or be more involved instead got in the way of any enjoyment I felt like I could’ve had during my playthrough. Even if you could look past all of its faults, the dumb-as-rocks companion AI will find a way to ruin that for you. The only saving Trinity Trigger I could think of is if you play the entire game and all the extra content in co-op, what feels like its intended playstyle. And even then, I’d wait to get this game until online co-op is added sometime in the future.
Trinity Trigger is available on April 25th on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.
Trinity Trigger had so much promise. It had great talent associated with it. It looked like it could be a fun and grand adventure. But everything just fell flat on its face. From the story to just about every gameplay mechanic felt more tedious than enjoyable.