[Review] Trenched – Out in the Trenches
Available on: Xbox 360; Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios; Developer: Double Fine Productions; Players: 1 – 4; Released: June 22, 2011; ESRB: Teen; Official Site
With recent games, there’s been a slow trend towards combining different genres; at times, it may seem like an odd match, but come to work like a dream. Trenched throws together several genres like a hodgepodge of features, including shooting, mecha customization, and tower defense. Most people would look at this formula and already be turned off by the pitch of such a convoluted game. However, it is nowhere near convoluted in practice. If anything, it is a unique and enjoyable fusion that few have dared to experiment with before.
Due to the self sufficient nature of tower defense games, Trenched never feels like a forced mash-up. Dropping off turrets at points is a natural extension of the shooter genre. The turrets (dubbed emplacements) help cover up spots that the player may not be able to reach at times and the player helps clean up enemies (lovingly, yet confusingly referred to as tubes) that turrets may not be able to hit. This chemistry between the two means that the gameplay never feels forced.
At the beginning of each level, players will have to customize their mechs to suit their needs. This includes choosing the right armaments and emplacements, both of which are dependent on their compatibility with the chassis. This is the core of the game’s strategy. Players can’t simply equip a mech with both destructive armaments and emplacements. Because of this, stages never get boring. Players will never be left standing at only one point of the map. It’s almost a requirement to constantly run from one end to another, both to check up on emplacements’ health and to gather resources for more turrets. Trenched can be described as the ultimate test of multitasking skills.
This could, however, become overwhelming as the game wears on. Luckily, emplacements come in all shapes and forms, providing functionality that can be as simple as shooting down hordes of enemies or as unique as picking up minerals and repairing players’ mechs. Customizing mechs and surviving rounds of tubes don’t come down to canned strategies as much as players’ preferences. Players will need to experiment and see what suits their style or best handles swarms of tubes in any particular level.
Backing up this interesting fusion the developers have created is the game’s odd sense of humor. For the most part, it’ll snag a couple of chuckles, and is a fun compliment to the game’s interesting lore. However, the game’s cutscenes are a great source of frustration; not only are they lengthy, but they also can’t be skipped. Failure meant sitting through the same cutscene again; combine that with the game’s inherent difficulty and you can imagine just how frustrating these segments can get.
Trenched proves that giving gamers a fun, yet unique experience is not based on merely throwing together aspects of random genres or making a totally new genre, but finding the right combination that will create the ultimate gameplay chemistry. Much like the chemistry that is needed between the customization options in this game. Trenched never feels like a gimmick; instead, it is a perfectly planned game that matches up the perfect elements from RPGs, shooters, and tower defense games.
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.