A trio of would-be heroes enter a clearing in a burned-down forest. They come to a sudden stop, unsheathe their weapons, and take a deep breath. A troll stands before them. He stares down at the miniscule pests who dare enter his home. The guttural roar he unleashes would turn a ghost white, but it's the oversized club in his hands that proves his bite is what you should really fear. It's covered with the remains of the last living things that dared to challenge him. This is an image that has been reproduced in countless games before. Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll has no interest in subverting how this classic battle unfolds, instead ensuring the game's traditional take on hack-and-slash role-playing excels at its most basic elements. There isn't much to this expansive adventure other than unending bouts of combat, and that repetition can make you pine for gameplay diversions and a story that demands your attention. But it's hard to care about much else when you're engaged in mortal combat against another fabled beast. Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll offers such varied and satisfying combat that it's easy to lose dozens of hours while you cleanse the world of evil.
A prophesy has foretold the death of a king. No monarch wants to have a bloody assassination to look forward to in his elder years, so King Balor issues a proclamation to avoid a messy end. You can't escape your own fate, though. Balor's eagerness to squash a seer's vision only makes his enemy that much more determined. You play as his forsaken grandson Areus, who inherits a mighty score to settle. The setup has been done before, and Trinity doesn't offer interesting twists to make this tale compelling. Static dialog screens try to build character and motivation, but there is so much text to read, and so little of it worth paying attention to, that it's hard to care about the events as they're unfolding. After you sink dozens of hours into this tale, you grow to care about the world enough that you at least want to see how things pan out, but story is definitely one of the weakest aspects of this game. The sense of place is also quite dismal. Instead of walking through towns and exploring the world at your leisure, you click on dialog boxes against bland backgrounds in each new city you enter. It's disappointing that this world wasn't given much of a personality, and this lack of attachment makes it difficult to become invested early on in your adventure.
The focus of Trinity has been placed squarely on the combat. As the name implies, you travel with two other soldiers during most of this adventure. Areus is a master swordsman who's equally adept at long-range magical attacks; Dagda is a giant man who specializes in up-close, punching-focused moves; and Selena uses speed to her advantage, dancing around the battlefield while inflicting damage with her razor-sharp daggers. Combat unfolds in real time, and you switch between characters at the push of a button. In addition to a jump, a guard, and a roll, each character has access to three different attacks, and you can chain them together to form deadly combos. If you think the basics sound pedestrian, you're right. Early battles have you mashing on your various attack buttons while mounting minimal defense, and it's easy to turn your mind off while you cut another horde of goblins down to size.
But first impressions prove to be the devil's mistress. Trinity has an enticing rhythm that makes even mundane battles against bats far more engaging than you would imagine. The most pertinent reason for this is the smooth controls. No matter which character you choose, your actions are dished out as soon as you slam on the button. It's the sort of thing that's easy to take for granted, but Trinity demands a high degree of precision if you're going to make it deep in the game, and those exact controls make it not only possible to cut your enemies down to size, but eminently fun as well. What's really impressive is that even though each hero feels unique, it's still easy to jump between them midbattle and continue to heap on the pain. There's an inherent joy in flipping between breathtaking air attacks as Selena and thunderous ground slams as Dagda, and melding these vastly different styles together provides a continuous rush that makes each battle special.
Trinity starts out exceedingly easy. You may go a dozen or more hours before you have to quaff your first health potion, and in that time you feel like a medieval badass as you introduce a host of mythical beasts to your tasty steel. This slow introduction into the game's world does a great job of immersing you in the mechanics so you never feel overwhelmed. There are dozens of different moves to unlock and hundreds of enemies, and figuring out the timing of combat and how to string moves together takes a few hours of happy hunting. Unfortunately, those practice hours drag on for too long, and it can be easy to lose focus after cutting down another siren without breaking a sweat. If you crave challenge, you have to brave many punishment-free hours, so be prepared for an extended tutorial before the training wheels come off. The early hours also suffer from a lack of variety. There are only six or so different locales open, and you repeatedly enter these areas to embark on new quests. Granted, you often explore different sections within these environments, but that's not enough to make these missions feel unique. The early hours of Trinity are easy and repetitive, and though they do a fine job of slowly teaching you the ins and outs of this universe, it takes too long for things to open up.
Eventually, the difficulty ramps up. There is a great mix of docile and nasty creatures throughout most of the adventure that balances the sadistic joy of massacring virtually helpless foes with the champion's thrill of dispatching a worthy opponent. A pack of wolves may emerge from the distance, and you'll belt out a laugh of superiority. It takes only a few fire spells to put these doggies to bed, after all. But when you come closer, you see that a king snail is in their midst, a formidable opponent even alone. It's times like this that Trinity really shines. Lock on to the king snail to make sure he's in your sights at all times, and then set out for the wolves. Get to work killing those pups while keeping out of reach of that surprisingly fast mollusk, and you can build up your combo meter. When you hear the chime notifying you that the meter is full, you rush at that darn snail and unleash a three-pronged attack that stuns it. Diverting your attention between a host of enemies with varying strengths and weaknesses keeps you engaged in battle, and the healthy variety keeps you on your toes.
Leveling up is a mostly automated affair. You earn experience after every fight and buff your strength and defense with each rank you climb. It's a shame you can't tweak your stats individually to mold characters in whatever manner you desire, but that lack of involvement is offset slightly by the skills you acquire. You buy skills from magic shops or earn them during special missions, and these give you a bevy of interesting moves to build your characters. Some of these are passive, such as an increase to your HP, while others give you new attacks. Each of the three characters has around 20 different abilities, and every one of them can be upgraded with the experience you earn in battle. Ultimately, upgrading your skills doesn't provide a huge draw. There isn't a big difference between a level-one and a level-three ice spell, for instance, so it's not a great reward for your hard effort. But the new attacks add a layer of depth that makes it difficult to pull away. Areus starts with a basic fire spell and sword swipe, but things get more varied as you get deeper into the game. A host of unique sword techniques, such as leaping strikes, give you new strategies to play around with, and Areus' dark magic powers veer even further away from his initial path. You earn these new moves at a slow and steady rate, so you always have time to master your previous skill before the next one unlocks. It's a tantalizing system that does a good job of keeping you invested throughout the adventure.
You need every one of your skills as you get deeper into the game because Trinity offers up a satisfying challenge once the basics have been laid down. The mix of weak and strong enemies makes you fight for every victory, which means you could end up dead by the hands of an ordinary grunt if you aren't careful. It's the bosses that do the most damage, though. Many quests have you face off against a powered-up monstrosity at the end, often with a dozen or so weaker enemies surrounding it. Trying to build your combo meter by beating up on the lesser foes is a viable strategy at first, but before long, the bosses are so tough that you have to rely solely on alternate methods to survive. Figuring out what each boss is weak against requires trial and error, and it's a rush to dodge attacks while trying out every move in your arsenal to dent their impenetrable hides. This is where you have to make smart use of all three of your characters. You may need to conjure a clone of Selena so you can unleash deadly air attacks, or coat Dagda in thick armor so you can get close enough to score a hit. The later bosses pack a mean punch, which makes it more empowering when you do come out on top.
The growing difficulty means you should take part in every quest, optional or story, if you want to make it through to the end. Like most of Trinity, there isn't much variety in the quests, so don't expect any huge twists thrown your way. Almost all of them boil down to killing enemies while you venture to a certain point in a dungeon, so it's hard to distinguish between the necessary and superfluous missions. But what seem like extra quests early on become integral to your survival as you progress later in the game. If you don't take the time to do every quest and level up as much as possible, battles become crushingly difficult, and you may have to grind just to get your strength up. If you do want to bulk up before heading out, arena missions are always open for your hunting enjoyment. These encounters introduce a ticking clock to keep you moving, and the added pressure forces you to be as precise and efficient as possible. Trinity extends for longer than 60 hours, and you need to do most of the missions if you want to be strong enough to make it all the way to the credits.
Aside from the combat-focused quests, there's almost nothing else you can do in Trinity. You earn equipment throughout your adventure, and there's undeniable pleasure when you equip a powerful new sword, but that excitement is short-lived. Each character has only four different pieces of equipment (a weapon, ring, bracket, and necklace), and you don't even get a variety of armors to play around with. Instead, you earn new clothing at certain story points, and your duds don't even affect your stats. It's a shame there isn't anything else of consequence to do in Trinity aside from the combat. A few diversions could have added immensely to the overall experience, giving you a break from the nonstop bloodshed, but there's no such reprieve here. Your fierce bouts are interrupted only by mundane trips to town, and those aren't nearly interesting enough to make you excited for your next visit.
At least the varied environments give you plenty of eye-catching vistas to stare at along the way. The early areas send you to underground caves and confined forests, and the murky visuals give the impression of a low-budget game. A cross-hatching visual effect gives these sections a unique feel, but it's not enough to compensate for the bland view. Thankfully, things become much more pleasing to the eye as you get deeper in the game, and Trinity looks quite impressive at times. In one area, called Sea of Trees, you are fenced in by walls of foliage lining narrow paths. The rich trees are detailed and full of life, and the monsters luring around you add just as much personality to the adventure. Creature design is a strong point in Trinity. There are a huge array of beasts to fight, and all of them have a smart design that makes them stand out from generic tropes. The most impressive are the gargantuan beasts that can squash you in one hit. Facing off against a two-headed chimera is a chilling experience, making it even more exciting when you take it down.
It's to Trinity's credit that it stays interesting for dozens of hours when there is almost nothing to do except fight. Excellent controls, a wealth of different moves, and a variety of angry beasts keep things fresh throughout, so you won't even mind trudging through the same dungeon multiple times. It's just a shame that nothing interesting was built around this enticing combat. The weak story is difficult to pay attention to and even harder to care about, and the streamlined leveling system takes out much of the thrill of earning experience. Trinity feels like one half of a must-play role-playing game. You may crave more variety, but the combat in Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll is so good it sucks you into this adventure anyway.