On paper, Pin looks like an interesting twist on a successful formula. The action-adventure game places players in a world where humans are far from the dominant species, but instead of trying to conquer untamed land, they must forge alliances with their neighbors to survive. Its diplomacy system stands out, but it’s not enough to compensate for combat and manufacturing frustrations, and it is completely overshadowed by the disastrous performance issues of the Switch version.
The humans in Pine live isolated from the rest of the world in a cliff-top village, but when disaster strikes, the player character, Hue, seeks to find a new home for his people. It was then that he came into contact with the various tribes of anthropomorphic animals that populate the rest of the world, starting with a sympathetic teddy bear, although condescending. Players quickly learn to befriend these tribes – especially through corruption – and seek out allies who will help relatively weak humans gain a foothold.
The complex system of alliances is by far its greatest asset. Each species has a level of affinity not only with the player, but also with all other species. Having fun or annoying members of a village can affect relationships across the board. At the beginning, the interactions with different species are quite basic, and are mainly limited to attacking NPCs or giving objects to a village, but as the game progresses, new options open up to you. Finally, the player can help other species to develop better armor and weapons, increase their population and even attack enemy villages. There is not much practical difference between alliances with one species or another,
Even when the player does not interfere directly, the relationships between the species will change according to their interactions. What first looks like arbitrary increases and decreases in affinity scores turns out to be the result of real NPC exchanges. Out in the world, the player will meet members of different factions who are waging war or exchanging ideas, and these meetings change the fate of their tribes. The collectors sent by each village recover the same resources as the players. The way NPCs interact with each other and with the world can be limited,
Unfortunately, the rest of the game has not kept its promises. In practice, the player spends most of his time fighting and gathering together through unimaginative quests. Whatever the next objective of the game is, it usually comes down to gathering enough resources and bringing them to one of the tribes. Players may need to make friends with the species that hate them or sabotage relationships with their allies to progress, and changing the affinity of a species requires more effort as the game progresses, which simply means more time to find resources.
When the time comes to fight, Pin just can’t stand on his own. There are many games with worse fighting systems, but fights in Pine are still dull and repetitive. Enemies strike hard and often much faster than Hue. The player therefore spends most of his time in combat waiting for them to attack in order to open the counter window. Enemy movements can also be irregular, and hit detection does not seem reliable. Therefore, the shots that seem to need to be connected often leave Hue swaying in the air.
Even these issues could leave Pine at least worth a look if not for its atrocious performance on the Switch. Despite a decent artistic direction, the world of Pine looks terrible, because of the jagged patterns and muddy textures on its grounds and foliage. Its frame rate is unstable, it is often too fast and very blurry. By far the worst problem is that the terrain, objects and enemies enter and exit regularly within a few feet of the player. This could mean that the enemy will disappear in the middle of the fight, that the player will be trapped by a stone above him and that entire cities will slowly appear and disappear around the player. In a game dominated by rallying, it also means that it frequently lacks the resources to progress simply because they haven’t been loaded yet.
Pine has a few basic ideas so interesting that they largely compensate for his dull fights and boring quests. Even its best aspects are limited, however, and nothing would compensate for the glaring technical problems that sometimes make it unplayable. Although the Switch port was delayed, it clearly was not yet ready to launch. Hopefully with time and many updates, Pine will become a more worthy game to add to your library.
Although Pine has a great atmosphere coming with it, bugs and slowdowns make it a game to keep on your wishlist until updates improve performance of the game.