Trine developer discusses its newest mage-oriented co-op title and what makes it special.
Frozenbyte has had a rough time over the past few years, starting out with the critically and commercially acclaimed Trine series before releasing Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power. The sequel was underwhelming in a number of ways and Frozenbyte sought a number of other IPs to develop like Shadwen and Has-Been Heroes. Naturally, the world of Trine couldn’t be ignored forever and the developer thus returned to it with Nine Parchments. Unlike Trine though, this is an overhead twin-stick shooter with magic.
To learn more about the game and how it stands out from everything else the studio has done, GamingBolt spoke to marketing and PR manager Kai Tuovinen. Tuovinen discussed the premise, what it was like returning to the world of Trine and much more.
"Back then we weren’t ready neither mentally nor financially for making another Trine project, and thus the majority of the company started working on Shadwen."
After Shadwen and Has-Been Heroes, Nine Parchments appears to be a return to the more co-op focused style of gameplay that defined Trine. What influenced the overall concept for the game?
The Trine games have been our biggest success and a lot of the love they get is for the co-op. I think we do that part well, and we wanted to try to make a co-op multiplayer game with a slightly different formula so we decided to make a spell-casting co-op shooter.
We started working on Nine Parchments as a mod for Trine 3 around the release, with an initial working title of “Amadeus Battlemage”. That was the starting point – The concept was always a twin-stick shooter with spells and wizards. We then decided to tie the whole game into the Trine world in terms of the lore and setting after they seemed to mash well together.
What was it like returning to the world of Trine? What motivated the current direction for Nine Parchments as opposed to another Trine?
The project started right after we released Trine 3 so a couple of years ago. Back then we weren’t ready neither mentally nor financially for making another Trine project, and thus the majority of the company started working on Shadwen. Nine Parchments back then was just a tiny team working on a prototype.
The return to the Trine world with a different game genre has been a welcome one! Our writer has hidden plenty of clues and tie-ins to Trine in the game, and our artists always love to have the freedom that the fantasy genre provides. You could also say we’re now one step closer to returning to the Trine series as well
Tell us about the plot and how it plays out during the course of the experience.
It all starts with a big explosion at the Astral Academy – all the powerful spell parchments are blown away, out into the world, ending up into the possession of powerful adversaries. A group of young wizard apprentices then decide to go look for the parchments in hopes of speeding up their path to wizardhood. To become a full-fledged wizard, an apprentice must have Nine Parchments in their spell book and mastered the use of all of them…
"The spells come in different elements: fire, ice, lightning, death, life, steam and physical. A lot of enemies are immune or resistant to certain elements so swapping into a spell of the right element is a crucial technique."
So you play as an apprentice wizard and set out to explore the world to look for the missing spell parchments! Nine Parchments is not very plot-heavy and most of the story elements are found in the starting and ending cutscenes, but the banter between characters does open up some of the missing pieces. Playing with other people has the added benefit of learning more about the story!
The spell system is interesting. What kinds of spells can players discover and how does that impact the overall gameplay?
There are dozens of different spells available to be found, and each character starts with different starting spells, three in total. You’ll then discover six more spells on each playthrough, which are randomized from a pool.
The spells come in different elements: fire, ice, lightning, death, life, steam and physical. A lot of enemies are immune or resistant to certain elements so swapping into a spell of the right element is a crucial technique.
Can players combo together spells in unique and interesting ways?
Beam spells combine when they cross, so players can use that to their advantage to increase the range and damage. Combined beams also bring about some special effects like instant freeze!
There’s also a bunch of great spell combinations that don’t directly “combine” but just work great together. For example, throwing a pulsating hex spell on the ground and then switching over to an ice beam that slows enemies down is a great way to deal a hefty amount of punishment.
What characters can players unlock? How does the game’s overall quest structure work?
You start out with two characters – Cornelius and Gislan, and can unlock six more characters: Nim, Carabel, Marvek, Rudolfus, Owl and Amadeus. By finding a character’s staff you are able to access their unlock quest in one of the levels, and by completing the quest you’re then able to play as the unlocked character on a new playthrough. The quests are all a bit different and very fun! E.g. keeping fires lit in an icy cavern or protecting a battle-hungry sheep that keeps charging into a horde of enemies.
"You’ll journey through some breathtaking sceneries for sure – from shimmering beaches, arctic tundras and rugged highlands to warm spring valleys."
How can characters be customized and are there different builds that players can run with?
Each character has a three skill trees where you can spend points into various abilities. The additional skill trees are unlocked as you gain access to that character’s variations. You get one skill point per level and can reach level 40 on the “regular” difficulties up to hard, and 60 on hardcore mode.
There’s a lot of different builds you can try out and a good way to make a build work is to try to match it with the spells you select. Characters also find hats and staves that alter your appearance. The hats are purely visual with no gameplay effects, while staves have some magical qualities as well e.g. a spell effect tied to your blink move.
What do the resurrection and friendly fire elements add to the overall party atmosphere of the game?
Friendly fire makes the game tougher for sure! It makes you more careful… or reckless, depending on your personality and people you’re playing with. It makes your positioning and spell selection much more impactful, and the game becomes more than just spamming spells, because you might harm yourself and your team if you’re not paying attention.
The resurrection mechanic is good for teamplay, and helps mitigate the effects of friendly fire incidents as well. You can rescue your friends in the heat of battle to continue the fight together!
In terms of exploration, what are some of the areas that players can visit and what will they encounter?
You’ll journey through some breathtaking sceneries for sure – from shimmering beaches, arctic tundras and rugged highlands to warm spring valleys. You also get to visit the legendary Astral Academy! What you’ll encounter, aside from the great views, is a of course resistance from the dangerous creatures occupying those lands, as well as from the bigger and meaner creatures that hold the precious spell parchments in their grasp.
"Xbox One X is more powerful on paper but we haven’t really done much with the PS4 Pro yet to make a useful comparison so I’d rather not get into it."
Will you support the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro with enhanced visuals and graphical benefits?
Xbox One X supports 4k/60fps but we don’t have HDR support. For PS4 Pro we don’t have any additional enhancements at the moment, but those might come in a future update.
What is the one thing that surprised you about the Xbox One X?
The power! It’s a beast!
How powerful is the Xbox One X compared to the Xbox One?
Very. It basically ran 4k right away.
How does the Xbox One X compare against the PS4 Pro?
Xbox One X is more powerful on paper but we haven’t really done much with the PS4 Pro yet to make a useful comparison so I’d rather not get into it.
Do you think the Xbox One X is powerful enough to render high end AAA games at native 4K?
I’d think so yes, depends on the game obviously and how well it has been optimized etc.
How does the Xbox One X compare against modern gaming PCs?
It seems to be like a high end PC with a 10-series GTX card.
"The first playthrough is around 5-8 hours, with subsequent playthroughs being around the 4-5h mark."
Microsoft doesn’t allow Xbox One X exclusives. Do you think this will hold back developers from using the full potential of the system?
I think there’s definitely developers out there who’d like to bring their game to consoles, but the only thing powerful enough apart from PC would be the Xbox One X. My guess is there’d be a lot more Xbox One X games if they’d allow exclusives.
Which PC GPU do you think the Xbox One X GPU comes close to in terms of overall performance?
I would guess that GTX 1060-70 is pretty close.
How long is Nine Parchments overall? Do you have plans to release any additional content for the game?
The first playthrough is around 5-8 hours, with subsequent playthroughs being around the 4-5h mark. You can spend a lot of time unlocking everything and leveling up each character!
Currently we don’t have any specific content update plans, but our immediate goal is to release the patch with highly requested features such as the multiple save slots (and a lot of fixes to online play etc.).