Modern indie interpretations of classic RPGs seem to be a budding genre. Trulon: The Shadow Engine definitely feels old-school but does it provide a satisfying adventure or are you better off plugging in your PlayStation 2?
Trulon: The Shadow Engine stars an upbeat adventurer named Gladia. Upon taking on a few ordinary quests around town, she heads off on a grand journey while meeting up with a few unlikely companions. The first thing you'll notice is that Trulon has a distinct visual style. Its 2D character models and 3D environments will remind genre fans of Xenogears and Ys Origin although the locations can be quite bland here in comparison. The characters are vibrant and pop off the backgrounds well especially when you observe their smooth yet quirky walking animations. To add a layer of immersion, a rather impressive score plays throughout that always seems to suit your surroundings perfectly. All in all, Trulon's unique visual style and atmospheric soundtrack make it an endearing game that leaves a good first impression.
What usually makes or breaks an RPG is its battle system. Trulon's is intriguing in that it's card-based (like Baten Kaitos). You select from each character's respective hands one at a time in order to inflict damage, heal, buff, or debuff. It's simple stuff but unfortunately, it's too basic. Considering all you do is select cards (referred to as tactics) that have straightforward effects such as "Attack all enemies" or "Defense increases for the next two turns", it becomes bland early on and doesn't evolve much throughout. On top of that, luck plays an important role. Sometimes, you can be dealt an awful hand and your opponents can end your party's lives in an instant. Other times, you can win with no problem. That being said, you can set up each member's decks and also equip them with boosts in the form of mechanisms. Optimizing your group can be a satisfying feat but doing so effectively can take quite a lot of trial and error.
Besides a rudimentary battle system, Trulon: The Shadow Engine is one of the slowest games that I've ever played. Not only does your character walk like they're knee-deep in molasses, the combat is super-slow, too. Although you can skip attack animations (which take far longer than they should), doing so means that you can't see how much damage you or your foes inflicted. Another aspect that adds to its tiresome gameplay is the fact that quests are downright tedious for the most part. The majority of them simply involve fetching items for NPCs or taking down certain enemies. The most interesting quest had me avoiding being spotted by searchlights and robotic drones but that isn't saying much. In the end, you can't help but wish that there was more variety.
Finally, Trulon: The Shadow Engine is a port of a mobile game and I didn't even have to research that to know. The reason is because you'll see text here and there such as "Drag a mechanism here to equip". Meanwhile, all you have to do is push the A button on the item. How do you drag something on Xbox One? The menus are pretty messed up, too. Sometimes, the cursor will go off the screen. When choosing cards for your deck, the cursor seems to jump all over the place. This makes trying to accomplish simple tasks result in needless frustration. You'll also witness Gladia's sprite go through background objects which can be funny when she's just a floating head. Unfortunately, all of these strange components add up to make Trulon feel like a rushed port.
Given some work, Trulon can be a worthwhile RPG. As it is, I can't possibly widely recommend it but I do hope to see a reworked version release eventually because there's definitely a lot of potential here.
- + Unique art and lovely soundtrack
- + Optimizing equipped cards and mechanisms can be a rewarding endeavor
- - Rudimentary battles rely too much on luck
- - The overall slow pace and tedious quests will likely put you to sleep
- - Too many indications of being a rushed port