This article series continues to surprise me. While many of the games I’ve approached for the column fall pretty neatly in line with my expectations, Trove free to play kind of came out of left field for me. Not so much in its business model; that went pretty much how I expected it to and I’ll get to that soon, but Trove itself is a lot more entertaining than I was expecting it to be.
Trove is this adorable mesh of Minecraft cubist graphics, Diablo 3’s Bounties, and an almost Landmark-esque element where you roam different biomes to find random adventures. Honestly, it feels pretty close to the kind of experience I was hoping out of a game like Landmark; this big, rolling realm where you could pretty much just wander in any given cardinal direction or towards whatever looked neat on the horizon and explore.
The greater bulk of Trove involves doing pretty much that; wandering whatever world you’ve entered via the Atlas, entering dungeons and keeps that dot the landscape, wiping out the enemies within, and grabbing the loot. From a gameplay standpoint, that’s pretty much it, but for some reason the variety of the worlds and sheer sense of whimsy that permeates Trove made that appealing to me.
Granted, things start off slow in terms of world thematics at the interim, with your first couple of worlds being merely grassland, frozen land, or desert. By the time I was pressing on to the candy world and ran into a building that was shaped like a monocle-wearing, bowler-hatted penguin, I knew things were getting completely ridiculous in the best possible way.
The goofy character of Trove is in everything else you see in the game. From lollipops that beg you to eat them before attacking you to players using corgis, pink red pandas, or DDR dance pads as mounts, nothing about this game feels like it was intended to be taken seriously. It’s wildly creative and deliciously irreverent.
Perhaps it’s because I’m easily amused, but the gleefully giddy setting of Trove is making it easy for me to overlook some of its shortcomings on the gameplay side. Starting the game off began with this potential for some sort of narrative direction but it instead drops you in the middle of a hub world with bare little explanation of some of the game’s systems, so it can perhaps be a bit on the jarring side. Also, while the enemies are adorable as heck, they’re also astonishingly simple in terms of AI. Challenge comes as a result of being under-leveled or undergeared and so that can be easily surmounted given enough time and grinding.
But then a player comes by wearing a weird outfit and using a bouncy ball as a mount and suddenly everything is alright again.
To that point, I would maybe suggest that Trove is best experienced on a very casual basis. Sure, there’s a lot of levels, stats, and grind waiting for you and it’s easy to sink yourself in, but the manner I’m approaching this game is similar to the way I approach a game like Diablo 3: something that I fire up when I just want to tumble around and have a good, goofy time.
But now we get to the matter of how much said goofy time is open as a free arrival. Like usual, my experience in Trove free to play is divided into four sections: Account Limitations, Store Offerings, Store Interruption, and Store Reliance. Each category then gets graded as either Minimal, Acceptable, or Unacceptable, with a rundown of why I came to each grade. Finally, I’ll provide a briefing on how I think Trove treated me as a free player.
Account Limitations: Minimal
What are Account Limitations? Anything that locks content away from you, from character or class choices to hotbars, access to dungeons or end game. These are things that flag you as one of the “freeloaders” and restricts your play.
From the start, I was only given one class: the Candy Barbarian, though you should be given a choice of several starting classes. After that, unlocking anything more will either involve you playing through the quests that (sort of) guide you through things long enough to get one free unlock of a starter class, or you pay up to try something different.
That seems pretty restrictive, but the fact that you can try out classes up to level 4 before committing any money means you don’t have to make a totally blind purchase. On top of that, as someone who played as and even preferred the Candy Barbarian, the different classes don’t seem to be more than a style choice. I felt plenty effective while in combat and didn’t really experience any other lockouts while playing otherwise.
Store Offerings: Acceptable
The Store Offerings section is a quick look at what the store has to offer. From the selection to the variety of items, this is your at-a-glance idea of whether the store is interesting and if prices seem to be fair.
As seems to be the standard for many F2P MMOs, Trove has more currencies and items for advancement than what sanity would demand. So, as one expects, there’s a lot of similar bundles of those currencies and items on offer. Regardless, there’s also a pretty nice selection of cosmetics available as well, along with the aforementioned different classes.
Perhaps the biggest complaint I have is the pricing, which kind of feels a little bit higher than I’d like for most items. Still, nothing in the store really slapped me with the sticker price. It’s just another storefront.
Store Interruption: Unacceptable
Store Interruption is based on how frequently you’re reminded of the in-game store during play. This either occurs through pop-up reminders that dominate your screen or buttons that redirect you to items offered in the store.
There were a lot of store reminders in many of Trove’s menu windows, on top of a shimmering icon guiding me to the store and a pop-up window upon logging in trying to stuff as many nods to the store as it could in one box.
I said it last time and I’ll say it here again – winking and nudging in the direction of the store is not going to make me want to buy your stuff. Please, just leave me alone. I’ll check the storefront when I damned well want to.
Store Reliance: Acceptable
This is an overall score of whether a game enters the “pay-to-win” realm with its offerings. Does the in-game store have an abundance of boosts? Does the leveling curve feel like you need to buy pots in order to progress? That’s what Store Reliance measures.
As you probably guessed with my thoughts on the game’s classes, there’s not a whole lot of need to buy them to get ahead. The same goes with boosts and currencies as well, with most progression items and other materials coming to me easily enough through regular gameplay and XP gains coming steadily.
That might not hold completely true for later character and Mastery levels, and I certainly can see some rather lengthy grinds for more than a few of the game’s dragon mounts, but the store boosts really feel more like an offer of convenience than absolute necessity. Of course, that all depends on how willing one is to grind for whatever item they want to get.
I’m keeping Trove installed on my system purely for the experience of its goofiness, and I’m pleased to report that a great deal of that goofiness isn’t clawing for your wallet. While Trove’s overall gameplay can certainly strike one as shallow, it’s impossible for me to resist a brightly colored world of childish fun, and despite the reminders of the game’s storefront, I really feel like Trove’s multiverse is worth a look as a free player.