Recently I had the good fortune to obtain a free key for the Steam early access of the new sci-fi MMO Trinium Wars. The buzz around the game was not good, but the post-apocalyptic setting intrigued, so I resolved to give it a try with an open mind.
What followed was one of the most bizarre experiences of my whole MMO career. Follow me down the rabbit hole, friends.
Chasing the rabbit:
The basic concept behind Trinium Wars is actually pretty interesting. After a nuclear holocaust during the third world war, Earth was devastated, and only a handful of humans managed to escape into the depths of space.
Centuries later, they returned, only to discover Earth had already been recolonized by an alien race with the rather unfortunate name of the Narc. Unlike humanity, the feline Narc seek to live in harmony with nature, so they’re instantly at odds with the humans. Both sides also fight over the precious resource of trinium, which is important for some reason.
Humans and Narc, obviously, are the playable factions, and once you’ve chosen one, that locks your entire account to that faction, which seems oddly punitive to me.
On top of that, a race of vicious mutants — descended from those humans who failed to escape the war — is hostile to both sides, making the ruined and altered Earth a vicious three way battleground.
As a backstory, it’s a bit rough around the edges, but on the whole it’s pretty intriguing. In fact, it strongly reminds me of the premise of Defiance, which I rather enjoyed (both the TV series and the MMO).
It didn’t take long for the problems to start cropping up, though. Character creation, for instance, was quite disappointing, even considering the low expectations for what is obviously a fairly low budget game.
There’s no body customization, for one thing. Body type is tied to class, of which there are three. I had wanted to be a ghost, a versatile stealth class, but I’ve never been a fan of the archetype of “tiny girl whose status in regards to puberty is at best unclear,” so that left warrior and esper as my remaining choices.
I’ve never been a warrior fan, so esper it was. If you can manage to parse the Google Translate-spewed world salad that is the class description, you’ll get the impression esper is some kind of ranged spell caster.
My remaining character customization choices boiled down to hairstyle, hair and eye color, and a random assortment of different facial features, so I cobbled together something decent and zoned into the game.
This was followed by a short cutscene establishing the Narc culture. Despite some shaky voice acting, it was actually pretty good, if somewhat generic, and had me fairly pumped up to actually play the game.
I was destined for more disappointment.
A very deep well:
Trinium Wars’ visuals don’t lend themselves to a strong first impression. The game looks at least a few years out of date, with blurry and muddy textures and a general lack of detail or realism. It’s not stylized; it’s just poorly executed.
Maybe I would have felt better about the graphics if I had been able to see more of the environment, but the developers saw fit to carpet every square inch of the landscape with quest spawns, to the point where all I saw was a sea of nametags.
But hey, graphics don’t matter as long as the gameplay is good, right?
Yeah, about that.
By now we’re all familiar with the bland style of “kill ten rats” quests that dominates far too much of the MMO genre, but Trinium Wars boils it down to its most shallow and tedious essence.
Quest text is as brief and pointless as WildStar’s infamous Twitter quests, further enhanced by colossally bad translation into English that has clearly never known the touch of a quality assurance department.
As an aside, I’m always baffled when import games don’t spring for a proofreader who is a native English speaker. Having done some proofreading work myself, I can tell you for a fact it’s not terribly expensive.
Even if they had proofread the quest text, the storytelling quality is… sorry, I can’t use “storytelling” in relation to Trinium Wars with a straight face.
Near as I can tell something was going on with mutants attacking. I was a bit distracted by the fact that the supposedly nature-loving Narc had tasked me with the murder of baby parrots as one of my first duties.
I was also somewhat distracted by the NPCs. For some reason half the characters you meet are women dressed in as little as the developers could manage without jeopardizing their ESRB rating, who are performing stripper dances for no reason whatsoever.
Between that and the zoomed in conversation camera, half the time you’ll be getting your quests from a pair of tin-plated nipples or a gyrating buttocks.
I was too busy laughing to even get around to being offended by the shameless sexism.
And the quests themselves are just boring. Enemies wander slowly in circles, waiting to be killed, and pose no threat whatsoever. Presumably combat gets better later on as you unlock more skills, but to start it’s mostly just watching your character auto-attack while waiting on the unnecessarily long cooldowns of your few abilities.
The one good thing I can say is that the combat animation and sound effects, even for auto-attacks, are quite powerful and intense, and far better than you see in the average tab target game.
There’s more to the game than questing, but I didn’t have the chance to sample such things. Dungeons, as I understand it, aren’t unlocked until much later on.
That leaves PvP. Trinium Wars offers mass open world conflict between “thousands” of players, but that, too, doesn’t come until much later. However, low level PvP fans can participate in some sort of MOBA-inspired mini-game that is sold as one of Trinium Wars’ most unique features.
Unfortunately, when I tried to queue for it, the game helpfully informed me that there were not enough players in the game for matchmaking to function.
Down, down, down:
I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of the issues with Trinium Wars. The game is also ripe with quality of life flaws.
For example, there’s not nearly enough customization potential in the UI or controls for my taste. I was particularly frustrated by my inability to disable click to move, resulting in my constantly sending my character careening off in the wrong direction as I tried to pan the camera.
The list goes on. Picking up gear is rather frustrating, as you then need to buy microscopes to identify it before you can use it, and the identify animation seems rather unnecessarily long to me.
One could also draw attention to the game’s business model. The cash shop is one of the more unpleasant I’ve seen, offering naught but XP boosts and various over-priced ways to circumvent the game’s many small annoyances. If I understand it right — and, to be fair, with how unreadable most of the game’s text is, there’s a good chance I don’t — you even need to buy a consumable to chat zone-wide.
Conversely there’s none of the cosmetics or other fun items that normally appeal to me in a cash shop.
After all this you might think I’m being unfair. After all, Trinium Wars is in early access. By the developers’ own admission, it’s not nearly done yet. It is true that a fair few of the issues I cite will likely be addressed as the game marches toward a proper launch.
But the fact is this is a game that is already fully monetized. It has a box price and a cash shop. I think that requires it be held to a certain degree of scrutiny. Some concessions can be made based on the early access tag, but only to a point.
And frankly I think the problems are so many and so severe that it’s hard to imagine Trinium Wars ever reaching a polished and fully playable state. I’ve played alphas and betas before, and they were all far better than this.
At first, my thought was to warn everyone to stay far away from Trinium Wars, but after careful consideration, I’ve decided not to do so. In fact, I encourage all and sundry to give it a try.
You see, Trinium Wars isn’t just awful. It’s gloriously awful. Magnificently, brilliantly awful. It is by far and away the worst MMO I have ever played. It makes WildStar look serious and intellectual, Dragon’s Prophet look polished, Neverwinter look generous, and World of Warcraft look challenging. If you wanted to build a shrine to every kind of error an MMO can make, this would be it.
Trinium Wars is an unequalled masterpiece of bad design. It is as bad as it gets, with just enough faintly redeeming qualities to taunt you with the feeling there might be some alternate universe where it’s actually fun. It’s charged past the border of terrible and into the realm of being so bad it’s good.
It’s the Plan 9 from Outer Space of MMOs.