I received a review copy of Trillion: God of Destruction and, while I haven’t quite beaten it in time for launch (and I don’t feel comfortable reviewing a game I haven’t beaten) I have enjoyed my time with it and I’ll give my impressions so far here.
I’ll follow up once I’ve completed the game to fill in my complete thoughts.
For now I’ve put this game on hold. Most of the impressions below still hold true, but I must note the game gets quite slow and repetitive. The game’s harem roots show far stronger in basically every character’s story other than Gluttony’s story, who I happened to pick first. All in all it’s a game with some really good ideas and good writing here and there, but it bogs itself down too hard with Harem tropes and a Raising Sim mechanic that is far too slow.
The game is certainly unique, and I wasn’t even sure how it was played at first. Indeed, part of the gameplay is simply figuring out what all you do. The game is roughly half Tactical RPG (like Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea) and half “ra” Speaking of Disgaea, the game has several key staff from Disgaea, and the flavors of the games are certainly similar.
Basically, a giant destructive force Trillion has come to a (rather peaceful) Netherworld and the Overlord must stop it from destroying the world. But it’s got a trillion HP and it’s not going to be easy. Instead of being able to take on the boss yourself, the protagonist must raise his Overlords to fight Trillion one by one (and failure means permanent death for that character).
The game is mostly played as a “Raising” sim game where you choose which stat you want to train for a day, buy items, challenge mini-dungeons or “sparring” matches with lesser bosses than Trillion. You have to make the most of the Raising portion of the game to do your best against Trillion, who is fought in a large Tactical RPG grid with turn based attacks you have to weave your character between.
An interesting quirk of the marriage between raising sim/VN and TRPG is that “affection points” are gained through the typical sim interaction scenes, and these points are used as spare HP and MP during the fight against Trillion. To properly survive against Trillion you really do have to bond with the Overlords as well, or they’ll fall quickly.
Damage you deal to Trillion and a lot of your progress, such as money, items, and even experience points are transferred to the next overlords, allowing each successive overlord a better chance at actually killion Trillion. Your first overlord is basically doomed, your second can do real damage, and so on. There’s certainly skill to using your time effectively, but even the best skill is basically useless against Trillion without proper stats.
The game has very welcome animation skip features, letting you skip training animations, day transition animations and skill animations. Oddly it lacks an instant dialog skip option, but there is a fast forward button. The UI is very effective and lets you get around without wasting your time, which is welcome for this sort of game.
Very quickly you'll notice the game is not what one might expect from Compile Heart, who has a reputation of humor-focused frequently pervy games. The tone is very similar to Disgaea or Dangan Ronpa, mostly grim story-wise but with a fair amount of personality in the characters, items and design to keep things fun instead of constantly serious. It's a good mix, and keeps the game from being horribly depressing due to the whole part where characters inevitably die.
As is expected of Idea Factory International releases, very little of the game is dubbed, mostly just the intro cutscene of each chapter actually, and all battle/UI dialog lines of course. The Japanese voice track is included and seems to voice all scenes (or at least all story scenes).
The game is almost in a Harem structure, and it narrowly (but properly) averts actually being a Harem game. The "main" protagonist, Zeabolos, is not romantically interested in the Overlords but instead quite seriously raises them to fight Trillion. There's a couple fanservicey scenes tossed in and characters have varying attachments to Zeabolos, but the game lacks pretty much any of the gross stuff I usually dislike about Harem stuff myself. The Overlords are treated with respect, the male protagonist is not constantly getting into suspicious situations, character's personalities do not instantly dissolve to serve the protagonist's will.
The Overlords, the characters you raise to fight Trillion, all have unique personalities inspired by the 7 Deadly Sins (Zeabolos himself is Wrath, so you have each of the other Sins as characters). The characters have their own unique personality quirks too, Greed has an unusual motive, Sloth is a stereotypical Otaku (complete with honorifics and Japanese nicknames). The one character that's likely to be controversial is Ashmedia (Lust), who veers closer to the sort of fanservicey writing one might expect from Compile Heart, but it's very much in character and never gets abusive/excessive (i.e. she's not Iris Heart from Neptunia Victory, yuck).
The downside of the pretty good writing is that...watching these characters die hurts. And neither the gameplay or story will progress without a fair share of bloodshed. I was fully aware the first character I sent off was going to die, so I picked my least favorite, the gluttonous little girl. But through the interaction events and rather dramatic scenes around conclusion of her life I was still hit pretty hard once she lost. You're even "treated" to unique CGs of the dying character, and a dramatic "Death Skill" animation that almost feels designed to rub it in.
In Dangan Ronpa, the pain was always dulled a bit by reminding myself I couldn't prevent any of these deaths. It's just a story. Trillion's deaths hurt extra because the character's deaths feel much more like your failing. It's almost certain that your first two (or more) Overlords are going to die too, so those initial choices hurt too.
Accepting the inevitability of death is certainly a part of the game, and it does hurt. But it also makes hurting Trillion surprisingly satisfying. When I first heard of the premise of the game I wasn't sure I would be able to stomach it, but now that I've started I have to finish it. I have to kill Trillion because of what it's done.
Is it a conclusion if it's a first impressions post? Ahem.
Trillion God of Destruction is a very interesting mix with good writing, great art, and while it's emotionally painful, the payoffs seem worth it as well. The fight against Trillion itself is very fun due to the constant movement and the sense of progress, while the numbers are clearly a bit inflated, does feel very solid.
The Raising Sim aspect makes it feel a little shallower gameplay-wise than a typical TRPG for sure, but you have to accept that Trillion isn't quite a TRPG like Disgaea, not exactly. Trillion is it's own interesting mix, so you should be coming in at least half for the writing/characters/trauma as well. But juking around Trillion's attacks is also a joy that's rare in traditional TRPGs, which kept me from getting too frustrated at the lack of standard TRPG gameplay.
Trillion is certainly a bit of an odd mix, but it works very well, and if you can stomach the inevitable deaths, I've found the writing fairly rich so far. Though in the back of my mind I'm really hoping there's some New Game Plus where I can whoop Trillion first try for the ultimate happy ending. Please.
Also, a couple parting tip: Definitely pick your least favorite Overlord first, and IMO sealing Trillion's tail first makes the most sense, as it's the most annoying attack to dodge. I found the game "clicked" midway through the second character, and I currently feel like I can win with only one or two more overlords with extremely good play.