Saturday, 08 April 2017 00:00

Troll and I Review

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When I was preparing to review this title, I looked up the minimum specifications and saw that I could meet all of them, but I did a double take when I saw that it required eight gigabytes of RAM. This was a little shocking, because a lot of AAA games only require four, and this is not a AAA game. There were two possibilities here: Either the graphics and physics were so impressive as to justify that much RAM, or Troll and I was poorly programmed. Spoiler: it’s the second one.

This title isn’t even playable on the most fundamental level.

Loading it up for the first time may take forever. So long that you might want to go and do other things while you wait. When it finally starts up, a couple of introductory cinematic scenes play for a painfully extended time. They would be lengthy and boring even if the words were synced with the animation, but Troll and I insists on making your rig render each and every frame, no matter how long it takes, while the characters pause and wait for it to catch up. It’s really important, apparently, for you to see all the individual stitches on people’s clothing, and for the physics to render the minute details of main character Otto’s dreadlocks – even though one of those dreadlocks clips through Otto’s forehead during his very first appearance, an omen of the glitches to come.

After seeing how badly the opening cinematics load, even on a decent computer, you’ll probably want to adjust your graphics settings. But this is, once again, a lengthy and fiddly process. It doesn’t help at all that you have to manually exit and reboot the game every single time you change a setting in order to see what impact it has, making for a grim session of trial and error.

By all accounts, this isn’t just a “me” problem, exclusive to my computer. Obviously, the title should be playable if you meet the advertised minimum system requirements, but wanting to be objective, I searched around the Internet and found tale after tale of shuddering, glitchy movements and frustrating collision physics.

You can get smooth movement by turning off anti-aliasing, but doing that also creates a giant black box around all objects – meaning every leaf and blade of grass becomes the size of a notebook page. Though you fix the movement, it also becomes completely impossible to find the boars you’re supposed to be hunting amongst all the chaos.

Turning off the anti-aliasing does reveal why Troll and I runs so poorly, though: It isn’t programmed very well, and forcing your computer to blend all of the black areas on tens of thousands of objects simultaneously hogs up processing power. That explains the choppy movement, as your computer struggles to keep up with everything in the game every time you do anything, but it doesn’t explain why the developers would allow the option to turn off a graphics setting that is necessary to play the game. Anti-aliasing isn’t the only one, either: If you don’t have textures set at “high,” going into tracking mode simply turns the entire screen black. In the end, you’re forced to just deal with playing through choppy, slow movement.

That brings us to the awful gameplay.

Speaking of, tracking mode is where you press down a button and wait for Otto to smell the dirt for an excessively long period of time until he decides there’s a boar standing next to him. That’s part of the first mission, which involves learning how to hunt, a task that also means crafting.

In Troll and I, the crafting involves going up to a tree and watching a lengthy cinematic of Otto making a spear out of it. It’s completely unnecessary. This title seems to fit into the category of games that include crafting as a poorly executed afterthought. It’s meant to make Otto seem more in touch with nature, but the hunting serves that purpose already. Crafting a spear only involves one material – wood from a special tree – so it comes off as a redundant step instead of a game mechanic.

Eventually, you’re able to throw that spear at a boar, which involves using controls that handle like you’re fighting over the mouse with a drunkard. But, one spear isn’t enough. The boar runs away, forcing you to use the time-consuming tracking mechanic again. When you manage to stick the boar with another spear, you may feel relieved that the plot can finally advance (wasn’t there supposed to be a troll in this game?). But no; one boar isn’t enough for the materials you need. You have to hunt another.

Skipping ahead to spare you some grief, the next mission involves a cinema scene where Otto’s mom gets trapped behind some burning trees and tells him to run away. Now, Otto must run through a canyon to escape the blaze behind him as you mash spacebar to gain a small chance at jumping over fallen trees in his path. Sometimes, Otto decides not to jump and gets burned to death. Sometimes, he jumps halfway over the tree and burns to death. Sometimes, he jumps all the way over the tree and burns to death. Sometimes, he runs toward a tree and burns to death. Sometimes, he gets burned to death just because. But sometimes, he stops running, the game glitches, and nothing happens until you restart your computer.

For each death, the camera randomly chooses an angle that, more often than not, fills the whole screen with a blank face of uncaring rock, looking on as Otto screams, adding to the long list of poor design choices. Then, you’ll have to spam spacebar some more to skip the opening cinematic, which plays every time you start the mission over.

Well, the story wasn’t that promising anyway.

There are only so many hours you can put into trying to start a game before it becomes obvious that the experience will not be worth it. I’d like to believe that, if you are incredibly lucky, there is some way to get through the scenes of Otto’s repeated deaths as he navigates the obstacle course of trees while his animation shudders with a strobe light effect. However, it seems that a more likely scenario is that most players will cut their losses at this point and quit.

As for the story, if the beginning scenes are any indication, it’s disappointing anyway. I’ve read people say online that the Troll and I is unique in its narrative, but it isn’t. Trollhunter was unique, an excellent movie even, and the concept for this title seems to be ripped from the premise of that film. The opening cinema scenes involved voice acting that was pretty grating and a setup full of lines we’ve heard a million times before.

“I want you to hunt a troll,” Guy A basically says, and tough, evil-looking Guy B begins to walk away from the crazy idea. Right at the door, he is halted by Guy A saying, “One million dollars.” Guy B pauses, because, being evil, he will go to any lengths for money. “Two million after.” Guy B is definitely interested now. “Three million if you capture it alive.”

There you go. That’s the plot, and you’re not getting more from me, because no amount of money could keep me around to find out all the predictable things that happen next.


The Verdict

Troll and I is unplayable. By all accounts, the game is full of glitches even on the latest generation of consoles, let alone for all of the victims who bought the game to play on a PC more than a year old. It may work on certain systems to some degree, but the advertised minimum specifications are certainly false, and therefore merit a hefty downgrade. If you manage to get past the game-breaking bugs, the gameplay itself is frustrating and unoriginal, and the story seems to have nothing to offer. Save your money and your sanity, and skip this one.

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Nicholas Barkdull

Nic is a writer and narrative designer with a PhD in Social Research and Cultural Studies. He thinks real time strategy games are still a valid form of e-sport, that true RPGs should be turn-based (with huge casts of characters), and that AAA games have a long way to go before they earn back our trust. He is the Lead Writer for Pathea Games's My Time at Sandrock, and his work can be seen in Playboy, South China Morning Post, The Daily Beast, and many other places.


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