Continuing with my review of the significant titles I played in 2015 is Trove. This game launched in June of last year but my time playing began much earlier than that, during the beta. I first discovered Trove in 2014 but it had yet to reach a point of being “feature complete” enough for it to catch my attention. However during the spring and early summer of 2015 it was one of the only MMOs I was regularly playing. I wrote several blog posts at the time out of a sincere love of the game and a desire to see more people give it a try. Trove was (and still is) a game that many in the MMO community simply wrote off as a Minecraft clone; I know I certainly did. It had also had the stain of ArcheAge on Trion going against it as well with everyone assuming it was a knock-off cash grab rather than the unique and clever title that it was.
Initially I saw Trove as a convenient title to play in short bursts as a secondary or tertiary MMO, similarly to how I approached Marvel Heroes. However the game became the one title I was eager to play almost every night during the 2-3 months leading up to launch. There were several reasons I enjoyed playing Trove so much. First of all, it was light weight and that was a nice change of pace. Combat was straight forward yet satisfying, the world was colorful and absurd, and gameplay was perfect for quick sessions; I could jump in and out in thirty minutes or spend hours wandering through the many biomes and dungeons depending on my mood and available time.
The balance between vertical and horizontal progression was also a factor. The Secret World may be the first official game I’ve played that lacks levels but Trove might as well have been. Each procedurally generated world was more or less the same with regard to available content despite increasing in difficulty every 2-3 levels. So whether I was playing my level 20 Dracolyte or a new class at level 1 I was able to run the same dungeons, farm the same resources, progress the same character, and more or less enjoy the same game. The only major difference was the shadow arenas that didn’t become available until you reached level 10 and entered your first Uber world.
Speaking of Shadow Arenas, one of the other aspects I loved about Trove was the ease with which you could join with others for group content. At first I thought shadow keys were a kind of cash shop controversy waiting to happen until I realized that the speed with which I was able to obtain them was not the limitation I thought it was. Sure, it took a while to earn a new key but once you were in a group if everyone brought a couple you were able to chain run shadow arenas for quite some time. While I did spend money regularly in the cash shop, I never once bought a shadow key. I never upgraded my gear to the highest available tier either but there was little reason to rush that process; there were no raids or difficult group content waiting at the end and requiring the upgrades. They just made life easier and were something to work toward.
Gear progression was another feature that I found compelling in Trove. Having some experience with Blade & Soul as well as Black Desert Online now I see that Trove was not the first to use the concept of consuming old gear to craft better gear but it was the first that I experienced and as such I enjoyed the unique approach. In general I liked that upgrading my gear involved more than just getting the right drop during a dungeon or raid like in other MMOs, but rather it required that I utilize every piece of shadow gear I earned in order to upgrade the set I was using. This made every drop a reward (especially with it all being personal loot) and also utilized the crafting process which personally I wish every game did because of how much I enjoy crafting.
I’m sure there are even more reasons why I was so enamored with Trove, but it wasn’t all perfection. The first sign of my dissatisfaction with the game was when the hourly challenges were introduced along with the dragon mounts. This fundamentally changed the gameplay of Trove late in the beta cycle and for many players (myself included) it was a change for the worst. Every hour on the hour players had 20 minutes to complete as many dungeons as they could. At different tiers you would receive a chest that when opened would grant anything from common to very rare crafting materials. The rare materials were required to eventually earn a dragon mount that with even more resources could be upgraded to an even better flying mount. With fire.
On paper it sounds great but in reality it turned what was essentially a casual exploratory game into an hourly frenetic race to accumulate as many of the dragon caches as you could. To maximize your rewards you needed to have every class at level 20 with the shadow gear that would allow you into the most difficult instances so that you could maximize the number of dungeons you could compete. And the drop rate on the materials required to obtain a dragon were abysmal. I don’t remember all the details but I believe you needed something like 30 to earn the mount and after opening a hundred caches—something that with my gear and class levels took a couple of weeks—I had a total of two. There was no incentive to keep doing the content, no incentive to buy the caches on the cash shop ($20 for 50 cache with the hope of getting a single rare material? No thanks), and a lot of frustration with how the feel of the game so drastically changed.
However despite my own disappointment with this direction I was excited for launch. A new pet class was being released, the Tomb Raiser, and I was excited to get my hands on it. I even spent the twenty bucks to get the special Tomb Raiser pack with two extra mounts and costumes. Unfortunately when launch day came I couldn’t actually play. I began to understand the bitterness some MMO players feel toward the “tourists” because here was this game that I had been playing happily for months when nobody else cared, many people having played far longer than that, and I had no access to the game or the class I paid for. This went on for at least a week or two; either the queue time was longer than I was willing to wait or the servers were down during the time I was able to play. I think I had a week or two of free patron service and got maybe three days out of it.
Without access to Trove I started paying Star Wars: The Old Republic again. Once the servers were more accessible I continued to play off and on but I never went back to viewing Trove as my main MMO. Like FFXIV though, I think the fact that it was so easy to walk away and start playing something else because of two weeks of downtime illustrates the fact that it was never going to be a game I played that intensely for years. I still think Trove is an incredibly well designed game and I return every now and again to pick up the new class and give it a try (although with the changes to how classes are obtained, even that won’t be happening any more). And if we ever get a second PC so that I can play with my kids then I might pick it back up again but for now it’s relegated to the category of “every once in a while” and will likely never be more than that.
Next time I’ll be taking a look at my experiences with Star Wars: The Old Republic, the game I not only played the most during 2015 but also one that I played for more consecutive months than any other MMO besides World of Warcraft.