Developer: Compile Heart
Publisher: Compile Heart International
Release Date: March 29, 2016
ESRB: T for Teen
I tend to forget that Compile Heart now has a lot of former Nippon Ichi Software staff. A large part of that was because of some big business scandal inside of Nippon Ichi Software in Japan (known for Disgaea) that involved not paying for a lot of overtime hours a few years ago. So, after many of them justifiably transitioned to Compile Heart, the first project for much of that former staff became Trillion: God of Destruction.
Though it is directed by Masashiro Yamamoto, who led such projects as Disgaea 4 and also a certain roguelike that I adored called The Guided Fate Paradox, Trillion: God of Destruction does feel very much like its own beast.
As you may have guessed, the setup is based around the titular villain, Trillion- The God of Destruction. What is less apparent is how grim and ominous of a presence Trillion ends up being. Trillion not only kills the main character, the "Great Overlord Zeabolos" right at the start, but also destroys most of the netherworld army and even eats Zeabolos's own brother alive in front of him just beforehand.
Of course, the game doesn't end there. Zeabolos is given a chance at revenge after being revived in a weakened zombified state by a girl named Faust, so long as he agrees to give up his soul to her after his fight against Trillion. Little surprise that Zeabolos agrees to the sketchy terms of service for any chance of revenge. However, Zeabolos himself is no longer capable of fighting and he has to turn to the fellow "Overlords" whom work under him to continue the fight. He promises these Overlord women that they can claim the title of Great Overlord, and rule the netherworld, if they defeat Trillion before he utterly destroys the netherworld and everyone within it.
As Faust would say: "You are not powerless as long as you are alive", so Zeabolos takes it upon himself to help train the other Overlords to pick up for where he failed.
Trillion: God of Destruction has a pretty unique structure as a game. I would use the comparison to Princess Maker but I doubt most people would even recognize the name. Instead of saying that then, I'll just say that Trillion uses elements of turn-based roguelike, time management, and even some light dating sim elements (which can occasionally be rather questionable considering Zeabolos's relationship with certain characters...) in preparation for the big fight against Trillion himself.
A deceptively big, and likely very divisive, portion of the title is how you utilize your time. After Trillion destroys a portion of the netherworld he will also rest a few weeks because of the previous battle or a full stomach. During this time you can strengthen the heroine's stats through training, recover fatigue, collect taxes, participate in a brief roguelike dungeon called the "Valley of Swords", and see many random events through various menu options. How effective or not in the pending fight(s) against Trillion will hugely be based on how you spend your time, and also how fortunate, or not, you are during random events. Occasionally it can be tedious with a few too many practice battles, but, for the most part, the basic day to day loop is surprisingly addictive since time moves fairly quick and the storytelling itself is intriguing.
The actual fight against Trillion is one of immense turn-based attrition. He is the first, and last, boss of the game and only gets stronger as you try to whittle him down. Trillion literally has one trillion health points and you'll be lucky to see a small portion of it disappear before the first Overlord meets their gruesome demise. This makes the game's setup all the more somber as you will knowingly send much of the cast to their doom. To be frank, it is very possible to have none of them actually be capable of defeating it.
Even if I managed to beat Trillion, it is very difficult to do so on the first playthrough and I certainly save-scummed random events (to get better results or pick the right dialogue choice) and retried many battles in order to do so. It honestly feels as if both narrative and gameplay are designed with the intent that you'll fail during the first time around.
With this clearly in mind, even the gameplay is built upon the concept of sacrifice. Just before characters die, or retreats too many times, they can either cripple Trillion or help make the next Overlord that much more effective with their parting by supporting them. This can make a world of difference towards making Trillion less terrifying or helping the next Overlord's training become much more fruitful. For instance, with my first character sacrifice I had her enhance the weapons of the next overlord, which also happened to turn her default weapon absurdly huge. This in turn lead her to be able to one-shot enemies in the roguelike portion called "Valley of Swords" and also noticeably hurt Trillion, whereas the previous overlord couldn't.
Admittedly, the roguelike portions are not very deep, or polished (with its choppy 3D presentation), since you can only climb one randomly generated floor (likely to prevent grinding), and a limited amount of times at that. Still, it utilizes the combat in a different light and the loot within dungeons can be fairly rewarding.
Because of the inherent despair that the narrative tends to leans towards, it is also quite likely to bring mixed outlooks on the title. A bulk of the storytelling, and character-development, is written under the assumption that you are contentiously losing the battle in order to encounter most of it. This makes aspects like the many more optimistic character endings, and especially the "best ending", almost strictly reserved for New Game+, which allows you to carry over a portion of stats each playthrough.
It is not even that Trillion is always doom and gloom. There are plenty of quirky moments and humorous writing throughout. Honestly, the depiction of the "Netherworld" concept would feel right at home among Nippon Ichi properties, despite not breaking the fourth wall nearly as much. The thing is that when the narrative is cruel, it's downright merciless. I fully expected to not like many of the characters based on their bad first impressions and apparent anime archetypes, going as far to pick the ones that I liked the least first to get them out of the way. Before I knew it, much of the cast grew on me since they actually deeper backgrounds than you would expect, and the storytelling succeeds in making their likely parting that much more harsh.
I fully expect Trillion: God of Destruction to be a divisive experience. It is a unique title in a lot of ways: everything from the battle of attrition with Trillion to gameplay elements that range from roguelike to time management. For what I found to be an addictive gameplay formula with a lot of creative components that work well together I could just as easily see another being put off by them individually by their possible lack of polish or depth.
To further cement its love it or hate it nature, the narrative and gameplay tone manage to be surprisingly bleak throughout despite its deceptively its colorful setting. You will knowingly send much of the cast to their doom in order to hopefully defeat Trillion, and even then you are not even close to guaranteed to succeed at it on the first playthrough. It is all the more cruel since it actually does a decent job at making you warm up to many its characters over time despite their questionable first impressions. Still, I consider Trillion: God of Destruction to be fascinating title and for its many rough patches, both intentionally and not, I found myself fairly engrossed throughout and it has become my favorite title from Compile Heart thus far.
+ Deceptively grim, but engaging, setup where you knowingly send much, if not all, of the cast to their doom to hopefully succeed
+ Addictive structure that plays upon a lot of systems from time management to roguelike
+ Develops its characters and setting well
+ Creative sacrificial mechanics that allow you to debilitate Trillion or help make a successor become that much stronger
- The combat portions are not very deep and sometimes become tedious
- Random events sort of encourage save-scumming because of how rewarding, and punishing, they can be at times.
- Game fully expects most to fail at defeating Trillion on the first playthrough, which can be pretty disheartening
Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10)
For a concept that could've easily missed its mark, Trillion: God of Destruction is an intriguing title with a lot of cool ideas. It is likely to be lost on many with its intentionally bleak circumstance, and noticeable lack of polish in several areas, but for those who can overlook that will find a unique, and possibly addictive, RPG experience that is really unlike most others
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Vita code provided by the publisher.