Trulon: The Shadow Engine is a traditional-style Role Playing Game (RPG) with a ‘Steampunk’ theme that also adds in a turn-based card combat system, called ‘Tactics’. You embark upon a quest after finding a mysterious contraption that has been making the people of your home town Tripudia very sick. The stiffs in the palace don’t seem to care, so it’s up to you, the young monster hunter Gladia, to do something about it. As with most RPGs, you are not alone — you have companions that aid with their own share of big personalities and Tactics of their own.
Trulon is attempting to capture more than one target audience with its cutesy, stylized graphics and interesting combat system. Card games and RPGs are usually designed slightly differently, but Trulon has gone for a more conventional RPG approach, whilst keeping the Tactics system a high priority.
Is playing the hero too much of a reach for Trulon, or does fame and fortune await it at the other end? Read on to find out…
Without a doubt, Trulon is a diligently crafted RPG. It has elements that remind me of other popular RPG franchises such as Final Fantasy and Disgaea. The main character is a monster hunter who has been trained by her father in the fine art of killing monsters that threaten her city. The world is large, but getting around it is pretty easy. The environment is made to look 3D, but it isn’t. Random encounters break up the slow walking pace of our character on the world map, but I did wish for a run button at times!
True to RPG tradition, the main protagonist embarks upon a quest to save the city. The neighboring rival city, Maelon, is suspected of foul play and so our intrepid adventurer decides to take it upon herself to find out what is going on. To get around you need only tap on the screen where you want our hero, Gladia, to go. I would recommend keeping your eyes open for chests and ‘sparkly’ items that can be interacted with. The only improvements that could be made to the navigation system would be to have a mini map or a zoom in/out feature that would make getting around a lot easier, as it can be easy to miss smaller items when walking around.
Once you have more people in your party, you will only ever see and control Gladia. It is assumed the other followers are with her and they always ‘appear’ once a combat scenario ensues. I can only think that these guys are masters of ‘hide and seek’! Trulon abolishes traditional combat in favor of the card combat system employed by very few RPGs. In Trulon they call this system Tactics. Whilst the game does not call the pool you draw from a deck, it does feel like one.
To edit your available tactics, you just need to open the Tactics tab on the character screen. From here the available Tactics are on the bottom row, whilst your current equipped Tactics are on top. You can equip more than one of a particular card and so far I haven’t hit an upper limit on the amount that can be equipped. The only imposed limitation is on specific cards that can only be used by a particular character. These are shown with a mini portrait of that character in the bottom right corner of the cards.
The combat is turn-based, so this means that our characters and the monsters will take it in turns to attack, buff, or play other actions. At the start of a fight we are given access to 3 of our Tactic cards and a base attack card, plus one more Wildcard that is a clone of one card from your Tactics pool. Each Tactic can only be played once per battle, with the base attack and Wildcard being limitless in their supply. The Wildcard can change from turn to turn, so never bank on it being there on your next turn. The final thing to note on the Tactics system that improves the combat slightly is that some are upgraded to Assault Tactics. These have additional effects that trigger an effect of a piece of equipment your character is wearing, which is really awesome when you can pull it off!
Once played, your Tactic card will take immediate effect. If you’re attacking, your character will attack the selected enemy/enemies. After this, play passes to the next character/monster on the list, shown on the left of the screen. Stunning or freezing an enemy forces them to forgo their turn and play passes to the next available character as normal. Some Tactics will have a lingering effect, such as boosting your attack or defense until your next turn. There are combos that can be made for a string of attacks or actions that will complement one another when played right. A lot of the fun in this game is figuring out how to trigger all of these intricate combos.
The game doesn’t vary too much from this formula and does feel rather limited in some respects. I did find that the mix of enemies and the randomness at which the new Tactic cards are added to your hand does keep each battle feeling a little different from the last. Once you exhaust your supply of Tactics cards, you will only have access to the basic attack and a Wildcard. Sometimes you’ll get lucky by having the right cards at the right time, whilst sometimes you’ll be cursing at the game for giving you that healing Tactic… just one turn too late!
MODES AND FEATURES
RGPs aren’t known for their abundance of additional gameplay modes and features. Trulon is no exception to this rule, so clearly the main campaign will be the thing you spend the most time on. Sure, there are sub-quests and treasure hunts, but these are all built into the main game. Google Play Achievements are available if you love unlocking and collecting these, so you’ll probably spend a little bit of time going after them, as I did!
Some of the sub-quests, which are optional, give you a break from the main story line and offer rewards for completing them. You can get more XP to level up, find new items and even acquire new Tactics cards. It’s definitely worth going after some of these sub-quests if you want to have a stronger chance at progressing through the main quest with more items and stronger characters.
I wish there were some mini-games available within the main game, such as those that were seen in some of the larger RPGs (Triple Triad from Final Fantasy VIII comes to mind). I can remember spending many hours at the Golden Saucer in Final Fantasy VII and the inclusion of a similar feature would not have been amiss in Trulon, given the similarities to the aforementioned game, but this would just be an added bonus to an already great game.
Strategy is surprisingly high on the list of priorities when in combat. From the Tactics you’ve assigned to the equipment you wear, everything plays a part in ensuring that you get the most out of every action you perform. Trulon capitalizes on the tenseness of traditional RPG battles and the painful decision-making associated with card games. I’m surprised I didn’t suffer a nervous breakdown during some of these tougher fights!
There are times when you can combo Tactics from one player to the next. For example, equipping an item on a character that will Stun enemies when they are hit with an Assault Tactic will let the next character using a Tactic that doubles damage on Stunned targets have maximum effect. Another great way to combine Tactics is to use the Haste Tactic, allowing you to cast two more Tactics after it. Combine it with 2 Attack-increasing Tactics for an insane amount of extra damage to those tougher enemies!
I did find that the game difficulty curved quite steeply after a few hours in. The enemies appeared to be able to damage me into the low hundreds, whilst my characters just about scraped through above 60-70 a hit. As boring as it is, I would recommend spending some time on the world map wandering around trying to trigger random encounters. These will serve to level you up and ensure you can keep up with what the game throws at you. The same can be said for the monsters you encounter during dungeons and as part of the plot. Find as many as you can to keep those characters leveled correctly. Also, finish as many sub-quests as you can find so you can keep up with better Tactics cards and equipment to use against your enemies.
When loading up Trulon for the first time I was not immediately impressed. It felt as if it was trying too hard to be reminiscent of games like Final Fantasy VII, with its rural, yet almost dystopian, fantasy-meets-sci-fi aesthetic. There are elements of Steampunk in there too. However, as I played on I started to fall for its cute characters, gameplay style, and enjoyable card combat system.
Combing cards and a drawing system of those into a combat mechanic made for more interesting and entertaining combat sequences. Often you have to think on your feet because the Tactic you wanted wasn’t drawn. I also appreciated the effort that went into ensuring that despite the huge repetition of monsters, each encounter had its own distinct challenge and feeling.
There aren’t a lot of games that mix the RPG genre and a card-based system too well. Trulon appears to have got the magic right. I am captivated by the beauty and complexity of the game so much, that I found it hard to put down. It will definitely be a game that I will want to play until completion and hopefully score all of the Google Play achievements too. If you love RPGs and card games you should definitely check it out, as it will not fail to entertain.
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