Trenched First Look Preview

What happens when you mix mech combat, strategy defense, and an off-kilter sense of humor? Double Fine's latest game, that's what.

If there's been one immediate benefit to Double Fine's recent shift toward downloadable games, it's been the developer's newfound freedom to toy around with lots of different genres. Costume Quest showed what the studio could do with a turn-based role-playing game, while Stacking followed that up with something that offered more traditional adventure-game leanings. And now we have Double Fine's latest downloadable offering: Trenched. Revealed last week, Trenched is a hybrid between tower-defense strategy and third-person mech warfare. Having had the chance to check out Trenched last night, we came away impressed with just how well this game hit the sweet spot between blowing stuff up and cerebral tactics.

It's apparent from the outset that Trenched revels in the same offbeat humor for which Double Fine is now known. The game is set in a fever dream vision of the years following World War I, a time when dough boy-piloted mech suits do battle with robotic alien beasts powered by the brainwashing powers of television…if television were invented by an evil villain years before it's time. The game's presentation is thoroughly inspired by the tough-guy men's magazines of the early 20th century, giving everything an over-the-top look and feel awash in machismo. It's there in the way you see your commanding officer defiantly waving an American flag as his legs are crushed by a tank in the opening cutscene; it's also there in the way you see yourself light a cigar using a handgun when celebrating a victory. But in true Double Fine style, it's all done with a wink and a nod, never taking itself too seriously.

In terms of gameplay, Trenched project lead Brad Muir described the game as an homage to the great mech games of recent years, such as Chrome Hounds and Mech Assault, but with an added layer of tower-defense strategy driving it all. Essentially, you pilot a highly customizable mech suit around a battlefield, keeping an eye out for waves of enemies coming out from a small handful of spawn points spread across the outskirts of the map. Depending on how you have your mech set up, you can take these glowing robotic insectoid beasts by using your standard machine gun or with a higher-powered gun, such as a cannon. The mech we played was set up so that the left trigger fired the machine gun while right trigger fired the cannon, giving us the chance to really unload on enemy waves.

These nasty guys are called monovisions, and they're basically evil alien robots made of TVs. Still, shoot them in the face

As you destroy enemies, you can hold the right bumper to magnetically draw in the scrap metal bits that these enemies leave on the ground after dying (which are actually little television sets). This is the currency you use to place auto turrets on the battlefield to aid you and your team of up to four cooperative players. There are a number of different turrets you can place, including the standard machine gun guy, the dampening generator that slows down any enemies within a certain radius, and the sniper turret that fires more slowly but works great against distant targets. You can also upgrade existing turrets using scrap, though no matter whether you choose a new one or an upgraded one, you'll always see new turrets land from the sky with a devastating thud as though they were just dropped from space. We really enjoyed the balance between frantically shooting enemies and running around to pick up scrap, like a chicken with its head cut off, mixed with the more tactical process behind deciding which turret would work best in a certain location on the map.

Your mech suit is also quite customizable. You can unlock new robo-legs that offer unique abilities, such as sprinting and going stationary to boost your defenses. You can unlock new types of guns to mount onto either side of your mech, using a slot-based system to decide whether you want one giant gun or several smaller ones. And, finally, you can outfit your tiny little solider with a bunch of different hats that affect the type of salute you give when running around base between missions. We didn't get a chance to see the customization options, but Double Fine assured us that the customization options are very extensive, and it seemed rather proud of the number of hats you can unlock. Oh, the hats!

You can customize the paint job on your mech, like this flashy number right here.

What we played of Trenched was a fun romp through a silly world of hyperadvanced World War I technology and the robo smashing that goes with it. It seemed to hit a good balance between what makes blowing stuff up so much fun and the type of strategy that a quality tower-defense game can offer. The big question going forward is just how much depth the game can offer to keep players invested during the course of the campaign. Hopefully, we'll get a better idea as we check out the customization system and some of the later levels. Until then, you can expect to see Trenched arrive sometime later this year on Xbox Live Arcade.

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Discussion

26 comments
Supersoldier317
Supersoldier317

i like it, i mean its far different. i just hope its not gonna b a total letdown for fans, btw will there be a trial or demo on XBLA?

jjmonster2006
jjmonster2006

...personally i think it's all hype. I bet it's one of those games they advertise a lot for build up, then it turns out to be another mediocre game.

Squirrelatwar
Squirrelatwar

Double Fine never lacks in the creativity department, just hope the gameplay holds up...so far it's looking like it will though!

conkerton
conkerton

WTF nice change of pace. Good to see something kind of out of normal range of gaming.

Uhagi
Uhagi

Looks fun, I like the co-op.

kaliban
kaliban

@Barighm dude Eeexactly!

Barighm
Barighm

I'm a sucker for mechs and deep customization options. Combine the two and I'm hooked.

Da4biddenOne
Da4biddenOne

I think i'll pass on this one. Brutal Legend was not that good to me.

bad_furby
bad_furby

"Does my Music scare you?" "...no, i just don't like techno..." "You would if you had robot ears..."

kwanzudood
kwanzudood

I'm thinking about getting metal legs. It's a risky operation, but it's worth it.

FaYt2021
FaYt2021

Gonna be the dopest dope I've ever smoked!

smbius
smbius

Double Fine goes from Sesame Street to this. Interesting.

SAGE_OF_FIRE
SAGE_OF_FIRE

Tim Schafer means a day one buy, just wish there was a PC version.

IceJester45
IceJester45

Looks great. This could make waiting for MechWarrior 5 easier.

ReaverGod666
ReaverGod666

Looks kinda stupid all things considered.

Roggirek
Roggirek

@XxHYDROZILLAxX I actually only played it for a few days, as I was at my friends house for a weekend and we rented it. He got tired of it, and started playing PC, but DAMN did I play that game every waking hour. I was so sad when it died...

XxHYDROZILLAxX
XxHYDROZILLAxX

@Roggirek True dat. Best game ever made. I miss playin with my legos, loadin up a trial sortie, then smashin noobs in free battle with my creation. Most people hear the word mech and they instantly think NERD. It's not a very marketable genre but I'm glad I got to experience the undisputed king Chromehounds! I hope From Software delivers on Steel Battalion.

ninjaroach81
ninjaroach81

Thank god for Double Fine. They just seem like they're having fun making games and doing the crazy ideas that just pop up in their heads. Now give us Brutal Legend 2!!!

2chase
2chase

Looks like it will be an excellent XBLA game

metalkid9
metalkid9

Double Fine is probably the only game company I've seen come up with these unique ideas over and over again in all their games.

childe_roland
childe_roland

Double Fine strikes again, this game looks wicked.