Digging and Destroying in Trove Alpha
Trove is one of those games that doesn't quite fit into any preconceived mold. Yes, it looks a lot like Cube World or Minecraft, but that's merely a result of the voxel-based graphics. What lies inside is an open RPG world (and series of worlds to come) with potential for serious creativity an large scale adventures with friends. We recently took the game for a spin, and have a few thoughts on Trove's early alpha build and what's to come over the next few months.
I've captured about fifteen minutes, unedited and undisturbed, of video that show the exploration and destruction present in Trove's alpha, as well as a little crafting. Right now, at the outset, you start as the first and only class: The Knight. You have a basic swing of your sword (the signature weapon of the Knight), a smash (defaulted to right click) that breaks blocks, does damage to enemies and knocks them back, plus a charge skill that dashes and damages enemies. You have two basic bars: health and energy. The latter recharges quickly and determines how often you can use smash and dash, as well as currently being a resource for destroying blocks in build mode.
You can and will find a ton of gems and weapons in the world. The former will boost stats, and as will the latter, as well as giving you stronger attacks. I actually found a Relic sword my first time playing, but lost it when the server reset... such is the way of life in an Alpha. There's also no map just yet, but it's coming soon. For now, the game's alpha testers gladly share coordinates, which can be traced with a simple /loc in the chat log. There's also no real character customization beyond the weapons and masks for early adopters. But female models, classes, and more customizable characters are all coming in the new year.
I can't stress enough that this is an Alpha. Core systems like combat and crafting are in place, but they're not fleshed out, the UI is placeholder, and the first pass at basic crafting just went in on Wednesday. It's rather respectable to see Trion doing away with any NDA, this early on, and openly talking a lot with players daily on Reddit. It's all very clear to see that they're really hoping a combination of a small and passionate team with passionate players can meld together to make a fundamentally fun and addictive game experience.
Where was I?
Right, with the click of the tab-key you can switch to build mode, and thankfully Trion starts you off during alpha with a host of colored blocks to build with. In my travels on a freshly reset server just yesterday, I rand into Mario, a giant alligator whose mouth opened up into an immense underground cavern, sword monuments, candycanes, and much more... all made by players. There are also towers and dungeons made by Trion that litter the world, but I've yet to stumble upon them. And while there's a lot of wooded forests in my video, bear in mind it's basically the very first fifteen minutes of time spent in the Alpha. In each world there are multiple biomes to discover, from lava-ridden volcanic fields to jungles, wintery landscapes, and more.
Right now, the bulk of what you can do in the alpha is kill stuff, explore, collect lots of loot, and build and destroy the scenery. There's no real progression in place yet, but I spoke to Creative Lead Andrew Krausnick about the plans the small team at Trion has for the month, and progression, mounts, and the first pass at Cornerstones are all coming before the Christmas Holiday. January and February will bring the first real "server cycles", in which players must beat bosses, take down dungeons, and "win" the game in order to progress to new worlds. Andrew told me at first the goals will be standard boss kills, but as the alpha progresses they'll add in things like build and defend, rescue this or that and so forth. The possibilities are endless, and eventually every world will likely have different win conditions.
The Cornerstones aren't in place just yet, but these will be Trove's answer to the question of: "If everything's destructible, won't people just be jerks?" And that's exactly what you'll see sometimes. Andrew explained to me that player-placed blocks won't be as easily destroyed as the terrain and objects put in the world by the devs, but that the risk you take in building in the wild is that other players will come along and alter, add, and destroy your creations. That's where the Cornerstones come in. Later this month, the first instance of them will be added to the game, and anything you build on your own personal Cornerstone can't be altered by other players. It's like your home as you enter every new world. Like your character, it progresses with you from new world to new world. And the dev team will be watching to see what you build on your Cornerstone, and they will be placing some of your stuff into the worlds to boot.
In terms of gameplay, the combat actually feels really good right now, even as basic as it is in this early build. You mouse-look like a shooter, left click for basic attacks, shift to block, and right click to smash. Then you have your dash skill on the number two key. Andrew told me as classes are added, you'll be able to switch them on the fly a la Final Fantasy's jobs, and level them all up independently. Max one out, or more, and you'll be able to take some of their abilities over to other classes to create a sort of hybrid. But for now, I'm having fun smashing scenery, exploring the wide world and gazing at the creations I find. It's the kind of game that could be filled with endless exploration and creativity... and that's precisely why I'm so keen on it.
It helps that it has fun combat and plans for tons of classes, dungeons, and bosses. But the core of the experience is exploring, destroying, and building and there's something very addictive that Trion's already onto with that sort of gameplay. I found my way at one point into a man-made cave, fought a few bugs, and eventually dug my way through the entire underside of a mountain to come out the other end into a giant boss fight with a minotaur looking thing. Yes, he dropped some good stuff... too bad the server reset shortly after. Damn this alpha.
Building is really easy too. Press Tab, select your materials, and left click where you want to place things. It's like LEGO, if all LEGOs were squares. If you've played Minecraft, you'll be right at home. Only be careful, if you get attacked be sure to press Tab and go back into combat mode. Unless of course you want to box in the skeleton... that could be a solid defensive strategy.
Folks who want the fully-finished Trove experience may want to wait, but for those of us who like to be in on the ground floor, offer feedback, and also offer our own creations it's worth the time. The widely available tool known as Qubicle is all you need to get to start making your own objects and submitting them to the Trove dev team via the reddit and Imgur. Heck, you can even see some fantastic looking class art concepts built using the tool now, and Andrew said they're hoping to get these into the game for when the classes and character customization are added. These aren't made by a Trion dev, but rather a fan of the game.
As I wrote before, Trove is early on in development. But there's already a good sense of what Trion hopes to accomplish in place. It's fun to run around the world, fight baddies, collect loot, break stuff, and build. When more classes, progression, mounts, maps, and all the accoutrements are added, they could really be onto a winner. We'll be taking further looks as things like Cornerstones are added later this month. Here's hoping they open up the alpha soon to more than just $200 or more founders. And no, luckily I didn't have to shell out the cash. Trion was kind enough to offer me a key. But now, seeing the game for myself? I'll gladly chip in a little funding for some perks. I'm having fun, and it's only just begun.
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.