The Trail is the new game from Peter Molyneux’s latest studio 22 Cans. I can hear the groans and eyerolls from here, but wait…
I like Peter Molyneux, even though he sometimes disappoints us. Okay, so Milo didn’t turn out to be a thing at all and we still haven’t splashed imaginary water in that boy’s face. Then there was the thing with the missing prize for Scott Bryan Henderson, the person who won the Curiosity cube game.
I have to admit, those weren’t Peter’s best moments. However, the anticipation he garnered in us leading up to those moments were exciting. We all wanted to talk to Milo and wanted the thing in the cube to be amazing and I think Peter wanted it to be amazing more than any of us. He dreams big and I like that, but sometimes he comes off as the snake oil salesman in a bad western.
I’m hoping this time it’ll be different because the trailer for The Trail looks like all the fun and character of Fable, mixed with Animal Crossing. Now I’ve got your attention, I’ll begin.
The Trail has actually been out on mobile for a while. This is an expanded version for PC, which is coming to Steam this summer as The Trail: Frontier Challenge. The mobile version has pretty positive reviews, with most players loving the game, but some reporting glitches. However, the mobile game is free, with in-game purchases, but the Steam version comes with a price tag.
At first glance, The Trail: Frontier Challenge, could be mistaken for the ultimate walking sim because it’s about walking or what we in the UK call ‘rambling’. Players are described as pioneers and the task is to walk your ‘trail of destiny’ and get to the town of Eden Falls.
You select a profession from Lumberjack, Hunter, Cook, Tailor and Explorer and level up along the way, earning money by crafting. You can build a home and furniture and trade with other players to expand the town. There is also an opportunity to make clothes and customise the way your character looks. That’s the Animal Crossing bit.
The main change from the mobile game is your backpack adds a strategic element to the whole proceedings. Just as if you’re on a real hike, you have to decide which items you really need and which ones are just a luxury. Wet foods out, dried noodle packs in and one spare pair of pants only because heavier items will slow you down.
One thing I’ll say for The Trail is that it’s gorgeous. It all looks like those 1930s travel board and railway posters, with lush, flat colours and golden sunlight with hale and hearty figures looking happy. And the clipped English accent also gives a sense of days gone by, when Brits used to ‘do the grand tour’, as opposed to getting drunk and vomiting in Spanish seaside resorts.
It looks like there’s racing, so you can beat that old lady with the walking poles. I lied, there are no walking poles or lycra, but there is racing.
What’s really nice is that it’s an online game, so all the other hikers are players. You can sit with them around the campfire and trade. I’m not sure whether you can communicate, but it still sounds fun.
Crucially, The Trail is a modest game for Molyneux. He’s not trying to simulate the rise of civilisations or create the ultimate god sim. Okay, so the elephant in the room here is Godus, (the game in development hell that just won’t die), but until that rears it’s head again, here’s a fun hiking sim. Now there’s a phrase I never thought I’d write.
Here’s the trailer: