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Preview: Trinity Fusion

1 May 2023

Every so often, my love of games trying new spins on the metroidvania formula leads me to misread a game. When I watched the first trailers for Trinity Fusion, I was expecting something in that vein. This was perhaps not entirely inaccurate, but it was mostly inaccurate. Sure, there are definitely aspects of the game that are in alignment with that general aesthetic, but as a rule the game is less of a metroidvania except insofar as that can be melded with a roguelite.

That might sound like it kind of rules to you, of course, especially if you’re familiar with the many metroidvania games that offer “randomizer” runs that redistribute where various power-ups are located and let you do some pretty weird things with the game as a whole. So does it hold up? Well, the game’s still in early access, but it’s developed enough that we can at least start to answer that question.

The Mother

If you’re already sick of games, movies, and the like that make a big point out of a multiverse… well, I’m sorry, but the pop culture zeitgeist is here and it’s going to be here for quite some time. You’re going to have to accept that this is a you problem. But Trinity Fusion is actually doing something a little bit different, because the multiverse in this particular case is not a natural outgrowth of quantum possibilities but an artificial creation.

The Prime world created three alternate universes: the Underworld, the Overworld, and the Hyperworld. Each one had a specific function, albeit slightly vague; it seems that the Underworld was for farming, the Overworld was for factories and production, and the Hyperworld was for research and development. Meanwhile, the Prime world simply got to skim everything off the top. And this was obviously an ideal solution where everything worked out perfectly with no downsides. The end! No moral.

No, of course it didn’t work. The Hyperworld decided to evolve itself into being next-generation humanoids called the Ewer, the machines of the Overworld gained sentience and decided to rebel, and the Underworld became infested with all manner of mutants. Machines and Ewers joined forces, and everything led to inevitable multiversal collapse that couldn’t be helped.

The plan was then for the Engineers of Prime to control the collapse, to regain some modicum of control. This meant plugging Maya, one of the last humans with parallel selves in all three realities, into a suspended animation state to serve as a nexus between all three of them. Their goal is to find out what is happening to each of their worlds, take control of the Lenses that can focus the collapse, and… look, you get the idea. There are a whole lot of things to fight, people who want to stop you, and you need to stop them. All good, right?

It’s not an excuse plot, and it actually has some interesting dialogue between sections as you unlock each of the parallel selves and examine the central hub. That being said, the story isn’t going to win any particular awards. It’s very… video game, I suppose. Just enough story to give you a solid framework and explain the game mechanics away without being too overt, not enough story to get overloaded and leave you asking questions the game can’t answer. It’s fun enough, in other words.

The Daughter

In terms of core gameplay, Trinity Fusion is a side-scrolling hack-and-slash platformer. You take control of one of three women, all of whom are parallel selves of the same woman. Each one has a different set of secondary weapons that require energy to use, with energy recharged by smacking things with your primary weapon. This isn’t exactly shocking. Your goal is to explore large, open levels until you find the exit, moving from region to region in your quest to unlock control over the lenses in each dimension.

Of course, this wouldn’t get you far if not for the fact that there’s more to the game. For starters, each woman has two special abilities that can be used on a cooldown. For another, you can carry two consumable items, including health restore items, and you can pick up a variety of passive powerups. (Unfortunately right now the passive powerups kind of blow and are boring, but it’s still early access, after all.) As you hack your way through enemies, they’ll also increase your power level, which means that they drop stronger weapons to replace your main or secondary attack.

But there’s more to it. When you unlock your first additional girl, you also unlock the ability to fuse your characters, gaining the abilities of the other and their secondary attacks to stack on top of your primary girl. You also get to spend currency you find on runs in the central hub to unlock new passive abilities over time, so even though you can’t be sure of getting the ability draw you want on every outing, you can go in with more health, more critical chance, and so forth.

And it’s all fun. That’s the crucial thing. Yes, right now your options are a bit limited and that doesn’t feel great, but I never found myself dreading the end of a run or the start of another. Quite the contrary; I found myself looking forward to what I would unlock next and what new exploration options I might have moving forward. I didn’t feel that deaths were cheap or the game as a whole was unfair. I looked forward to another go through the various areas.

This is, very much, a game that lives and dies on whether or not the player finds it fun to die and try again. And it succeeds at that.

The Holy Robot

Unfortunately, I’m sad to say that in its visual presentation the game is kind of let down. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that the character models just… don’t look great and don’t animate wonderfully. They’re good first designs, and they’re not ugly, but even the more inventive enemy designs generally do not feel very good. Your character’s dash feels floaty and lacking in speed or visual cue, weapon animations are stiff, and so forth.

The areas themselves, while detailed, are also somewhat boring and flat in monochrome. Again, it’s not hard to read. It’s not that the game falls into being an unclear visual soup, you can always tell what you can jump on, how ledges will behave, what’s safe or dangerous, and so forth. It all works. But none of it feels like it works very well, and that is ultimately the thing that holds the game back a little.

Fortunately, the game does have a very good soundtrack reminiscent of the scores for both Blade Runner films or Mass Effect for a more contemporary reference. It’s haunting synth tracks that ratchet up the tension where it’s appropriate, and I quite liked it overall. The voice acting is also spot-on. Nobody is being asked to deliver particularly complex lines, but they’re all delivered well by actors who are doing a good job. I didn’t hear one cringeworthy delivery in all my time playing, and that’s saying something.

The Fusion

With any early access title, there’s a certain question of how much of the jank is part of the game’s intended design and how much is just because the game is in early access. It’s an open question, and sadly it’s one that tends to be very difficult to answer. And rest assured, Trinity Fusion has some jank! It’s not a janky mess, but there is some jank, some unpolished stuff, and some kind of boring powerups that hold it back from where it could be.

But I think it’s in a good place already because with any early access game, the real question is “will this be made better with some polish and more content?” And the answer here is yes. Trinity Fusion has some gaps to fill in, but the game as it exists right now is fun and enjoyable. The work is not to get the game to a point of being fun but just to improve it. To fuse everything into a cohesive whole. I think it’s got a shot at exactly that.

Preview copy provided by Angry Mob Games for PC. All screenshots courtesy of Angry Mob Games.