You get Trove from Trion Worlds, a free to play MMO that has just exited beta on Xbox One. Exploring and building together with large groups adds a whole new dimension to the familiar block-based gameplay that Minecraft fans love. But does this MMO have enough meat on its bones to win over other types of players?
Trove begins with a cinematic introduction relaying some basic explanation for why an endless array of worlds has merged. The basic concept is that all of those worlds you find in games like Minecraft have meshed together, with portals allowing inhabitants to move from one universe to another. It's a threadbare starting point, but the narrative isn't exactly the main reason people play crafting games.
After starting the game (and linking your account to Trion Worlds' website for a free companion), you'll select a class from a whopping 14 classes. One of Trove's strengths is its unique arsenal of classes. You won't find many of these characters in other games. These include:
- Dino Tamer
- The Revenant
- Lunar Lancer
- Tomb Raiser
- Pirate Captain
- Shadow Hunter
- Candy Barbarian
- Fae Trickster
- Neon Ninja
- Ice Sage
The sheer variety provides a lot of opportunity for player expression. It helps that the game has no real story that characters must fit within. But all of these disparate character types have their own weapons and moves that make it feel different from the others, of course. Ranged characters feel a lot better than melee, in my experience.
Each character type has only three unique skills, compared to the much larger number in games like Neverwinter and Star Trek Online. The simplified move set makes new classes easy to learn – a plus because players can switch between purchased classes at will. If you do run multiple classes, they level independently (as with most MMOs).
Your character's appearance can be customized at the Barbershop stands dotting the tutorial area and later hub world. Again, the number of things you can change is smaller than other MMOs. Blocky Minecraft-style characters have less potential for detail in the first place, but proper outfit customization would've been nice. Later, you'll find many, many unique hats and faces to further distinguish your character, at least.
The tutorial zone introduces Trove's simplified version of quests. Objectives appear at the top-right corner of the screen, such as killing a specific enemy, crafting an object, or completing a dungeon. Completing these will get you Flux, the soft currency used to buy and sell on the Marketplace (Auction House) and many other functions.
Knock out a few tutorial quests, and you're sent to the main hub world, a place where players gather to group up and head off to other locations. You accomplish this by passing through a series of portals, many located on a vast golden tower. Trove does scale really well, allowing players to take in expansive and colorful vistas that never get old. Aggressive players can also head into player vs. player (PvP) arenas from the hub, though I didn't venture into PvP myself.
Each of the portals to other worlds has a minimum Power Rank and suggested level before you can enter. Thus, you can't step into areas for which you're not ready yet. These worlds are absolutely huge, filled with numerous biomes, unique enemies, and dungeons to explore. But what do you do in these diverse environments?
For starters, each world has numerous dungeons to complete. These dungeons are a lot smaller than what you'd find in other MMOs. Some consist of only a room or two, whereas others appear larger on the map and have multiple levels or wings through which to delve. All culminate in a boss fight. Win and you get a treasure chest with some loot. This is the main way to acquire loot, outside of occasional drops from regular enemies and crafting.
You'll also have to mine for materials throughout the various environments. Someone from Trion Worlds described the crafting element of Trove as optional to me, but that's not really the case. Many quests require you to make certain things, which means you'll have to dig through rocks and ores for materials.
Elaborate building gameplay isn't necessary, but everyone's going to have to dig. The actual mining is easier than Minecraft's, as you simply activate crafting mode (via the View/Back button on Xbox One) and then aim a mining laser (that never wears out) and collect materials automatically.
Cornerstones and Club Worlds
Perhaps Trove's most unique gameplay element is that of Cornerstones. Every world is dotted with flat areas of land called plots, designated with signs. Approach a plot, and you can choose to erect a Cornerstone – your personalized base. Cornerstones are persistent and relocatable so that you can move yours to any free plot in any world. Once erected, it acts as your home base (for crafting) and respawn point.
The ground area of a Cornerstone is only 16 x 16 blocks, but players can build up or down much more. Thus you'll encounter unique personalized Cornerstones that stretch into the sky or sink down into the ground. Players who dig the building elements of Minecraft-style games will love going all out with their Cornerstones. Nobody else can dig or build in your base, so you can safely take it with you wherever you venture.
Building a Cornerstone of your own is one thing, but many Minecraft players love the social building experience. Trove accommodates collaborative building with Clubs, which work like clans in other games. You can join a whopping five clubs, though, so one needn't be choosy about clubbing up. The main benefit of club membership is access to a shared persistent world exclusive to club members, where everyone can build what they like as a team.
Trove has one basic premium currency: Credits. These can be spent on a variety of premium and non-premium items, including outfits, mounts, flasks (healing items), inventory expansions, and more. Any important item can be bought without premium currency, but Credits naturally help accelerate progress quite a bit.
The primary use most dedicated players will have for Credits is Patron membership. Like the VIP membership in Neverwinter, Patron membership provides numerous helpful bonuses. Here, you get a 50 percent XP bonus, daily rewards, speed boosts for mining and crafting, and more.
The downside to Patron membership is its price. A 30-day membership costs 2500 Credits, approximately $20. Quite a costly membership compared to Neverwinter's $10 a month VIP membership, but very optional.
The premium store also sells numerous packs that cost real money and can't be bought with Credits. These contain lots of goodies and represent a better value than buying items separately with Credits. If you enjoy Trove, it's a good idea to show some support by grabbing at least the $5 Starter Pack.
Trove looks great and runs fairly smoothly, with a better average frame rate than Perfect World's Xbox One MMOs. But boy, are the menus a mess. Quite a few menus require the use of the Left and Right Bumper buttons to switch between tabs that are oriented vertically. Designing the menus with horizontal tabs makes far more sense for that navigation method. Some menus pop up on the left of the screen, some on the right – the rhyme and reason can be difficult to discern.
Teaming up with friends is relatively easy, at least. After inviting a friend to your team, he or she will spawn next to you, wherever you are. You'll automatically travel between worlds together whenever someone initiates travel, so no need to worry about instances or waiting for the other player to catch up to your location.
Inviting friends is clunkier than necessary, though. When you browse the in-game friends list and its ridiculously tiny text, you'll have to scroll through your entire Xbox One friends list in alphabetical order. The game doesn't sort by players who are actually playing Trove at the moment, nor does it differentiate between online and offline friends. That's a lot of needless scrolling through people who haven't even played the game and/or aren't online, just to invite someone.
Trove supports in-game text chat – always a plus (if not a necessity) in an MMO. You can either hit Enter to type with a USB keyboard or Chatpad, or just tap Down on the D-Pad to access the chat menu. An in-game chat wheel provides quick access to four existing chat shortcuts and four customizable shortcuts, which should be helpful for players who don't own keyboards.
The downsides to the chat system are twofold. One, you can't select or click on other players in the world to examine or private message them. To whisper to someone, one must press the Social Menu button (X on Xbox One) from the chat menu, select Recent Players/Nearby, etc., and only then can you whisper, inspect, or otherwise interact with that player. It could hardly be clumsier and less intuitive. Also, the text is far too small to read from normal living room distance.
Finally, I couldn't find a way to log out. You just have to dashboard or close the game when you're done playing.
The Xbox One version of Trove has 24 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. These include various progression goals such as reaching specific Power Rank and Mastery levels, selling an item in the Marketplace, joining a club, and more.
One of the more challenging Achievements involves reaching a rank of 50 in PvP, although playing on Sunday provides a PvP progression bonus. But the most time-consuming Achievement makes you destroy a million blocks over the course of the game. That won't come quickly, nor will it be natural for players who favor action over mining.
Trove has one obvious goal: to combine the gameplay of Minecraft with the features of an MMO. It succeeds beautifully at that, providing numerous worlds that groups of players can explore together, portable, personalized bases for self-expression, and persistent Club Worlds for social players. Minecraft, in general, can be too free-form for some players, but games like Dragon Quest Builders and Trove provide the structure that helps the crafting go down easier.
On the other hand, Trove still doesn't have nearly as much structure as you'd expect from an MMO. The complete absence of story and story-based quests means that only players who really dig mining and building will get much long-term value from this one. Leaving out the story and story quests is a big missed opportunity to capitalize on what makes MMOs so special.
- Familiar Minecraft gameplay, only with lots of worlds and players in one multiverse
- Beautiful block-based worlds overflowing with color and diversity
- Plenty of creative classes, plus the ability to switch between purchased classes at will
- No story or story-based quests to keep players going
- Text is too small for living room play
- Menus and chat interface are clunky and disjointed
Hopefully, Trion Worlds continues to support and refine Trove, improving the UI and adjusting the text to be more appropriate for living room players. The exploration, mining, and crafting elements are all pretty special, and will easily win over just about any fan of the genre. And with no price for entry, kids will love this massive alternative to the original Minecraft.