I am going to be frank, I have played a lot of critically mediocre games in my time that I was able to personally find fun and worth my time. Troll and I is not one of those games. After giving this game multiple chances, I unfortunately walked away from it unimpressed, disappointed, and mentally exhausted to be honest. It is a shame, because leading up to its release I was excited for it. I looked past its lackluster graphics and saw what might have been a sleeper hit, one filled with magic and whimsy. Though showcasing magic, I found no whimsy, and more importantly I found no fun. That is a damn shame, and by no means do I enjoy having to be critical of a group of individual’s hard work and efforts, but that is what I am here to do.
Troll and I is a linear adventure game created by Spiral House and published by Maximum Games which follows a teenage boy in the Nordic wilderness that is sprung into a mythical adventure. Some bad men are after the fabled Troll creature, and during their ruthless search end up destroying Otto’s village. By way of random interjection, Otto and the Troll befriend each other, and embark on their journey to stop the bad guys and find Otto’s mom. That about sums up the intro and is as much as I will have gotten invested into the story. For the next seven or so hours, I would struggle through a choppy and underwhelming adventure. Thankfully I did not struggle alone, though I can say my fiancé was not as thankful for having volunteered to try the co-op with me.
As I trudged through most of the narrative, I found that its pacing and difficulty were unbalanced. Some enemies could be dispatched with ease, while others were introduced with little to no insight as to who and what they were. Additionally, at no point can you view your objective. In some instances you can ask for a hint, but they are far and few in-between, especially when you can use them in the more open segments. In a particularly trying section of the game, my fiancé and I found ourselves lost in a chain of caves with a lite puzzle aspect to them. Without maps or a slight gest of guidance, this area grew increasingly annoying. Thankfully we eventually made it out, but not without combating our nerves and some bugs which saw me playing as Otto getting stuck in an inescapable room. This adventure is one that will try your patience time and time again.
Troll and I is almost like a Tomb Raider-lite experience, albeit with a giant mythical creature as a side-kick. While controlling Otto, you can craft makeshift weapons like spears and clubs for combating both mythical enemies and human ones. You can also gather various plants to heal yourself, as well as crafting materials for building your arsenal. As for the Troll side of things, the fists come in handy for smashing and swatting enemies away, as well as some magic to heal, stun, and overall avoid enemies. The combat, which happens fairly frequently, is the first major gripe I have with the game. For one, the area of attack is highly inaccurate, making shots hard to line up for both Troll and Otto. As the Troll, I missed countless ground pound styled attacks due to some wacky accuracy, and while Otto’s melee attacks handled fine, his spear throwing skills were severely stunted. Stealth was also a waste of efforts, as the enemy A.I. is so inconsistent that you can never gauge if you are going to have the upper hand in any given situation or not.
In co-op, the combat experience is even worse. Aside from not being able to see very well as Troll, the games frame rates take a severe hit during instances with more than average enemies appearing on screen (I would say roughly 6+ causes severe dips in frames). This technical slowdown makes it hard to coordinate with a teammate, let alone actually fight efficiently. Pair this with untimely deaths and oddly paced checkpoints, you are bound to be frustrated. Poor frames are just one of many technical flaws to be found sadly. From crashes post load screens, texture pop-ins, and even gaps in texture that you could actually fall through (laughably and annoyingly placing you beneath the map), technical issues were far too common. Another unavoidable issue is just the overall presentation, which falls flat for the experience too.
Graphically, Troll and I is obviously dated. Rough visuals and animations plague the experience, which might have been easy to overlook had the rest of the game been smooth and sound, but as a whole the game is messy which makes this hard to ignore. Troll and Otto both have some wacky facial animations, particularly during post-death scenes. Enemies are just plain ugly. The mythical ones should look gritty and like something out of Lord of the Rings it would seem, but they are just muddy and soulless in design. The human designs are just painfully plain, with very rough designs that are blocky and nowhere near what the current gen standards should be. The voice acting is okay, and that is being generous, but its uses are awful. During cutscenes, the voices pacing is just odd and robotic, and during travels you will hear Otto utter the same phrases to Troll over and over again. You won’t be missing much if you chose to listen to something else while playing. The saving grace is the lighting, which is pretty solid along with some textures like rocks and mountain siding.
The biggest let down is that Troll and I has a great concept, one I believed in. Games with a certain sense of magic and fun are always a hit, but this is just a miss. Though I am sure the people that worked on this put their heart and sweat into this, the results just are not there. It lacks polish and quality, and without any of that in sight it just cannot work for most general audiences. Had this been a more polished and refined adventure, it could have stood out in the market for those looking for a great co-op experience. A pair of young kids looking for a co-op game might make do with this title out of the bargain bin, but as a nearly full priced retail experience, you will not be getting your money’s worth. The myths and legends may be real and out there, but you should spend your time looking to validate them elsewhere. Troll and I is a myth that needs to be refined more before being told again.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 3/10
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