24 February, 2018

The Trail: Frontier Challenge Review

The Trail: Frontier Challenge is literally a walking simulator- But this does not need to be bad. In fact, the walking combined with the physics-based inventory management that has your items almost bouncing around in your backpack is a good match, both relaxing enough to casually wander and with enough to think about that you won't be bored all the way.

However, it does come with flaws. There are a lot of bugs- Some of which gamebreaking, and the balance goes completely out the window after playing a few hours, after which it doesn't get any better. It has a few systems that look like they had great plans, and then only did the bare minimum to get it working, with the latter part of the game becoming near impossible to anyone who hasn't planned that far ahead, or consistently gets incredibly lucky.
For the first few hours, it is well worth it. An interesting game that is perhaps a bit too easy, but it gets noticeably harder once all the mechanics are introduced. After that there is a large part of the game that will be slow- A lot of walking, with a lot of interesting terrain. And a multiplayer section that is essentially mandatory while also being nearly impossible to use.
Finally, the last part of the game is teleporting around campsites hoping the npcs trade the one piece of gear or ingredient you need to progress, spending hours of prepwork to get the right outfit with the right resistances so that you can make a quick sprint from one campsite to the next, followed by more time gathering what you need to survive the next stretch. Ideally, and what it looks like the plan was all along, you would be working together with other players to make this gear and complete item gathering challenges, and then together you'll make it to the end of the trial with a nice build-up village.

In practice, out of the 5 players that will be randomly matched in a town, expect 2-3 to go offline and never log on, one of them to not know English, and one of them to be you- You will be essentially performing group tasks on your own, and unless you chose to be a tailor you will spend hours just teleporting around to find the clothing you need to not immediately pass out. And as extra, you will need to spend a lot of time and effort to be able to move to a town where the players might be active and talking, making it difficult to play with friends despite the design clearly calling for a group of people who are motivated, talk to eachother often and coordinate their needs and abilities together.

In the end, The Trail: Frontier Challenge is an interesting title. It has a good start, a strong middle section, and then it falls flat when the bugs and questionable design points build up and overwhelm the positives. It is certainly worth getting if it goes on sale, but be warned, it will take effort and motivation to get to the end of the trail, and a great deal more if you end up having to do so alone.

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