Troll and I is a title I really wanted to love. Being indie developer Spiral House’s first title, the small studio based out of Liverpool clearly had some huge ambitions for this epic action-adventure but unfortunately things fall a fair distance short due to lacklustre technical issues and uninspiring gameplay.
Developer: Spiral House
Publisher: Maximum Games
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PC, Switch
Players: Single-Player, Co-op Play
Genre: Open-World Adventure
Release Date: March 21st, 2017
Set in a post-World War II Scandinavia, the legend of an elusive troll roaming the forest has attracted the attention of a wealthy billionaire named Eugene who, along with a hired hunter attempt to track and kill the mysterious creature all in the name of scientific research. A young boy named Otto also resides in the troll-infested woods where he lives a peaceful existence with his mother.
This peaceful life is quickly shattered when his home is attacked and engulfed in flames with his mother trapped inside. Otto manages to escape, and after a spot of learning how to hunt, gather and craft, Otto stumbles upon Troll, forming an unlikely friendship as they embark on a journey of survival and discovery.
The design aesthetic of Troll is one that has many scratching their heads on what the developers had envisioned for this friendly goliath. Although more true to folklore in appearance, Troll isn’t a character that’s all that lovable. He looks like a mesh-mash of 1990’s Smith’s Chips Gobbledok sporting dreadlocks and nowhere near as pleasing to look at. I’m not sure if the grotesque appearance of Troll is supposed to draw attention to Troll’s inner beauty, rather emphasizing the bond and friendship that forms between Otto and the large brute, but if that is the case then Spiral House is on point with Troll’s design.
The concept is on point, but the execution is completely off balance.
Troll & I is going to draw plenty of obvious comparison to The Last Guardian, and rightfully so given the underlying plot and release date coming not too far off Fumito Ueda’s long awaited masterpiece. Much like The Last Guardian, Troll and Otto dual gameplay mechanic contrasts between the two main protagonists – one large and powerful, the other nibble and crafty. The concept is on point, but the execution is completely off balance. Troll is so overpowered that there rarely a time when you want to switch to Otto for combat, except when facing enemies that have clearly been designed to avoid all of Troll’s large, lumbering attacks. Transitioning between characters is nice at least, with one press of a button to change control of characters. The inclusion of split-screen co-op is a nice feature, if only the game was fun to play. Going alone is tough enough as it is. Whether or not you want to subject a friend to this type of punishment is questionable.
Crafting items is particularly clunky and not well thought out. Scrounging for resources in order to craft is half the battle, with resources especially difficult to find. I’m not sure if the game was play tested enough as there are moments in the game where there simply aren’t enough resources available. I’m not sure if I was searching in the wrong places, but it created a roadblock situation in the game’s progress on more than one occasion. I was left with not much option but to take the difficulty down a level which did help, but it nearly made crafting a non-affair altogether. Once you take the spotlight off hunting and crafting, the only thing left is the lacklustre combat that is already horrid in its own right.
Navigating the environment is uninspiring and just a chore to play. Climbing, running and jumping all happens very slowly, like something out of an older retro title from the original PlayStation, and it doesn’t provide a warm nostalgic feeling.
Navigating the environment is uninspiring and just a chore to play. Climbing, running and jumping all happens very slowly, like something out of an older retro title from the original PlayStation, and it doesn’t provide a warm nostalgic feeling. I can’t even recount how many times I plummeted to my death due to clunky controls which is beyond frustrating. Graphically the game feels dated for a title that only just got released, so I do wonder if Trolls & I was initially developed for an older generation console which progressed into current generation. It isn’t great, especially when you consider the retail price is more in line with an AAA release.
And then there are the glitches and bugs which riddle Troll & I. There’s an endless supply, or at least it felt that way at times. From getting trapped in between environmental textures to being locked in other characters, there are so many instances where I just wanted to step away and never return. It’s an agonising experience that seems to crop its head up every time I found myself making some progress. In the midst of an enemy onslaught, you’re not just fighting against the AI but the game itself. If this were an alpha release, I could let go of graphical pop-ins, but we’re talking about a game that has been certified for release to the general public. How that even happened is beyond me.
Troll & I is a mess to put things lightly. It does make you wonder how a seasoned developer could get so many things so wrong. It’s pretty clear Spiral House had lofty ambitions for Troll & I and the developers were never quite able to achieve what they set out to accomplish. It’s like trying to rub your tummy and pat your head at the same time. Sometimes it’s better to get one right before adding another skill to your repertoire.
Whether it was a lack of resources or manpower, Troll & I will be sadly remembered for all the wrong reasons. I really can’t recommend Trolls & I given the glitches and subpar gaming experience it provides. Perhaps if you’re curious, you may want to wait for a price drop, a significant price drop before you decide to take the plunge.