Multiverses were so massive at one point, thanks to the likes of Marvel and Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. And there was good reason why that was, especially when there was a heap of creative flow and ideas being thrown around. But multiverses have kind of died down now, but there’s ample space for video games to use the concept thematically and gameplay-wise, of multiple universes, multiverses, parallel universes, and all other universes. Trinity Fusion does a doozy by implementing multiverses and Roguelike gameplay in one neat package, which has all the makings of a smash hit.What is Trinity Fusion
As said above, multiverses can be a hot button of success when done right, and having a video game centre on the theme and threads of variant universes and all is quite a grand idea. Enter Trinity Fusion, a game which sees the self-destruction of multiple interconnected universes, by the hands of those who made them. We take on the role of Maya, or more so three of her parallel selves whom she is psychically connected too.
It's up to Maya and her other selves to traverse the multiple universes, which have birthed advanced civilisations and created monsters consumed by greed and a lust for power and fusing them all, thus creating a singular place of truth and harmony. Explore universes rich in lore, tragedy and complexity, filled with many interesting denizens, dangers and powerful foes that will stand before Maya and repair the fractures in time, space and the multiverse.
Each of Maya’s other personas has their skills, weapon choices, and places to venture through, but combining their skills and efforts into one will make her a much more commanding force to be reckoned with. As you fight, die, and come back, Maya and her personas will evolve, adapt and become even stronger than before. A classic Roguelike formula, with an interesting twist or two for good measure.A story that spans across the multi-verse
It’s quite interesting to discover the story was written in collaboration with Ada Hoffmann, a famed author of The Outside, The Fallen and The Infinite. I’m not familiar with her work, but have a quick look, I can tell Ada is a masterful writer of complex, deep Sci-Fi, that usually resolves around AI and the grander scheme of multiverses.
And I can tell by tidbits of lore here and there, various character backstories and the vast complexity of Trinity Fusion’s universe or the many of them feel like it was penned by a sci-fi master. And while I admire the level of creativity in each civilisation, and how much intelligent backing there is for the overall logic of everything, I honestly didn’t find the plot nor the grander sense of lore all that interesting.
Now to be fair, I find simpler, character-driven stories more interesting, and don’t see the need for vastly overly complicated histories (for the most part). But I love stories like Bloodborne, because there is something vastly human about it, and it does pull from real-life events such as the Black Death, and the Great Fire of London.
It’s not at all that Trinity Fusion is bad at its delivery, or presenting an engaging plot, but it’s all too familiar and rather dull in the grand scheme of things. I feel the monotone execution of delivery does suck out a lot of potential charm and gravitas for the story. Something like Hades is simpler in the story, but what connected with me and others on whole other levels for Hades were the characters, their developing dramas, the neat dynamics and the modest yet understandable politics of the world.
There are some nice inclusions of personality here, with Maya’s partner being there to talk to alternative versions of herself and speaking with different races belonging to other universes is a neat idea. But there is a total lack of involvement or emotion for a lot of discussions and story progression.
It feels very cool, and this is what I dislike about Sci-Fi novelists a lot of the time. Phillip K Dick was a phenomenal writer, with exceptional concepts but really couldn’t write engaging and thoughtful characters to save his skin. Then you look at various adaptions of his work and they're filled with charm, personality and great characters. Richard Matheson, one of my favourite authors who wrote I Am Legend, often had a dryness to his works, but also an immense amount of raw emotional pull, and characters you could easily identify with and engage with.
While never read an Ada Hoffman novel, I can tell her writing is the type of cold, straight-to-the-point style of sci-fi writing which doesn’t appeal to me. Not have a dig at her work, but if she was the leading force behind the narrative here, I feel as though she was on auto-pilot mode or is just too direct and calculating with her writing and story development.
But the setup is really neat, and certain bits of character development and interactions are also nice enough. But nothing emotional compared to the likes of Hades, which set a very high bar indeed.Playing in different dimensions is not good for your health!
Now where I feel Trinity Fusion does much better regarding its interdimensional themes is with the gameplay. You will start with a singular persona of Maya, who will of course venture forth, fight, collect resources both temporary and permanent, and most certainly die and repeat. And as all Roguelikes teach us and eventually show that defeat is the equivalent of two steps forward, and one step back. You may have lost, but with each run you’ll collect tokens to obtain permanent upgrades such as extended health, better fighting tactics and even a one-time resurrection during your future runs. Thus you can push forward and eventually unlock both other personas.
Once you have unlocked all three of Maya’s personas, things get a lot more interesting. As each persona has its own dimension to run through, to explore, fight, defeat a couple of big bosses and obtain a part of the “Lens” that will bring together all the fractured universes. Each universe has its enemies, terrains, environmental styles and bosses, which keeps things feeling fresh, as you can jump from one to another if you become stuck or feel underpowered for a certain fight.
It’s a fantastic approach that doesn’t push you down to just one particular route, and like the best of the genre, gives ample freedom to explore, experiment, succeed and conquer. The various multiverses are always changing, with each run being procedurally generated, yet harbouring certain Metroidvania elements. Such as small vents which can only be traversed via a drone, belonging to one of Maya’s personas. Each of the universes does look superb, and often has so much be it enemies, collectable loot and passages to optional, harder areas that highly reward you at almost certain death.
I will have to say that the procedurally generated could have been more dynamic, as I often saw many elements repeating, and there not being enough variety in special rooms, path structures and special events to spice things up. There is enough to keep you invested, but over the last few years, the Roguelikes have always implemented as many secrets, events and changing dynamics such as treasure rooms and additional tasks to flesh out each run, making it different each time. Dead Cells, Hades, and Neon Abyss (which when it launched I didn’t like, but over the years has evolved into one of the best of the genre), all cram in some much, and randomise to such an extreme that each run feels unique and refreshing.
But where it may lack in certain areas for exploration and randomisation, Trinity Fusion does make with some stellar combat and an immense variety of weapons and gear. There are swords, hammers, rifles, shotguns, special grenades, “fricking” laser beams, ice blasts, firebombs, and so much more that allow you to fully customise your playstyle and range of attacks. Even things such as unique combos for melee weapons, upgrades for all weapons, and special abilities help add so many layers and depth to combat, fleshing it out into a complex, and massively gratifying system which is visually entertaining, and so much fun to execute.
There’s just so much going on with combat, gear and traversal, and the varying tactics and equipment of each persona do indeed keep the momentum going and the pacing flawless from start to finish.
And another thing that Trinity Fusion does incredibly well is the sense of progression, and overcoming what lesser rogue likes suffer from and that is grind. Players will be rewarded for their efforts, as they run through repeatedly, and with a collection of tokens, various new attributes to the world can be bought. Be it new shop locations, upgrade stations and more. Thus, fleshing out the world a little more each time. While it would have been nice to see just a few more inclusions, there is a good deal of new dynamics which will help you out on your next run. Thankfully, Trinity Fusion does a stellar job at making sure progression flows nicely, and that with each venture you get something in return, be it knowledge, tokens or new unlocks.
And while it does the Hades thing, where you can choose one from three perks when promoted and get a new buff, it does something a little different which works incredibly well. Each buff is in a category, such as health, strength, combat, passive, etc. When you select three of the same class of buff, you get a bonus buff, which is simple yet immensely creative and cleaver. So bravo to Angry Mob for thinking about how to better this mechanic.
There is always something to keep pushing you back in, just that little nudge which says “Hey, maybe just one more run”. And that there is an amazing sign of a fantastic Roguelike that does its job extremely well. Besides the excellent visceral combat, which feels wonderful, plays out well, and provides an impressive sense of challenge and reward, with plenty of neat dynamics that make runs enjoyable each time the pacing is flawless from beginning to end.
While the main story didn’t hit the right notes for me, everything else from music, voice work, presentation and gameplay did all hit the mark and resulted in Trinity Fusion being one of the best roguelikes of 2023. Although I do wish (and wish for many other games) that the accessibility options were better. I ain’t a young man anymore (being 34 is the new 54), and my eyesight is not as it once was. Or just the fact I like sitting on the sofa and playing my games in comfort. I need an option to increase the text size … please. Maybe it’s somewhere, but I couldn’t find it. Otherwise, no major faults here.Overall?
Trinity Fusion has a compelling concept that while doesn’t fully deliver on its narrative beats or emotional storytelling, does work wonders in the gameplay department. This is quite easily one of the best in the genre and can stand high among the greats like Hades, Dead Cells and Neon Abyss.
Trinity Fusion has an excellent and engaging gameplay loop, a gratifying sense of progression, interesting dynamics and above all, a visceral and highly enjoyable combat system that is deep and rich in tactics and playstyle customisation. We didn’t think there could be any more gold at the end of this year when it comes to gaming, but Trinity Fusion is a super nice surprise and end-of-year treat to finish 2023 on. We give Trinity Fusion a high recommendation for your roguelike collection.
++ Stellar combat and exploration gameplay
+ Meaningful and rewarding sense of progression
+ Great variety of worlds to explore and characters to play as
+ Nice presentation
-- Story lacks any emotional depth or an interesting delivery
- Could be a few more roguelike dynamics to flesh out multiple runs
- Lacks in accessibility options
A PS5 review code of Trinity Fusion was kindly provided by the publisher.