Troll and I Review: Beautiful Story But Flawed Execution
I consider myself pretty lucky with regards to the fact that all the games I've reviewed have been either pretty good or great -- which is why I've had trouble writing this one. The only thing that Troll and I has going for it, in my mind, is its setting. Far too much of the game doesn't work well or is severely lacking in one way or another.
I'm a huge fan of Scandinavian culture and myths, so being given the opportunity to play a game based on trolls and seeing them portrayed as a good thing in the media -- rather than big bad nasties such as in the 2010 film Trollhunter film -- was something that appealed to me.
The events in Troll and I happen in post-World War 2 Scandinavia. A boy called Otto lives happily in the wilderness with his mother until tragedy strikes and his home is burned to the ground by troll hunters. Sadly, he can't rescue his mother as a burning fallen tree is blocking his way, so he is forced to flee and leave his mother to her fate. Alone in the wild, he finds an unlikely ally in the shape of Troll who is also running from those same troll hunters.
Throughout the course of the game, you must play as both Otto and Troll, using the strengths of each character to solve puzzles and battle the troll hunters and other inhabitants of the wild. Otto is small, nimble, and armed with throwing spears -- whereas Troll uses his size and strength. Of course, the characters have their weaknesses as well, but they work together to overcome them.
This is a wonderfully dynamic story, but the actual gameplay really put a damper on it. The controls and combat mechanics aren't good at all. Otto can use his spears and throwing knives, but why bother with that when you can just smash things with Troll? I know why -- because everything rolls out of the way all the time and you can't really target things as Troll. Even Otto's tracking mechanism lacks substance and doesn't give a real feel for what you are trying to do.
If you do manage to learn the combat mechanics, you have one other thing in your way -- the camera. It gets in the way, becomes stuck against the environment, or zooms into something so close that you couldn't lock on to anything even if you wanted to. This was very frustrating and drove me insane. I like to see what I'm supposed to be attacking!
For example, there is one part at the beginning when Otto is running away from the fire. You need to slide under and hurdle fallen burning logs -- but since there was no autorun, you have to cope with camera angles near cliff faces and not being able to see the log accurately. This section alone took me a number of attempts to even get through, and this was right at the start of the game.
Given that we live in a time of stunning graphics, with games such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Horizon Zero Dawn, the graphics in Troll and I leave a lot to be desired. I can't quite put my finger on it as to why I thought it lacked graphically, but it reminded me of something that could have been released on the PS2. The stock pictures don't show this, but you can look at any Let's Play video for the game and see the evidence for yourself. It's like the game is trying to be something it isn't.
Even though Troll and I has a very linear plot, it lacked in instructions on how to navigate it. There wasn't necessarily a tutorial either. At one point, I reached a bit where I was totally enclosed by rocks, and there was no way out apart from climbing up the rocks. I spent ages running around and running into walls before I found out I could climb walls at all. In several parts of the game, it seemed like the developers took for granted that players would know what to do.
Troll and I is being marketed as an action-adventure game, but I wouldn't exactly call it either action or adventure. It would have benefited from more of the survival aspects you find in an adventure. At no point do you feel like you are trying to survive in the Wild, even if your companion is a big hairy guy.
It's a real shame, but the game did nothing for me. There was nothing in it that made me want to keep playing -- let alone back to play it at another time. The amount of time and effort I put into completing even the simplest of scenarios because of the clunky controls and the annoying camera angles, compared with how far I actually got, was very off putting.
For the $50 price tag, Troll and I should be a lot better than it is. At this price point, you would expect things to be a lot more polished and on a par with many AA or AAA titles. I honestly wanted to like this game but, alas, it wasn't to be.
Note: A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.