A gentle stroll.
The Trail: Frontier Challenge takes on the mantle of walking simulator and runs with it. Throughout the game you spend your time walking along the trail, scavenging, hunting and trading as you go along making enough money to keep the journey going. It’s a mellow, relaxed experience that wants you to take in and enjoy the journey rather than run through it, you’ll meet other trail walkers and talk with some seriously British explorers but there’s never any real urgency or great threat. You just keep walking. There are various game mechanics to enjoy along the way though so if the story of a lost uncle isn’t to your liking then you can still have some fun on your terms.
For all the grandeur the game places on this journey through the country, the game very much restricts how your journey progresses. You travel from campsite to campsite along a narrow path with no room for deviation, all the wonderful environments you see just remain backgrounds, paintings that you can never get up close and appreciate. It’s a limitation that shackles the experience as you’re ever reminded that you can only go forward. The rest of the game also seems bound by this path, the game features a skill tree allowing you to unlock various perks from a new cooking recipe to getting more trees to spawn along the path. Things feel bare bones, perhaps a limitation of its mobile roots but it holds the game back from something so much more complete. The other aspects of gameplay try to flesh things out but feel too minor to make a compelling experience in their own right.
The most important aspect is inventory management, as you stroll along you can collect items around the path and put them in your backpack. Unfortunately your bag is only so big and it isn’t long before it starts to overflow with all the goodies you’ve found, knowing what items you’ll need and what is just junk becomes important. This is where trading and crafting come in, you can use this junk to craft all manner of items from a handy hammer to fancy footwear, alternatively you can sell you wares at the campsite for some money. You’ll need to earn a few coins along your way and trading is the easiest way to do so.
Oddly however the trading mini game is pretty poorly explained at first and things happen at a pretty quick pace, you compete against other traders throwing your wares onto the conveyor belt for others to grab and buy, the trader with the most earnings wins. It’s odd and very rarely even feels fair, the AI has no problems dropping really expensive items whilst all you have are a few twigs. It’s not game breaking but certainly an odd mini game that maybe could have done with some more thought put into it. Crafting takes its inspiration from Minecraft with its use of a grid and placing materials into specific combinations to make new items, there’s no room for experimentation though,without recipes for an item you can’t craft it. It’s as on rails as the rest of the game.
The Trail: Frontier Challenge is a relaxed stroll through the country, that’s as good as it gets for better or worse. The game lacks deep well thought out mechanics to keep things interesting for long so I can only recommend it to those looking to take a break from more intense games.