Trails of Fire is a single player, a turn-based strategy game with roguelike elements which is set in a post-cataclysmic fantasy realm, developed and Published by the small indie games studio WHATBOY – The game released onto Steam Early Access on the 7th May 2019.
The world has been hit by a cataclysmic event which has left the world barren… Most crops won’t grow in the blasted lands, and the settlement of Terralin relies on hunters to bring meat from wild beasts which roam the land… A solution is found in a tomb which was scavenged from the remains of a grand library: the location of a Water Stone which grants great power… Your party is tasked with retrieving the stone in hopes of being able to grow crops again…
The story is presented to you by employing short animated cutscenes and a large amount of text; mostly, you’re playing through a choose your own adventure but with combat.
A (not so) merry band of Adventurers
When setting out on your adventure, you’re given the option to choose your party with minor customization which is currently limited to changing their name and gender. Right now, options are limited, but with more classes set to be introduced over the Early Access period; you can unlock the Necromancer through progression!
Trials of Fire has done a fantastic job of taking the narrative of the game and embedding this throughout the mechanics which are on offer. As the world is in ruins and food is scarce, you have to be thinking about how you interact with the world. As you explore the world of Ashe your party are going to need to eat, you’re going to have to ensure you’re carrying enough food; otherwise, they will become fatigued eventually. Not only this, you are going to have to rest regularly – Adverse effects will carry over into battle, we’ll explore this later.
While traversing across the world of Ashe, you are going to encounter locations which are marks with question marks. As you make your way to these locations, the choose your own adventure takes over. Quite literally the book will turn a page and be presented with a page of well-written dialogue, and you’ll be given options to choose from, most of the time. There are some situations where the only time you’re not given interaction is with a boss fight.
Heart of the Cards
At the heart of the gameplay is its turn-based strategy with card-based actions. Each character starts with a deck of cards which you can swap out over time either by leveling up or by equipping them with various pieces of equipment that you can buy or find throughout your adventure.
There is a tendency for card games to look difficult to newcomers and while that is the case here; I’ve found that I haven’t struggled much. The vast majority of card games have a focus on multiplayer, and this is what deters me. With this being single-player, making mistakes doesn’t belittle you but allows you to reflect – there are however repercussions to defeat.
If one of your allies falls in battle, they will be removed from the fight. If you still manage to defeat all enemies, your injuries will carry over until healed. A new card is placed into your character’s deck, throughout my playthrough Jarrah (My Warrior) was defeated and suffered a Broken Leg. If the Broken Leg card is pulled during combat, then she will become immobilized until her next turn; this is a permanent addition to your character.
The visuals of the game are superb, maintaining a story-tale aesthetic throughout and with this title being in Early Access, I would hope the visuals are going to improve throughout development! All gameplay elements are set within a book while all interface elements are draped along the sides.
While the game is visually appealing, there are elements which bring knocks the rest of the presentation down; which you would expect for an early access title. There’s a fair amount of what looks to be placeholder art assets implemented. However, WHATBOY have outlined their plans moving forward.
Final Thoughts / Personal Opinions
When I first came across Trials of Fire, I was immediately put off by the title of the game as it just comes across as entirely generic and not to mention there was nothing available on YouTube about the game; I was prematurely filled with doubt.
Upon starting the game, that doubt started to melt away. The opening section is full of charm and an overwhelming amount of lore, should I choose to dig deeper!
While I like the overall presentation of the game, I can’t help but feel I would get so much more enjoyable if the characters were actually represented by full 3D models; the concept art showcases some brilliant design – It seems like a shame not fully to realize these.
Trials of Fire is boasting a broad range of features, a vast procedural overworld adventure, multi-character deck-drive combat, recurrent tactical optimization; all housed within a story campaign – At least for now. The full version of the game is going to include eight fully playable hero classes, more quests and modes and a host of other features.
There’s a lot on offer for £12.39 however with developer WHATBOY following the trend for Early Access games, the price will be increased upon full release. With the quality of what is on offer right now, Trials of Fire is worth the investment. If you’re looking for a good deal, purchase early and enjoy the content as it gets implemented.