Monday, March 29, 2010

Trinity

Since I'm now in wait mode for TMGS, I took the opportunity to play through Trinity, a module that first came to my attention when Alazander reviewed it a few weeks ago. Note that there are some spoilers below.

Overall I was incredibly impressed. In fact, the adventure was so much "my style" that I'm able to say very little negative about it. Sure, there was the occasional odd behavior and typo, but I'm genuinely hard pressed to find anything meaningful to criticize.

What impressed me most was what I gather the creators were trying foremost to accomplish: namely that the whole adventure felt as though it were a P and P session. This was accomplished by the implementation of several non-combat oriented challenges. The most obvious and impressive example is the floating stone bridge in the depths of Solaria, where different paths are available for different characters with varying strengths. There were other examples, of course, such as the copious use of secret doors, the use of ropes to grapple down cliffs, and there are probably others that I didn't see the first play-through.

The second truly impressive aspect of the module is the four different companions. I absolutely agree with Alazander's assessment that they were "well-realized without being extraordinary." They were well-realized in that each had a discernable personality and motive. Although one proved a traitor, I was actually more impressed by the one who chose not to return to collect the reward, opting instead to make off with one of the recovered artifacts rather than risk it being confiscated by the authorities. It somehow felt "real" to me that five heroes rode off on the adventure but only three returned. On the other side, they were "not extraordinary" in that none were over-the-top in the way that Minsc was in the BG series or freaks like so many in Planescape: Torment or even MotB. My only slight criticism is that the companion banter more often than not consisted of insulting each other, often in clever ways. That's actually getting tiring to me now, although I can't criticize it too much seeing as how I've all-too-often fallen into the same pattern in the past as well.

A third aspect I appreciated was the ecology of the dungeon. I can think of only five creatures (or groups of the same creatures) that live normally in the dungeon of Solaria. By the time the party gets there, there are some other adventurers that have wondered in, and the dungeon boss does summon some additional undead minions to help defend its home, but on a normal day only those five live there. This is in (I think) five maps worth of dungeons. In between these combat encounters are the various tricks and puzzles I referenced earlier. I still believe - and this is something I strive for in my own adventures - that "blank space" makes the occasional combat all the more exciting and dangerous, and if that blank space is made otherwise interesting as it is here, you have the makings of a really first-rate dungeon.

There was also an obscene amount of custom content, so the entire game felt fresh at every turn. There were new tilesets, placeables, heads, backpacks, and music, although much of the music I recognized from other sources. Nevertheless, this is minor in my opinion; after all, all the eye-candy in the world won't help an otherwise boring module. As it is, Trinity has so much going for it that the eye-candy forms the cherry on a magnificent sunday.

Additionally, the area design was first-rate. The outdoor areas were beautiful (proving that every module team has someone with a better eye than I have), although I thought the forests proved a bit too restrictive in their allowed movement. The interiors were well-realized and - most importantly - interesting, as I have already mentioned.

The writing was the one area that didn't really stand out to me, although it also didn't stand out in a bad way. It was fully competent and got the job done. I will say that I was impressed by the game design in that there were numerous choices that I gather affected the final outcome. Most noticeably, there is a final confrontation that appears to allow a lot of flexibility as to how the entire module will be resolved. I'm guessing you can go all the way from full-fledged traitor to stalwart hero - I chose stalwart hero - and even several shades in-between. That's top-notch.

So overall I agree with Alazander that Trinity feels very close to a professional-calibre module. I'd already pay for it as-is, but add a little VO and knock out the few small remaining points that need polish, and it would be a no-brainer. If it seems like I'm gushing, I am. As I said, this adventure is exactly my style. The best compliment I can give Trinity is that I will definitely be playing it again in the very near future, if for no other reason than to see all the things I missed, and that's something I say about very few modules.

1 comment:

E.C.Patterson said...

Thank you for the review Tiberius! I greatly enjoyed your reviews of Rome and The Tudors, so this was especially thrilling.

Glad you liked the mod this much. You put a smile on me today.

Looking forward to playing TMGS.

P.S. The insult contest was supposed to represent P&P trash-talking, though I found it a bit too much myself in the end!