Trulon: The Shadow Engine Review

By Cindy Minguez,
Trulon: The Shadow Engine is a new turn-based title from Kyy Games and Headup Games that incorporates beautiful backgrounds, pleasant music, and a card-based battle system into an RPG. What more could one possibly want? Unfortunately, a good bit.

Welcome to Tripudia.Welcome to Tripudia.

As Trulon begins, you will find yourself in the beautiful kingdom of Tripudia, a region of natural beauty dotted with small villages and ruled by the benevolent King Paleo. You play the role of Gladia, a monster hunter in training who steps up to dispatch encroaching beasties while her injured father convalesces. It soon becomes apparent that things aren't right here and in true RPG fashion, Gladia sets off to discover the source of the mysterious sickness spreading through her country as well as the sudden rise in monster activity. Her search leads her to Maelon and back again, and she picks up three friends along the way to help in her fight to save Tripudia.

Trulon's origins as a mobile app are a bit too obvious in the port. The background art in the game is beautiful but character art pales in comparison. In cutscenes Gladia maintains her more polished look, but whenever she's moving or fighting she takes on a much more pixelated appearance. However, the art and music are both used to dramatic effect when highlighting the difference between the two kingdoms. Tripudia is lovely, a picture of largely untouched nature. Maelon is the direct opposite, a nightmare of industrial drudgery stripped of all joy and beauty.

Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the game is a warm sense of nostalgia, for older RPGers anyway. Especially early on, something about the game fosters a feeling of laid back exploration and invites you to slow down, take your time and relax. Gladia doesn't race through the world, she strolls. It hearkens back to a time when we didn't rush through games for the achievements but simply enjoyed them at our own pace. Those acclimated to constantly rushing through might find the pace a bit slow, but others of us will find it refreshing.

Accessible areas are easily found.Accessible areas are easily found.

When traveling, areas of interest are surrounded by a circle of light. You will move from place to place fulfilling simple quests as you search for answers. Most enemies are unavoidable and you must defeat them to move forward, but random encounters do occur now and then on the world map. When you run into a random encounter, you will be asked if you'd like to investigate. Sometimes you will discover a chest and a drop of Gaudium that awards experience and mana, or you will find enemies. Thankfully, you're given the option to leave if you don't feel like fighting.

Fighting uses a card-based system. Each character has cards that only he or she can use while others can be put into a communal collection available to everyone. The game balances the party nicely with two physical attackers and two magical ones, two from Tripudia and two from Maelon. The card-based battle system adds a bit of randomness and luck to battles that helps keep it interesting. Cards assigned to a particular character will appear on the left while cards on the right are open to your party and one of the fun aspects of the game is discovering new cards that enhance your abilities as you go.

Basic attacks are free but some special attacks require Gaudium or Delorum, the game's version of mana. You also have Assault Tactics that are randomly assigned to your cards in each battle. When these are used in combination with equipped items, they can create amazing results. Each character can equip three pieces of gear, which is found randomly in chests. For someone like Gladia, you could give her equipment that doubles attack damage or hits all enemies when using an Assault Tactic. For magic users, you might prefer gear that doubles defense or heals whenever Assault Tactics are used. Alternatively, you could go an entirely different route by buffing up magic and ignoring Assault Tactics completely for some characters — the choice is yours.

Only Roth can use Retribution cards.Only Roth can use Retribution cards.

Naturally, as you progress, you receive better cards that improve your attacks. The enemies, however, must be shopping at a better store because they will often quickly outstrip you. This is more than a bad draw of cards; you can be rocking along while doing just fine, only to find yourself destroyed in the first fight of a new area. The uneven spikes in difficulty can be especially trying if you're trapped somewhere that doesn't allow you to level up with random encounters, such as when you're in prison. Even in places where random encounters are available, enemies will ramp up faster than you will. At least the game is great about letting you re-spawn wherever you die.

Beyond these uneven spikes, however, is a problem far worse: the game is terribly buggy. Those playing on day one found themselves entering buildings that left them staring at a black screen. An update on day two fixed a lot of these problems, but it didn't fix them all. At least one of the achievements is currently unavailable because when you enter into a fight with the beast in the Undercity, you just stand there and look at each other. The fight never starts and you can't escape, so you're forced quit out and re-load your game. I have attempted this fight many times, always with the same result.

Another bug brought my game to a complete halt. Near the end of the game, there's a fight when first entering Maelon City. After beating the enemy and investigating the town, this fight respawns without the enemy when I try to leave, so I'm hopelessly stuck here. The game won't let me fight because there is no enemy, nor will it let me leave because it thinks there is a fight. Until a patch is released addressing this particular bug, my hands are tied. Additionally, the publisher estimates the game will provide "6+ hours of single player action and adventure," but a six-hour RPG feels a little too expensive at $19.99 even without its problems.

Maelon CityMaelon City

The achievements for the game offer a nice variety. Playing without a guide for fun's sake would net someone about half of the achievements, maybe a few more. Even if you go into the game knowing about the five-hour speed run, it will take you at least a couple of tries to finish off the list. The achievements involve collectibles, finishing fights in certain ways, killing enemies with special attacks, and finishing specific side quests. You're also rewarded for maxing out a character's levels, as well as dealing high damage. Overall, it's a fun list, but most people within this community may be inclined to wait for a patch to fix the game's previously mentioned unobtainable, and for those unlucky enough to hit the second bug I did, the game is unfinishable.

Summary

Trulon: The Shadow Engine is an enjoyably fun RPG. It's a very likable game with its beautiful environs and will strike a chord with those who remember and enjoy the slower pace of turn-based RPGs of old. Additionally, the game's card-based battle system offers just enough luck and variety to keep battles from becoming stale. Despite these positives, however, the game suffers from unreasonable spikes in enemy difficulty and, worse yet, some literally game-killing bugs. The game's $19.99 price point is also something of a drawback for such a short game, especially with the bug problem. The game's publisher has been quick to address some of the problems and has promised fixes for the rest soon, but until the game is adequately patched then buyers should beware.
2.5 / 5
Trulon: The Shadow Engine
Positives
  • Beautiful environments
  • Nuanced battle system
  • Full of nostalgia for genre fans
Negatives
  • Steep difficulty spikes
  • Bugs, bugs, and more bugs
  • A bit pricey
Ethics
The reviewer spent almost 8 hours gathering new tactics, fighting enemies, and getting stuck in bugged areas, earning 6 of the game's 15 achievements. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the ID@Xbox team for the purpose of this review.
Cindy Minguez
Written by Cindy Minguez
Cindy has been writing for TA/TT for three years now and is the Assistant Manager of the Newshounds at TrueTrophies. She's an English instructor at a small college and considered a remarkably cool teacher for knowing all about Mass Effect, Skyrim, and Diablo III.