Troll and I – Review
PC, PS4, Xbox One
Troll and I seemed to come out of nowhere, as I had not heard of it before the review code came my way. Developed by Spiral House and published by Maximum Games, it’s an adventure game where you play a boy named Otto who lives in the mountains of Scandinavia. Some introductory scenes introduced me to the basic plot. Essentially rich bad guy convinces some greedy bad guys to go hunt a troll in Scandinavia for lots of money. The bad guy’s mercenaries’ actions trigger a set of adventures for Otto and the Troll.
Troll and I began well for me. The introductory part of the game had me control Otto as he went hunting. The hunting mechanic involves tracking animals, crafting spears, injuring the animals, then tracking to finish the kill, and finally harvesting their meat. At this point, the game was almost reminiscent of Tomb Raider. Unfortunately, things went downhill from there.
After its good start, Troll and I presented me a laundry list of odd behaviours and annoying elements that made me dislike the game quite quickly. An early quick time event section was frustrating. I had to navigate Otto over and under burning trees as he raced to his village. However, it was not always clear why I had missed the path expected by the game and the deaths seemed kind of stupid. Failure occurs when Otto trips over the tree, catches fire and burns. The deaths seemed … avoidable (stop, drop and roll, perhaps?)
The game had some weird draw in that occurred when walking in wilderness areas. Grass and trees appeared to grow as I approached and diminish I as retreated. At first, I thought it might have something to do with the troll’s abilities, but it didn’t make sense, and it was off-putting.
Parts of the gameplay involve moving Otto and Troll separately to solve puzzles, but I found these sections tedious, particularly when having to navigate troll slowly to his next objective. This occurred in several sections where troll had to carry a large object to bridge Otto’s path, but it took ages to have him catch up with Otto.
Combat with Otto is not too bad. He can get into a stealth mode and approach enemies quietly. A meter shows whether any enemies notice him. If you can get him close enough, he can assassinate them, or he can use spears to whittle down their health. Otto is also relatively nimble. Troll, on the other hand, does a lot of damage but is cumbersome and awkward to move. Particularly when fighting enemies that run around his feet, I felt frustrated spending ages trying to line up shots to swat them.
The enemies Otto faces are mostly these strange goblin-like creatures that crawl out of the ground. The smaller ones are not too much of a problem unless Otto gets swarmed. Some of the tougher ones have spears that can kill Otto instantly. That combined with sparse auto-save points lead to a very frustrating experience. Otto also faces the human mercenaries at various points in the game. After being forced to kill a mercenary in a short scene reminiscent of the dagger fight scene in Saving Private Ryan, Otto then has a very small crisis/speech which will justify him killing any other hunter he encounters, kind of like in Tomb Raider. Except the Tomb Raider scene was harrowing and didn’t feel as stupid and forced as this one.
A shallow crafting system allows Otto to build several melee weapons which do more damage than his fall-back hunting knife, but they do degrade. He can also craft different spears, some of which are explosive and used to destroy special barriers you encounter. I encountered a little annoying glitch where Otto would not pick up duplicate items, even though the game notification indicated that he had (he hadn’t).
I encountered several other small glitches, such as during one section Troll had to move these giant circle rooms from the inside, aligning holes in the walls with doors. The grinding noise from this action did not stop after the room stopped moving but continued until a scene transition. It’s a minor gripe, but it just added to whole Troll experience. The hint system Troll uses snaps your camera to your next objective or destination. However, it holds there for a long time so you can move on immediately. It’s like trying to walk with your head twisted and held looking at something else; another small but annoying issue. Unfortunately, there are no objective or map pages in the character screen, just Otto’s skill upgrades, Troll’s power upgrades and collectibles. I was often stumped on what to do next until I eventually stumbled on the next course of action after wandering around for a while.
The final glitch I encountered was, after having redone a section multiple times. This was due to foes with instakill spears one-shotting me and having not encountered the next auto save. After eventually dealing with all the enemies, I wandered around trying to find the next area. While investigating a bridge, Troll and Otto fell through the scenery and got stuck under the ground. Faced with re-doing that section yet again, I decided that Troll and I had received all the attention it merited from me.
It feels to me that Troll and I could have been a reasonable game if the issues and usability features I encountered had been addressed. One final note… the hunting feature that I enjoyed at the start of the game was conspicuously absent for the remainder of my time. Perhaps I might have eventually got to a section with it. Who knows?
Unfortunately, based on my experience, I can’t in good conscience recommend Troll and I.