A good roleplaying game is generally made up out of a number of important parts. Firstly, there should be interesting characters, and a great story that drives the player to accomplishing whatever quest they are tasked with. Secondly, combat plays an integral role in most RPGs and so one should expect something that is stock, or hopefully groundbreaking. Lastly, interesting antagonists and enemies that you need to take on; fighting the same four or five enemy types gets boring after a while. I bring all of these up because after playing Trulon: the Shadow Engine I feel like it fell short on basically all aspects of what constitute a good RPG.
When you first start up Trulon, you are introduced to Gladia, a young monster hunter. You first head out into your town to chat with local villagers and then are sent on some little tasks, mostly to just kill some monsters and learn the combat system. As the story progresses, Gladia is tasked with saving her kingdom, as two nations do battle with each other. She eventually will add a few more people to her party, each having a different role to take on. Basically each one of the four plays a set role in the party; there’s your attacker, your tank, magic user and someone who deals in status effects. Sadly there are no jobs, and no way to change roles; what you get is what you get. Sadly, each character that joins you just kind of exists, and there is a wasted opportunity to explore more of the kingdoms through character relations with it. In the end though, the story is really just generic, and the characters, even the hero Gladia, are flat and uninspired, offering little to the background of the colorful world.
It’s a real shame that these flat and uninspired characters live in a world that seems very interesting. The two nations, Tripudia and Maelon, are both vastly different and constantly are at odds with each other. The world also has a very strong steampunk aesthetic, which seems cute, and doesn’t feel too overdone. Trulon: The Shadow Engine is essentially a spinoff tale from a Trulon novel, by author Jak Koke (who has worked on some Shadowrun novels, so he seems to be familiar with the mixing fantasy and technology). The towns and cities do look pretty and colorful despite its fairly simple graphics (and it shows it’s a port of a mobile game). The character designs are a little cute but feel about as generic as the characters themselves. The enemies and monsters, an integral part of an RPG, also seem pretty bland and there just isn’t enough variety in them. The music however is pretty good overall, and is about on par for a JRPG type game.
When it all comes down to it, Trulon really should be about the combat, and in some ways it works, and some ways it really doesn’t. Trulon uses a card based combat system, similar to a game like Baiten Katos, for those that remember this RPG gem. You have a deck that you put together with cards that you unlock through playing the game, from combat or in chests, and so forth. When you are battling, you will draw cards from your deck, randomly of course, as well as a couple of wild cards. When you play your cards, they can only be used once per battle, but the wild cards can be used repeatedly.
When making your deck you need to think about how often you want to be drawing certain cards but also you want to able to have cards to handle a variety of situations. I did kind of like this aspect, as I’m a big fan of building decks in games like Magic: the Gathering and other similar tabletop varieties. However, too often I would have a brutal draw and eventually lose a battle due to a bad hand. The game autosaves so if you have to redo a battle, it’s not too bad, but a better way to mulligan, or discard and redraw at the beginning of a battle would have been nice. Also, the game bumps up enemies as you progress and gain more members. By the end of the game, the fights became pretty annoying due to some overpowered enemies. It seemed like bad design, especially in a game that can already punish you by having bad draws before combat even starts.
In the end, there are some interesting things going on in Trulon, but there are a lot more aspects going against it. The generic characters whom I barely recall, the sometimes broken combat system, the slow as molasses movement of the characters, and so forth. Thankfully the game is only about seven hours long, so you can get through the story quickly if you have some interest in it. Trulon: the Shadow Engine is a below average RPG however, and really should be avoided unless you have some interest in the novel and setting.
A PlayStation 4 code for Trulon: the Shadow Engine was provided by Headup Games for the purpose of this review.