A few short months ago we put out a small Libra review for Pine knowing it was in dire need of some bug fixing. Well, I’m here to say that we probably didn’t wait long enough, but it’s about time we lay out the definitive SwitchRPG verdict on Pine. It’s not all great. I’ve grown to both love and hate this game more than MISTOVER, which I didn’t think was possible.
Pine comes straight out of the gate with an instantly lovable and creative story about how you, an inferior human, have to seek out and find a new home for all of humankind. Humans are no longer on top of the food chain, and it will take a prolonged adventure to figure it all out. The story takes you on a few twists and turns, adventuring over, under, and through the large ecologic variety of Albamare. The story is linear in nature, but the world will change and evolve depending on affinity relationships, discussed a little later.
Pine’s story feels unique and inventive in a world where we’re often inundated with movie remakes and braindead fetch quests. It feels like a breath of fresh air for the Nintendo Switch catalog, where the conversation is largely centered around Super Mario Odyssey and Zelda Breath of the Wild. The trials and tribulations I endured were all simply because I wanted to see what happened next with Pine’s storyline. And it was… mostly fun!
Nearly every aspect of the gameplay in Pine is rooted in adventuring the open world. Do you really want to do that mission, or mindlessly wander Albamare for a few hours? Pine is largely what you make of it, as your play style will impact the pacing the most. Quests, numbers, requirements, and obligations are not time-restricted, so they can all take a back seat to good old exploration in Pine.
Your character is given both a primary sword and later a ranged attack options with either a bow or slingshot. Since there’s no leveling in Pine, the difficulty of fights will largely be dependent on the equipment and items you are currently using. The rest is up to what you can find and discover.
Pine looks nice enough. It’s not groundbreaking, but when combined with the size of the world and the places you can physically reach, the art style manages to compliment the rich, lived-in world. There are times when the render distance doesn’t do the game any favor, making large chunks of the faraway land look pretty bland. I can let that slide in favor of the rich detail it provides up close, however. If I had any complaints about the graphical style, it’s that too much of it is colored in greens and browns, which gives everything a more muddled feel. It’s also worth noting that it looks significantly better while docked than in handheld mode for those looking for the highest graphic fidelity possible.
Pine really knocks it out of the park with its character and building modeling. Each species has it’s own theme and resultant building style for their villages and they all look phenomenal. The same goes for your player character Hue. All the equipment you can craft provides a unique look that is instantly noticeable.
The Affinity Mechanics
A large part of the gameplay- and probably one the most unique features in Pine- is managing the various species’ affinity levels. Each species can like or dislike you, displayed as affinity levels at each donation box. You can directly influence affinity by donating gatherable items to that city’s donation box. At each box, it lists what items that species likes and dislikes. You can donate any items depending on which direction you would like the affinity to go.
To complicate matters, increasing affinity with a species will decrease that of their rival’s. This happens because in addition to affinity levels, each species reacts either positively or negatively to all the other species. One day you may discover the Fexel’s out bombing the Cariblin races and the next you may see both of them ganging up against the Gobbledew. You can view these relationships yourselves by finding the affinity board with arrows like the one shown above.
I went back and forth on Pine’s affinity mechanics. At first, I felt like it was a lot of pretty dressing that sounds really cool but come playtime, doesn’t impact the game very much. In the end, I settled upon the opinion that these mechanics add a little more depth to its open-world adventuring gameplay. I didn’t realize this until I was out roaming Albamare and ducked off the main road to avoid a group of Gobbledews and it dawned on me: the affinity mechanics were surely affecting how I played the game.
Still, some elements don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense or actually come into play while exploring. Off-screen interactions between the species sound really cool, but in the end, the results are the same as they would be without all the fancy interactions. I can fully get on board with species changing relationships with one another. It doesn’t require a random encounter between the two soon-to-be-rival species you cant see in the woods to make sense. Stock prices change every day and I don’t need to be at the NYSE to know that they do.
Items and Outfindings
Throughout the course of your adventure, you will discover items called Outfindings. Outfindings are very special items found in Albamare vaults for reasons I won’t spoil here, as they are key to the main storyline. Just know that these items can be used in unique and special ways to solve puzzles, tame creatures, and help with your all-around adventuring skills.
In addition to Outfindings, there are also a wide variety of harvestable items found throughout Albamare. A lot of these items can be eaten to replenish your health or used as crafting components for the many recipes you discover. Most of them are regional as well- this means if you’re short on sandstone, you shouldn’t expect to find it in the jungle.
Pine is not driven by leveling up your character but rather what level of equipment and usable items you can find. Gear is rated by the number of stars rather than raw numbers. You can find more gear by finding Albamare Chests scattered throughout the world or befriending the local species. Each piece of equipment actually looks and feels unique, which makes that moment when you equip a new piece of gear extra awesome, as you can actually see the changes reflected on your character.
A large portion of the gameplay, including the vaults found in the main storyline, are puzzles. While exploring Albamare, you will find weird platforms and shootable targets- a good indicator that you have just discovered a puzzle. The puzzles vary in difficulty, with some requiring you to take a step back, look at the surrounding landscape, and evaluate the situation at hand for possible solutions. The puzzles in Pine are really well done, and it’s a joy to use the unique Outfinding abilities to solve the craftier problems.
Bugs, Glitches, and Stoppages
Pine is not a polished game. It’s better than it was at launch, but it’s still nowhere near what one would call stable. The game is full of moments where buildings, people, and landscapes pop into existence, sometimes leaving you stuck within immovable objects like rocks or buildings. The only solution is to reload a previous save, but the troubles do not stop here. During my time with Pine since November, I’ve had to deal with numerous incidents where I could no longer progress due to either a bug or glitch leaving me stranded and unable to progress the storyline I had come to adore.
While the invisible people, places, and things are annoying, Pine is also full of delays when opening your menus and maps. Sometimes they don’t even open and you have to back out of the invisible menu that should’ve opened, but didn’t. There are also quite a few frame rate slowdowns that usually occur when combating multiple enemies or exploring congested locations.
Pine still needs more love, and if you’re the type of person that doesn’t like dealing with these issues, I maintain my stance from the Libra review. Pine is not yet finished and is full of bugs, glitches, and entire sections you will likely be unable to complete, but there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. Recent patches since the Libra article have fixed some of the major stoppages, but I’ve come across some of the same ones more recently.
If you’re already playing Pine and find yourself stuck, I’ve found that completely restarting the Nintendo Switch and reloading your Pine save has helped.
I really loved the majority of my time with Pine. The story is engaging and the game keeps introducing new concepts at a steady pace to keep things interesting and fresh. There’s still just too many bugs and glitches in Pine to wholly recommend the game to everyone in its current state. As it stands, I can only recommend this game to the most patient and dedicated individual, one who can handle these types of bugs without throwing their Nintendo Switch out the window.
I can say that personally, my overall experience with Pine is on the extreme polar opposite of spectrum from my feelings on the bugs. It’s the most fun in gaming that I’ve had in quite a while, and I loved exploring the large and varied open world, messing with the local species by setting up rows of explosive barrels, using sparkler traps, and solving the unique puzzles was a real joy to experience.
I can’t get any more conflicted than this. Pine can easily be rated a “Great” game, but not in its current state. There are simply too many bad things that have happened to me that have forced me to put it down and wait for updates before I could continue the journey. For now, it remains an “Ok” title, but I hope someone revisits Pine in the future with a saving throw.