Over the last decade or so, Japanese developer Omega Force has created one of the biggest franchises in gaming history. Since the original release of Dynasty Warriors on the PlayStation back 1997, there has been 39 additions to the series, spanning a variety of different platforms and branching into several tangents including Gundam, Samurai Warriors, and Warriors Orochi (a crossover between Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors.) Games in the Warriors series have never really fared well in Western territories, but in Japan there is a solid following, demanding new instalments year in, year out.
Omega Force may appear to be a one-trick pony, but the team is hoping to prove cynics wrong with the release of Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll, a story-driven action RPG. The game is actually a prequel to the popular Zill O’ll series, which has launched on all prior PlayStation formats, though Trinity is the first to be released in the UK and USA. For the most part it’s a great game, offering a distinctive yet refreshing old-school experience, though Omega’s inability to ditch its hack and slash habits ultimately hold it back from greatness.
Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll is set in the fictitious land of Vyashion, inhabited by a number of races who enjoyed the peace of unity until the rise of emperor Balor Dyneskal. Once a noble warrior, he is left shattered after a devastating attack which claims the life of his beloved. Fuelled with rage, he isolates himself, exposing himself to dark magic, his will poisoned by the great mage Zofor who tells of a prophecy that Balor’s grandson will be the one to claim his life. Obsessed with the sorcerer’s premonition, the emperor wipes out his entire family, or so he thinks.
Satisfied with the extermination of his bloodline, he returns to his kingdom from which he intends to campaign against the neighbouring states and rule over all Vyashion. However, an heir to the throne still lives; without his father’s knowledge Prince Lugh had a secretly born son, a half-elf known as Areus, the game’s main protagonist. His tale begins in the arena of Liberdam as a gladiator, though it isn’t long before he unearths his true destiny. Along the way he will encounter a number of adversaries, though even more allies, each with their own stories to tell.
Without a doubt, Trinity’s plot is its most defining feature. Though it’s very slow paced to begin with, it builds up quickly, developing a large roster of characters, all of which may not appeal at first, though they will grow on you as the story progresses. Despite there being a lull and a sudden drag of pacing during the middle section of the game, Trinity redeems itself with a genuinely emotional climax, which carries the game towards its ending. Unlike most modern RPGs to come out of Japan, Souls of Zill O’ll favours character bonds and relationships as opposed to sexually ambiguous, scantily-clad schoolgirls and it really pays off; at times it’s utterly epic.
Trinity follows a slightly old-school design structure, allowing instant access to the world map; scattered across it are a number of towns, cities, dungeons and other landmarks which unlock as you progress through missions. Navigation is done simply by pointing and clicking on where you need to go, without the need to physically travel there yourself. Towns and cities contain a number of different hotspots including taverns, shops, mage guilds, and adventurer’s guilds as well as location-specific sites such as the arena and Fugo estate. Visiting these places will allow you to interact with NPCs, who will in turn provide information which is penned into your journal. Unfortunately, a good 98% of dialogue in the game is in text, and though it isn’t too offputting at first, when deep into session, you will likely find yourself cocking your head back and holding down on the X button.[boxout]Apart from story missions, which are obtained by speaking with specific characters, players can also visit the adventurer’s guild in which there is a notice board. Each quest has a brief description, including which area the mission takes place in and the criteria which has to met as well as a level recommendation. There are dozens of dungeons throughout Vyashion, each one being its own self-contained area. Once past the frivolities and walls of text, the fun really starts.
Gameplay-wise, Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll is very similar to Dynasty Warriors, though there is certainly a difference between the two. Firstly, the number of enemies you encounter is drastically less in Trinity, with a bigger focus on boss encounters and team-play. At any given time in the game, you can switch between members of your three-way party, each one having their unique play-style. Areus is a sword-master who also has the ability to cast destructive spells, whereas Selene the Darkenith is slightly more agile, her finesse allowing her to double-jump as well as air dash. Lastly there is Dagda the Boldan, a hefty warrior who favours hand-to-hand combat with a number of table-turning buffs. They’re a well-balanced team, and due to a number of mechanics and gameplay features, attaching yourself to only one is hardly beneficial.
Each of the hundred or so different enemy-types are recorded in the Bestiary, an in-game encyclopedia of knowledge, indicating their strengths and weaknesses. Only by utilising the different elements in the game will you be able to overcome the toughest encounters. For instance, Flame Basilisks are almost impervious to basic attacks, forcing you to switch to a character who has an ice-powered ability equipped. As soon as larger enemies finish their attacks, a ring will appear over them, indicating the opportune time to strike, though this ring will eventually close. As soon as the enemy is on low health another ring will appear, this time indicating that a finishing move can be used, which transitions into a mini cutscene, though it gets stale after the first few times.
Not only will you be able to find and buy equipment but abilities too. Each of the three characters have three “souls” with a number of attached abilities, both active and passive. Active abilities can be using in combat and are allocated to either the square, triangle or circle buttons, with R2 switching to another panel with three gaps. Passive abilities are simply buffs, much needed towards the closing chapters of the game. Each power has three levels, and by using Skill Points (SP) you can upgrade them to produce greater effects.
The gameplay isn’t bad, not by a long shot, it’s just that when faced with massive dungeons and hordes of enemies, the last thing you want is repetition. Even with six attack-types available to each character, the combat can sometimes feel like a grind, though only when playing for prolonged periods of time.
Blitzing the entire story campaign will certainly set you back a good 30-35 hours on regular difficulty, and that’s not even including the masses of side-quests and mini-games available. It’s a truly colossal game, and ideal for any RPG fan who wants their money to go far. Unfortunately, it has been confirmed by publisher Tecmo KOEI that there will be no DLC available post-launch, despite there being a healthy stock for the Japanese version.
In terms of appearance, Trinity isn’t mind-blowing, though it can hardly be knocked, either. Characters are well-designed, and there is a healthy lick of colour to all of the environments which offer a surprising amount of variation throughout the game. From pirate coves and magic towers, to charred forests and perilous caverns, Trinity has it all. There is also a semi-water coloured filter in effect, and though it adds a sort of storybook aesthetic to the game, it can sometimes be distracting.
Japanese games have been localised to cater for English-speaking players for many years now, and even in 2011 we are still finding our fair share of poorly translated text and ridiculous voice-overs. Surprisingly, Trinity doesn’t fall into this common category, however. Though there are a few odd sentences here and there and the occasional blurt of inhuman dialogue, for the most part Omega Force have done a cracking job in porting the game. The voice actors match their characters really well and even the masses of written text are easy to read, yet incredibly informative, illustrating the Zill O’ll universe. Even better is the soundtrack, with tunes so fitting and epic, players will be scouring the credits, expecting to find traces of Nobuo Uematsu.
- Brilliant, emotional plot
- Well over 30 hours of game time
- Superb soundtrack, and surprisingly good voice acting
- In-game database to track various information
- Fairly basic and limited combat
- Repetitive mission structure
- Heavily reliant on written text, which will prove painful to some
Trinity could have been a marvellous game if not for Omega’s trademark gameplay model. The story is fantastic and the characters are likeable, though the game’s old-school tendencies will prove divisive among the current generation of gamers. Some won’t mind sitting through prolonged text exchanges and intensive dungeon crawling, though others are bound to hate it. Though it’s far from being perfect, Souls of Zill O’ll definitely has room for a sequel and has gone beyond proving that Omega Force isn’t just a one trick pony.