Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince, the fourth installment of the Trine game series, sees a return to 2.5D platforming, rich with puzzles and combat. Just like in all previous Trine games, the main screen is fully interactive; however, there are important changes that are dependent on progress. Obtaining “knickknacks” unlocks keys on the main screen, all five of which unlock a special reward.
How It Looks
With a new engine, Trine 4 manages to provide astonishing visuals throughout each level of the game. At the start of the game, each hero introductory level is accompanied by varied and stunning landscapes, starting with Amadeus atop a snowy mountain, followed by Pontius traveling through autumnal pumpkin fields and an old, disheveled manor, then lastly Zoya during a nighttime festival in a city.
Every level in the game has been designed with a remarkable attention to detail. The balance in vibrant colours with natural-looking textures, as well as the detail of shadows and lighting, is breathtaking. The entire landscape takes into account perspective and depth of field, giving the background a more realistic level of detail. Both interior and exterior areas have a strong balance to this, even horizons.
Some levels have added activity to the landscape to give more life to the levels, providing a more immersive experience. For instance, in several of the earlier levels, there are cats prowling around, lying down, and mewing audibly. Details such as these draw more attention to the background as you progress through each level. There are levels with prominent and adorable animals, including a seal (above) and a young bear. Smaller details, such as the appearance of Zoya’s arrow shots and Amadeus’s magic, have been improved in Trine 4. The colours are bolder, and the bloom enhances them further. Also as Zoya swings with her rope, there is a slight trail effect in the air – a nice touch that wasn’t there before.
The UI also has a fresher, cleaner look. It doesn’t obstruct the player’s view as it is out of the way and only appears contextually. The map menu has a nice parchment-like appearance with a colouring pencil aesthetic. The soundtrack is soothing and enhances the immersion of each level. It fits in wonderfully with the mix of natural and fantasy themes.
How It Plays
Alongside the improved visuals, there are also many improvements to gameplay. Most puzzles are not overly complicated, but combat is notably more challenging. More thought needs to be put into dealing with encounters, especially boss fights, using the skills available to each character. Enemies are much more mobile and force you to move around the battle area more. Though whilst combat is more dynamic, and new enemy types join in on later levels, it still feels repetitive after a while.
The game can be controlled with either a mouse and keyboard or a controller. Mouse and keyboard controls are fairly complex, especially as more abilities become unlocked over time. Mouse controls can draw Amadeus’s shapes, though recognition of the drawn pattern isn’t perfect. Controller use is simpler, but aiming is more difficult as the angle locks slightly in eight positions. Aim-assist is an option that helps to aim at specific targets, but it isn’t as effective in combat. As the game progresses, experience stars obtained from combat and boss encounters unlock new abilities to help with later puzzles. There are other skills and buffs that can be purchased using upgrade points obtained by collecting experience vials, which aren’t essential to progress but can help.
Amadeus starts the game able to summon a single box and levitate objects. With upgrade points, he can be useful in combat by levitating enemies or slamming a box on their heads, eventually gaining access to a horizontal throw upgrade. Later, he can use planks, steel spheres, and bouncy balls. Unfortunately, despite various tests, there is no discernible use for bouncy balls other than for amusement.
Zoya is my favourite character to use, having the most versatility. She has the most mobility with her ability to swing from hooks and to make rope bridges between hooks. In combat, her dodge upgrade helps avoid damage, and her bow lets her deal damage from a distance. Elemental arrows and the critical damage upgrade make her formidable in combat. Eventually, fairy rope adds more fun, letting you make towers with cubes to climb up.
Pontius I found to be the least useful, except in combat due to his shield and stun upgrade. His shield and dream shield ability are essential for some puzzles, but most puzzles don’t find use from them. The magnetic dream shield, the last upgrade available for Pontius very late in the game, is extremely powerful and allows all of Amadeus’s metal shapes to stick in place.
After completing each level, a previous checkpoint can be reloaded via the map menu, which also gives indication of total experience vials collected and shows missing collectibles. This makes it easier to obtain 100% completion.
Multiplayer can be local or online, and games can be open, private, or friends-only. All three of the intro levels for each hero have differences between single-player and co-op; some of the puzzles require both players with specific objects from single-player omitted. Playing with classic hero selection, there didn’t appear to be many significant differences other than enemy health being slightly higher. There have been issues with hosting and joining multiplayer games since launch, as well as collectibles not being shared properly. The Frozenbyte team have been working hard on the issue with a new patch on Friday addressing server issues.
How the Story Fares (Spoilers)
Trine 4 follows the story of the Three Heroes, Amadeus the Wizard, Zoya the Thief, and Pontius the Knight, on the search for Prince Selius, a young wizard troubled by nightmares. The heroes have to face their fears to return Prince Selius to the Astral Academy for his own safety and to prevent harm to others.
Unlike in the previous Trine games, the three heroes take on a quest from Wilhelmina of the Astral Academy, a character we neither see nor learn much about. The Trine, the magical artifact linking the heroes together and launching them on quests from the first three games, seems absent. The events of Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power may be relevant to this; however, that story was incomplete.
The overall story feels a little underwhelming and cliché, though it does help tie in Nine Parchments with the franchise. It was nice to get a glimpse of the deeper fears of each hero, particularly Amadeus and Zoya, as it brings out their characters more strongly. Zoya has a little more development as she acts surprisingly generous on several occasions, likely a by-product of responsibility as a heroic figure.
The titular character Selius, the Nightmare Prince, wasn’t the only reference to Nine Parchments in Trine 4. During Zoya’s introduction level, Rudolfus and Gislan can be seen crossing the screen across a bridge in the background (above). There is also a note left outside Heatherwood Hall by a parent concerned for their “pyromaniac son”; Selius isn’t known to use a lot of fire magic, but another young noble wizard, Cornelius Crownsteed, is.
Publisher: Modus Games
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Release Date: 8th October 2019
Do you agree with our review of Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince? What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments below.