A Supreme Arcade Experience!
Trenched is a very refreshing game. It proves once again that you do not have to spend multi millions to make a fully featured game that has depth, replay value, and above all else, fun.
As game production costs and values continually climb, many developers that find themselves in-between those mega corporations and the "2 guys in a garage" esque studios are beginning to shift their attention to the downloadable marketplace. Double Fine is one such developer that has produced 3 very recent and very different experiences in Costume Quest, Stacking, and Trenched. If you have had the pleasure of playing through all 3, you still haven't reached the price point of today's modern retail games. That's one hell of a deal.
Trenched is the only game of the 3 that I have played as of yet, but it has firmly planted itself near the top of games that have been released this calendar year. The game is about 2 soldiers that experience an alien message called "The Broadcast" which greatly enhances their intellectual ability. The first soldier, Frank Woodrof, uses his new abilities to create the trenches (your mobile "mechs") to fight various enemies. The latter soldier, Vladimir Farnsworth, uses the broadcast to create television and begin networking the world. Farnsworth becomes crazy and soon takes on the role of villain and the player is tasked with defeating him and his evil minions "The Tubes".
The gameplay in trenched revolves around the typical wave based tower defense style gameplay, but with the twist of giving the player a mech (trench) to fight the enemies with in a 3d space. In contrast to other games with tower defense mechanics, players can essentially place their turrets anywhere on the battlefield using a very easy to understand interface mapped to the left bumper. This can lead to some pretty packed battlefields online, but it never interferes with gameplay. As much as they marketed the game as a tower defense game, most of the enemies you encounter will be killed by your own guns (in my experience at least). During online play, my turret kills represented 1/4th or less of my kills in almost every game.
The trenches are also fully customizable in both appearance and performance. The chassis, legs, and armaments can all be swapped out as the player sees fit. Smaller chassis's are able to deploy a larger number and greater variety of turrets (emplacements), although most players seem to prefer bigger trenches with more guns. There appears to be little incentive to be an engineering mech as turrets seem to be rather ineffective except for portions of the early game and most players lay down the same 2 emplacements over and over again anyway. That said, the customization is pretty awesome and just about everybody seems to be using different types of guns.
The marines too are customizable. This is where the typical Double Fine "charm?" really comes into play. You can buy new hats and outfits for your marine. I found myself playing as Josef the most because he just looks flat out funny when he's running around the ship deck. After winning a match, you will see various animations including downing a big ass bottle of some alcoholic beverage, or lighting a cigar by firing a pistol. Not to mention the various salutes that can be executed on the ship deck (fun times online).
The game was clearly designed to be a cooperative experience as it is more fun, more entertaining, and much easier to play online with random bros (except getting golds in the boss fights). As far as cooperative games go, this ranks very high on my list. It's not overly complex to the point of needing to chat with people and it's just really cool to see everybody's trench blasting away at those bastard tubes online.
It's hard for me to pinpoint any weaknesses in the game and that alone should indicate its quality. It is a supreme arcade experience that is easily more fun to play than most retail games. Go get Trenched!