Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll is a title from the creators of the Dynasty Warriors franchise, Omega Force. A franchise that in recent years, well probably more than just recent years, many have criticised for its lack of imagination. It still has a niche and they're happy with that, but Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll really marks one of the first ventures outside of their comfort zone, the "Warriors" series, which is a big step. And based off of this evidence, it's a step they should be willing to take more often.
We're introduced to the world of Trinity by learning about its current state of affairs. There is an evil dictator called Emperor Balor, who upon learning of a prophecy that he will be killed by his grandson, has his pregnant daughter killed and hunts down the wife of his only son. Naturally, his son isn't too pleased about this, and takes up arms against his father, only to see himself fall while helping his wife, and his two sons, escape. And this is where you come in, as you take control of one of those sons, Areus. He's a stoic and determined young man driven by his lust for vengeance. But he's also very closed off to almost everyone unless he respects them.
The premise doesn't sound all that complicated, and it bares some resemblance to the Greek tale of Oedipus. In many ways, Trinity's story could very eloquently be described as earnest or sincere, purely because the objective is laid out from the start - to defeat Emperor Balor. It doesn't try to over-dramatise anything, this is your objective, and everything you do is to achieve that goal. There are a few plot twists, but they are in-keeping with the story's grand design. None of them create mind-boggling moments, instead, they provoke emotions or help to add an extra dimension. What's also interesting is that some of these defining moments aren't that surprising, but because of the character development, they still manage to garner the desired effect - it's all just very well written. And although many would expect that Areus becomes a more well-rounded individual as the game progresses, that doesn't make it any less endearing as it happens.
It's also paced very well throughout. Generally in role-playing games, there are long passages of gameplay and then cutscenes to fill in the blanks of the story; there's very little interaction on the player's part. In Trinity, it feels like you're actively helping the story progress. Sometimes you're stuck in a dead-end with no clue as to where you should go next, but enquiring at taverns in the various cities around the world will piece things together, and eventually a dialogue tree of note will crop up. There are cutscenes too, but this extra level of interaction makes the story more engaging.
The gameplay revolves around a three-person party mechanic, all in an open world scenario. You are able to walk around dungeons and attack anything at will, and your two allied (AI) companions will assist you. What's nice about the system is that you can actively switch between the different characters on the fly, and if timed correctly, you can even perform what's known as a "Rush Attack". Also, if Areus, or the character you're controlling dies, the game doesn't end. Instead, it just switches you to another character, the action continues, and the fallen character is revived after a set amount of time - albeit with a little less health than before.
Each character can perform three different moves at a time, although they can choose from considerably more as the game progresses. Two move sets are also available, so you can switch between sets on the fly. You might have basic melee attack, fire and ice on one, and a basic flame attack, meteor and a slow spell on the other. Of course, you can also pause the game and switch out those moves for the ones in reserve too, if the situation dictates such a change.
The game also promotes the notion that even with skillful play, you can still achieve success - excessive grinding isn't the only way to get through the game. This is achieved by stronger enemies having "weak moments". Generally, as they're charging for attack, or after they've completed their attack pattern, they become weak for a second or two. Attacking them at any time other than this will result in next to no damage, but attacking them while weak will allow you to do a little bit more - maybe 2 to 3 percent of their life bar per hit. If you manage to "break" them, you can land considerably more hits and its this mechanic that makes the whole experience a thoroughly enjoyable one, as it tests you constantly. Even if you learn the patterns that the bosses use, that doesn't mean that you will be able to easily strike them when they're weak, as sometimes the windows for opportunity are so small, and actually taking that opportunity will work out badly for you.
It's also something that detracts from the experience a bit, purely because different types of bosses are easier than others. For example, one of the more "generic" bosses was more difficult than fighting against one of the main figures in the game. You might also fight "psuedo" bosses, which just appear alongside normal enemies as part of dungeons, that cause you problems. But, even if this is the case, patience will always win the day. As long as you don't get hit, you can't die. And beating a boss in this way when you feel severely underpowered is very satisfying - it also makes the entire experience very tense, as you know that getting hit could lead to a very quick death.
There are problems with the system though, as your AI compatriots are mostly useless. They do considerably less damage than they should, have no real planning (i.e. they run head-long directly into danger) and they can also take a lot more punishment than you can. It creates quite a strange dynamic, because you'll usually die a lot quicker than they will. What this means is that if you only like using one character, he'll end up being severely weak (HP-wise) compared to the other characters due to repeated deaths.
This actually highlights another problem with the game - the differing nature of the three main characters. Areus is the "all rounder". He can perform reasonably quick and strong attacks, but he can also use magic (primarily fire/ice) to either perform knockback, or other status effects. Dagda on the other hand, is the tank. He's incredibly strong (and lightning based), but also very slow. What this means, is that he's almost useless against the majority of bosses, as the timing points are sometimes very small. Selene is the opposite to Dagda. She has very quick, but very weak, short-ranged attacks. She's also based around the element of darkness, but not much is really weak to this, and because her attacks are the way they are, again she isn't that useful. The disparity between the characters gives a much clearer choice, but it's a shame that Areus is the clear-cut choice for "best character to use".
Enemies appear in differing forms throughout, but there are some enemies which are notably stronger than others - mainly because they have frustrating resistances. As previously mentioned, Areus is the strongest all-round character, but some enemies are almost completely resistant to him. For example, if an enemy is weak to physical and the fire element, you're almost forced to use Dagda or Selene to dispatch them. When the game introduces deviated stronger enemies, which have random resistances, it can become even more frustrating and it's often best to just ignore them and move on.
Overall though, the gameplay works pretty well. It's just a shame that these issues couldn't have been ironed out, or that the balancing wasn't more effective.
From the perspective of presentation, the game has some clear highlights, but also some severe lowlights. The voice acting, for example, is borderline offensive sometimes. It's clear that they were trying to match it up with the Japanese lip-sync, but it just creates a mess. Often there will be times when characters just pause mid-sentence and it does detract from the experience, often making it comical as opposed to serious. The presentation also isn't the best around, scenery is rather bland looking, although at least there was great effort taken with the look of each locale.
Where the game shines, is with its musical score. Despite there only being a handful of tracks featured throughout the game, how they're intertwined with each other makes up for the other deficiencies in the performance of the visuals and acting. The singular vocal track always comes to the forefront at the perfect time, and the rest of the themes follow suit - they always play at exactly the right time.
The game is a pretty lengthy affair, and upon completion it's possible to continue playing, so that you can finish all of the Arena battles, or play some cards at the Fugo Estate. What's disappointing is that the game has no new game plus option, or even a harder difficulty setting. There are only a finite amount of quests to do, and the same applies to Arena matches, so once they're done, the game has little to offer any more aside from mindlessly grinding to hit the level cap.
In many ways, Trinity: Souls of Zill O'll is a successful venture for Omega Force as it shows that they're capable of producing a quality product outside of the "Warriors" franchise. Indeed, from the perspective of story-telling, musical composition, and some of the gameplay concepts it's very impressive. The problem is that there are a lot of concepts that feel under-developed, like the disparity between the three protagonists. However, the biggest area is with the presentation - the voice acting is rather shocking. It's still a good Action RPG though, and fans of the genre will still be able to find a few enjoyable elements to satisfy them until the end.