Have you ever wanted to be a King of the Wild Frontier? Well, now you can with The Trail: Frontier Challenge. Developed by 22 Cans and published by Kongregate, The Trail was originally a release on mobile platforms and later followed with an enhanced port for the PC. Now this updated version is making a trail for the Nintendo Switch.
The story centers around you leaving your home port to make a pioneering journey across the undiscovered country of the plains and prairies within the American wilderness. Your objective is to blaze a trail to the town of Eden Falls: a prosperous, new development with countless possibilities to find fame, fortune and power within its fledgling community. You begin upon the shores of the new world, where you are duly greeted by a guide who will walk with you and offer advice in the way of the games tutorial. After acquiring some scraps of clothing, you begin your journey through various terrains such as large woodlands, snowy peaks and desolate plains.
Dotted along the path of your journey, various campsites are set up where you can rest your weary legs. It is here that you will also meet Beatrice and her feathered friend, Koko. She becomes an important character within the game, as she presents you with various challenges that you must complete as you make the journey from camp to camp. These in turn help with your development as you begin to learn the skills needed to survive, as well as learning a profession that you can take with you into the town of Eden Falls.
The journey you undertake follows a set path, this isn’t a free-roaming game, however, DO NOT let this put you off as there is so much to do as you walk the beaten track, and the scenery around you is so beautiful, that you simply won’t care that the developers have chosen this style of gameplay mechanic. You can control the tempo in which your character strides, even stopping to a standstill if you need too. With the automatic direction of your characters heading, you are free to explore the landscapes around you, collecting valuable resources by triggering the ZR button, chopping down trees and hunting wildlife once you have learnt those skills. These resources become invaluable to you as they can allow you to craft new materials and tools, new clothing and even food to help you fulfil your destiny.
As you reach each camp and complete each challenge, you are rewarded with skill points that can be used on various skill trees to learn new professions or bolster any techniques you have already learnt. These become vitally important to your progress as different environmental conditions, bag weights and hunger can severely hamper your journey unless you have the skills to get through them. From stronger tools, bigger bags in which to store resources, better clothing and more satisfying food, you will soon become more adept to the varying landscapes and progressive challenges that lay ahead of you. The camp sites also offer a save point and with each path on your journey taking roughly five to ten minutes, the frequency of these saves will soon become a blessing.
Trading also becomes an important element on your journey. Again, each camp site offers you the chance to trade with other NPC’s that tread the same path. By selling on the resources that you no longer need, you can begin to accrue currency which is needed to fulfil certain criteria along your journey; it also offers a good way of procuring new items, tools, food and clothing if you don’t have the skills or resources to craft them yourself. Trading is undertaken within the form of a mini-game style of play. By placing your unwanted objects upon a conveyor belt, they slowly make their way to a grinder where they depreciate in value the closer they get to destruction. However, other players can buy your goods before they are destroyed and vice versa. This is a particularly fun, and challenging, section of the gameplay with a certain amount of skill needed to become the top trader; especially when you reach your destination of Eden Falls. Although each of the other characters you trade with, or journey along with, are basically NPC’s, they actually represent real players in the form of their ghost data from previous playthroughs. However, once you reach Eden Falls, these elements of the gameplay become real-time as you trade and meander with other online explorers. Upon reaching your final destination, the game takes on a new element too, as the introduction of a more strategic/micro-management style of gameplay comes into effect as you settle into town and develop your home and standards of living.
Graphically, The Trail: Frontier Challenge is a beautiful game to look at, with a particularly unique and visually pleasing world that can be best described as sitting somewhere between The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and Rime. Because of the nature of the game, you take a very relaxing jaunt thought the various landscapes with plenty of time to take in the environments around you. The different palettes of each area are simply stunning with an equally soothing soundtrack that makes this game an absolute joy to behold. There is a certain amount of backtracking that needs to be done in order to stock up on foods, or collect further resources needed to advance in the next challenge, but because of the sheer beauty that surrounds you, it never feels like a grind or in any way repetitive.
Overall, The Trail is a very unique game; it’s certainly a title that is unlike any other that I have ever played. With a progressive development system and enticing destinations, it’s a title that will draw you back in time after time. Perfect for young and old, each component of its gameplay from travelling, collecting, crafting and trading offers a lot of variety and fun that’s all set within a very pleasing and relaxing world where you can just stroll to your heart’s content. Despite some repetitive nature and the odd performance issue, usually brief stutters as the next area loads, this is a title that I can thoroughly recommend and is most certainly a game that I will trail a blaze towards with its frontiers amongst the challenges of exploring a unique, and quite frankly satisfying, brave new world.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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