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.
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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.
Are you enthralled yet?
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.