Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince Preview - Absolutely Brilliant

The trio meets once again for another spectacular adventure
The trio meets once again for another spectacular adventure.
The trio meets once again for another spectacular adventure. FrozenByte

Four years after the somewhat disappointing release of Trine 3, developer Frozenbyte returns to the series once again with a fourth iteration in their famed puzzle adventure series. In another month’s time, fans of the Trine series will be able to once again make their way to far-off lands filled with magic and mystery, playing as a trio of adventurers on what is possibly their most dangerous quest in Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince.

I’ve had the opportunity to check out an early build of the game over the weekend, and so far, what I’ve seen is extremely brilliant. Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince builds upon the solid foundation that was introduced in the first two games and expands on the aesthetics found in the third to make a flashy return filled with so much substance. As a pretty big fan of the series in general, I found myself smiling all throughout the hours I’ve spent with the playable build as it all becomes apparent that Trine is indeed back, and fans of the series can rest easy with this newest installment.

(This preview covers the tutorial for all three characters and the game’s first boss).

The build kicks off with an introduction to the three heroes of the story as another quest reunites them once again. First off is Amadeus the Wizard, who’s relaxing in this cliffside home when he decides to send a letter to his wife and children. This serves as a premise for his tutorial.

Gameplay hasn’t changed much in terms of Trine and Trine 2 for Amadeus, but I’m pretty glad that Frozenbyte decided to step away from 3D platforming, which is arguably one of the worst decisions they made with Trine 3. From a design standpoint, there was absolutely nothing wrong with sticking to 2D in the first place. Amadeus can still summon that box and use his magic to levitate objects, but sadly he still cannot conjure up fireballs. Pretty sad for him, to be honest.

After Amadeus’ section in which he also makes friends with a goat, it’s time for Pontius the Knight to begin his own quest. The bumbling Knight finds himself in a haunted mansion to vanquish a spectral being, and he quirkily notes and applauds himself for travelling there during noon to avoid ghosts. It’s amazing to see that the series’ brand of wholesome and chuckle-worthy humor is still here, as evidenced by the character's witty remarks that never overstay their welcome. The ever-present voice of the narrator also makes a comeback, remarking on situations and disregarding character deaths with light-heartedness.

Pontius’ trusty move set is also back, as he can easily use his sword to hack at some obstacles, use his shield to deflect projectiles, and even slam down on weaker structures or improvised see-saws to launch himself up in the air. It’s also worth noting is that his shield can reflect sunlight, which can be used to open up new pathways and secrets. After finding himself in the lair of the spectral being, he ingeniously defeats it with the elements in the room to release sunlight and weaken it. The whole fight was really entertaining with just the right amount of challenge involved, and it’s probably what sold me most on Trine 4.

Once the battle has been won, Pontius receives a letter by owl calling him to the same quest as Amadeus, and we move on to Zoya the Thief’s introductory stage.

Zoya has just stolen a priceless painting in the midst of a ceremonial gala, and must now meet up with her fence to receive her payment and escape the area. In terms of gameplay, Zoya hasn’t really changed much, but I did appreciate some of the fine-tuning they made for how she moves with the use of her arrows and grappling hooks.

Zoya is easily the most nimble of the three heroes, and is able to use her bow to launch arrows from afar to shoot ropes and branches and free up opportunities. She can also use her rope to drag certain objects with her, make rope bridges to cross gaps, and of course, swing from her rope to reach spaces unreachable by the Knight and the Wizard. After some basic platforming sections and a really seamless animation involving her and her fence, she manages to escape. Of course, guilt also finds her, and she ends up donating what she received from the fence to an orphanage. How typically wholesome.

By the end, Zoya also receives a letter, which in her case was tied to an arrow. Piecing together the quest, it’s revealed to be from Wilhelmina, a wizardess of the Astral Academy. This wizardess tasks them with finding and rescuing Prince Selius, who has unfortunately awoken a terrible form of magic that spirited him away from the Astral Academy. After a short cinematic, the three heroes are reunited once again for the first step in their journey, and oh man, it feels really good to be playing a proper Trine game once again.

Transitions between the three were pretty seamless for the most part, and each obstacle is presented in such a way that you can complete it with any of the three characters. The skill tree also makes a return, wherein any of the three can improve their skills with collected vials found throughout the world.

There’s also a healthy amount of secret areas and challenges I found within the first levels of the game, which should give completionists an incentive to try and find them all. I’m not exactly the biggest completionist out there, but I found the secrets to be worth the hunt. For what it’s worth, I think this is where Trine as a series really shines the best: in its unwavering attention to detail and deceptively huge scope hidden underneath an accessible, engaging game.

Along the way the trio sometimes get ambushed by these nightmare monsters, which can easily be dispatched by a single butt-slam from Pontius. I’m a bit more mixed towards these encounters, as clearly they’re meant to be more engrossing with another player in tow. They became a bit of a drag after a while, as you only need to use Pontius against them in order to easily wipe them out.

Then there’s the first boss, which is called A Giant Nightmare Wolf. The boss design is very amazing, but the fight itself was a bit lackluster compared to the spectral being Pontius faced during the tutorial. I was able to finish him off easily with some repetitive slashes followed by a butt-slam from Pontius without even needing to kill most of the ranged enemies it spawned. I do hope that some of the other bosses require a bit more of the other characters’ skills and abilities in order to really make the player strategize more.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my short time with Trine 4, and I’m very much looking forward to how it will pan out once it releases next month. Frozenbyte has clearly taken a step back and evaluated the series as a whole and what made it so enjoyable to the game’s fans, focusing on the great and improving what they can while also trimming away all that unnecessary fat. If the rest of game can keep this type of quality up, then Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince will be the highly-anticipated return of the series that’s one of the best when it comes to puzzle platformers.

Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince will be released for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on October 8.

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