Trulon: The Shadow Engine Review
Release Date: September 12th, 2017
Developer: Kyy Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Steam
Taking the simplistic and inevitably addictive nature of card games and incorporating them into an RPG sounds like a great time to be had, giving the feeling of, "What if Yu-Gi-Oh! was an adventure game or something along the lines of the Pokemon Trading Card Game on Gameboy Color, but for the modern age on current-gen consoles", and while Trulon: The Shadow Engine does well to give a bite-sized RPG, it's use of cards isn't so much a focal point as you'd expect, and comes with a lot of technical mishaps along the way.
Trulon: The Shadow Engine sets the player in the shoes of Gladia, who's tasked to go on a hunt for a sudden influx of monsters that have been roaming around the land, Trulon, and threatening the good people that inhabit it, but while traveling and meeting people along the way, she begins to realize there is something much more sinister unfolding, and that the monsters appearing more often than usual, as well as townspeople becoming severely ill, isn't just coincidence or a freak accident.
Developed by Kyy Games, Trulon: The Shadow Engine has a lot of neat ideas that work well for what it's trying to accomplish, but unfortunately shrouds itself in poor presentation. Upon booting up, I noticed right away the menu had a simplistic and banal mobile game vibe to it. I hadn't heard of the game until it came to PSN recently where it caught my attention since I'm a fan of both card games and RPGs, but when I was thrown off by the mobile vibe I was getting, I decided to head to the Play Store on my Google Pixel to see if it was available there. Sure enough, Trulon: The Shadow Engine was available for a modest $4.99—significantly less than its console counterparts, where it happens to be $19.99 on all other platforms.
Despite the poor presentation and optimization, the game is rather enjoyable in a lot of areas and will appease those looking for a short but sweet RPG to play through the weekend. Though you'll start out watching a rather horrendous video (and yet another unoptimized portion of the game) that's incredibly small and takes up about 1/4 of your screen, you'll quickly yet briefly talk to your father to get some story context, and then walk outside where you'll undergo a quick tutorial outlining the basics of gameplay. You won't be necessarily creating decks like you would with a normal card game. Instead, when defeating monsters, cards will be dropped that give the players an array of moves from buffs like damage increases, health regeneration, assists, and special attacks meant for specific characters. These cards are drawn at random, and while the option to attack normally without using these cards is certainly available, there is a level of strategy there - though not entirely deep or difficult - about when and how to use the cards at your disposal since all cards can be used once and then disappear forever afterwards. This may sound like it's annoying and may work against the player, but enemies are more often than not dropping cards, and there are treasure chests and items hidden everywhere and scattered across the ground that you'll frequently run into that will keep you constantly supplied with cards. You can hoard them all on one character or mix and match how you please, though, as previously stated, some cards will only work with specific characters; this is denoted by an image of the character on the corner of the card. Most of the time it felt like I was getting a lot of the same stuff, and this is bound to happen since there are just over 50 cards in the entire game, but it made for easy memorization of what certain cards were capable of instead of being left to wonder what would happen in the long run or against certain opponents.
In addition to collecting cards scattered across the region, players will acquire equipment along the way that will boost the stats of their party members. From typical RPG enhancements like better armor, leather, etc., there are equipment that you can put on that will help with your card attributes, such as some cards getting the ability to stun enemies when used, or healing your characters for a certain amount of HP. Though nothing changes cosmetically when you equip whatever it is you decide to put on - which is up to three items at once in whatever order you please - your stats will see a change in regards to how you decide to use the accoutrements you'll acquire on your journey through Trulon. While everything in this regard is extremely user friendly and easy to pick up on, the menu again suffers from poor presentation. Some of the menus still say "drag here" despite no dragging being done whatsoever since this is no longer on a mobile device, and navigating the menus have such an odd control scheme. This also happens during some tutorials and mechanics you learn later on where you'll still be instructed to drag cards or whatever it is across the screen despite, again, physical buttons being our only option in this scenario (the touchpad does absolutely nothing). To open up the menu, you press Triangle. This has been done a million times in other games, so this isn't an issue, but it's what happens after this that begins to throw me off. First of all, if you open up the menu by accident or want to switch something around, when you're done, the ever so natural Circle button to escape/go back doesn't do anything here. I thought my button was broken when I first started the game, but instead I had to press Triangle again instead of Circle or the Options button as an alternative. Since the menu system has icons to the side, you'd think you'd be able to go up and down each tab by using, well, up and down on your D-Pad, but instead it's R1, R2, and L2 to navigate up and down. L1 doesn't do anything despite making a sound when it's pressed, so I'm not sure what's going on there other than confirming your button's been calibrated and in working condition.
Trulon: The Shadow Engine has a lot to like about it, and while I do genuinely recommend it to those with some interest in it, I would recommend it at a much lower price - one that's a little more fair and comparable to its iOS and Android offering. Technical mishaps and clunky controls however keep this from being a truly enjoyable experience, and the performance of the game hinders the overall experience from being a game that's worth having for those that love RPGs and Indies to a title that's best to hold off on for now until it meets a price within a reasonable range of what you're looking forward to. Between 6-10 hours of gameplay can be squeezed out of Trulon, and while it has a lot of charm to it that, again, makes it worth playing for those interested, it may not exactly be a memorable game in the long run for most, and you can get much better experiences in a never-ending sea of creative indie experiences that will have a much more lasting impact.
- Decent combination of 2D and 3D art melding together to create a unique world
- Easy to pick up bite-sized RPG with intuitive mechanics
- It's got a special charm about it that does well to hook you and keep you playing until the very end. It doesn't try to overdue itself or innovate in any particular fashion, but it's aware of what it is and what it's trying to accomplish, which it does rather well.
- Sporadic performance issues that can get rather annoying. Lots of lighting hiccups as well.
- Poor optimization and presentation of the menus
- Its asking price compared to its mobile counterpart is rather inflated. That console tax is something else, huh?
- Though there are a bunch of enemies in the game, the design variety is minimal. A lot of them just have different color schemes or are bigger, variant versions of each other (i.e. a monkey with horns instead of without, a water elemental fox instead of a fire elemental fox, etc.)
Huge thanks to Kyy Games for sending us a review copy of Trulon: The Shadow Engine!