I’m sure that the JRPG’s of the 16 and 32 bit era were almost universally considered to be exceptional, marathon-length adventures into unimaginably rich, alien universes that defied belief. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s because it’s only a few hours long or maybe it’s just because I’ve seen it all before, but I don’t have anything much positive to say about Trulon.
It’s not that it’s inherently bad, it’s just incredibly mediocre and there are a million better things to spend your money on. It begins with a standard tale of a young heroine who is tasked to save the world from a deadly virus before it spreads and eradicates the populous. This dubious opening is delivered through text-based cut scenes that make reasonable use of the cute, colorful graphics, but nothing really screams out to pull the player into the narrative, and the main character, Gladia, is incredibly generic.
Aside from the standard JRPG tropes, Trulon takes some inspiration from the Steampunk world, but it seems hesitant to engage with the darker subjects that such a world lends itself to. In fact, it barely scratches the imaginative surface of any fiction, whether JRPG, Steampunk or otherwise, and as a result what begins as a timid plot opener never really develops.
The enemies at least do show some promise, with monsters, bandits and robots of just about all kinds being well represented. It’s also a nice touch that most battles can be avoided entirely should the player wish, which is certainly preferable to being forced into random encounters with the same bad guys for the hundredth time. That said, Trulon has one hell of a difficulty curve, and because of the card based attack system that I’ll describe in a moment, I found myself actively avoiding combat more often than I would like, albeit for the wrong reasons.
So, that card based battle system. Interestingly, Trulon features a unique (for both good and bad reasons) approach to combat that requires the player to collect tactics cards. These cards allow the in-game heroes to deploy specific attacks that either inflict damage, buff the party or debuff enemies. Some do other stuff, but that’s basically the jist of it really, and each one is available for a single use each battle, forcing a kind of resource management metagame that is, erm, not fun. At all. Late game enemies in Trulon are tough enough, without the added worry of actually having the resources with which to attack with.
The game is basically set across the thematically opposed worlds of Tripudia and Maelon, with the former being home to the traditional bright colors of a JRPG, and the latter being more akin to the grey and blue shadows that hint at Trulon’s Steampunk ambitions. A world map links these worlds together and allows the player to explore at leisure, and there are side quests and random events to explore or ignore as you wish.
Main character Gladia is joined in her quest by three key companions, and whilst I found the ensemble cast to be likable enough overall, I wouldn’t say any boundaries have been pushed. Each does have his or her own combat style and deck of cards though, and prior to the inevitable feeling of frustration that the card system brings, you may find some pleasure in tinkering with different tactics for attacking, defending and supporting the combat in different ways.
The graphics and sound are pretty enough – I mean just look at them – but somehow, they seem less likeable when in motion. I think this is perhaps because of the intense and continuous feeling of cliche, as if you’ve literally seen everything Trulon has to offer in at least two or three other games. It’s a feeling a bit like “oh, there’s a cute house just like that one in Zelda/Suikoden/Final Fantasy.” Or, “oh, there goes that old man, mumbling something about a prophecy. Isn’t he the same bloke as in Fire Emblem/Dragon Quest/ Persona?” It’s just kind of, JRPG by numbers.
And that’s Trulon: The Shadow Engine in a nutshell. Nothing tragically wrong, but a dull plot, average characters and a well-meaning but uninspiring combat system do little to lift a game that struggles to keep the pace up, and especially to maintain a reasonable difficulty curve. As a result, only hardened JPRG fans should apply here, because for everyone else there’s always a better choice.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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