Lately I have been having trouble finding the time to sit in front of a console and sink a few hours into a game. Mobile gaming has become more prominent in my gaming life than I ever thought it would be. With only a few minutes to commit to a game staggered throughout the day, Trials: Frontier has been a go-to on my tablet. I have heard great things about the Trials franchise but never tried one…mainly due to its Microsoft exclusivity and me being a Sony fanboy. However, Trials Fusion has been released for the PS4 and I’m wanting to give it a try as well. Trials: Frontier started out too good to be true, but quickly fell into the pit of most mobile games these days. Micro transactions, progress choking game mechanics, and time based limitations tarnish what could have been a knock-out ‘pay once and play’ game. Instead what we get is a crippled ‘Freemium’ game that is great fun for the 10 minutes you can play it at a time.
The story is fairly straight forward…you’re a lone dirt biker who has his bike destroyed by a gang and is taken in by a small town to help you get back on your feet for the exchange of running missions for the various townsfolk. Its all very Mad Max-ish with a Saturday Morning cartoon vibe and style. The missions are bookended by a little conversation with one of the townsfolk or gang members. They are well written for the most part and are in line with the cartoonish vibe the game puts forth. Honestly, I skip most of this dialogue as it is there purely as fluff and every second I waste reading ‘Dastardly Whiplash’ style dialogue from the games antagonists is a second I could actually be playing the game. You progress through the games over world one mission at a time, meeting new townsfolk that give new mission types along the way. The missions are dressed up to be different but 99% of them are ‘drive your dirt bike from point A to point B’.
The actual gameplay is as fantastic as it is simple. If you have played Excitebike then this should come all too natural to you. drive your bike and lean your rider so that he lands at the appropriate angle. Simple, fun, and at times frustrating as all hell. Some of the level designs seem to be made to force you into a failing run if you don’t break your gaming instincts and brake when you feel like you should floor it. Jumps that have a long set up will often land you into a pit you can’t see if you floor it. Many times I wanted to fold my tablet in half after falling into the same pit time after time because I failed to hit the absolute perfect medium speed at the jump.
You can unlock new bikes at a painstakingly slow rate, and then they are the crappiest crap that ever crapped until you upgrade them by earning parts on the loot wheel at the end of every run. I currently only have 4 unlocked and the last one I got is so bad that its unusable. However, that doesn’t stop the random challenges from making me use it, thus ensuring I can never clear them and force a fail.
The upgrade system is time based, the average upgrade taking 45 minutes to a couple hours to compete. Higher tier upgrades will take an entire day to complete.
The game has currency in both free and premium formats. Coins will allow you to upgrade your bike and are the games free currency. Gems unlock costumes, paint jobs, extra spins on the loot wheel, and parts for your bike and are the premium currency. I will say that you get a fair amount of Gems for free…more than most Freemium games would dish out. The costumes start off at an obscene amount of Gems to unlock but have requirements that can bring the price down. However you can never get them down to free, they must all be purchased with Gems. The third form of currency, and the most game breaking, is fuel. Fuel is needed to run missions. Starting level missions cost 5 fuel and later missions cost 7. I can only assume this number will continue to go up as you play. Since you have a finite amount of fuel and each mission takes roughly 60 seconds to complete, you can burn through the stuff extremely quickly. I currently have a total capacity of 41 fuel which if I play the latest levels, I can burn through in a matter of minutes. And once you are out of fuel…there is NOTHING to do. It regenerates at 1 fuel every 3 minutes, which isn’t terrible, but enough for you to have to walk away for a decent amount of time before you can play for another 5 minutes, just to start the cycle all over again.
The graphics are great for a mobile platform. It has a stylized cartoon vibe that is pleasant to look at. The design of menus and map screen are straightforward and easy to navigate.
Trials: Frontier has beautiful vistas with a warm, inviting, cartoonish style.
The game has a multiplayer system that I really haven’t explored that in-depth yet. It requires you to use Golden Tickets to access it, which you get a free one every day. Its simple to get into and find a match however they require you to play several matches in a row, so for those with time restrictions like me, you may wind up avoiding it all together.
Freemium killed this game. I would have happily paid $4.99 for this game just to allow me to play it at my own pace. The fuel system is fine when you only have a minute or two to play, but if you want to sit down and have some fun with this for any amount of time over 10 minutes, you are out of luck. Currently my fuel reserve takes 3 hours to recharge from empty. So that means 3 hours of waiting for 10 minutes of gameplay.
The loot wheel is the biggest hinderance to progress in the entire game. You spin the wheel after every round and you can earn parts for upgrades, Gems, mission items and rarely a costume piece or paint job. However most of the time, the mission item you need has the smallest wedge on the wheel and its nearly impossible to land on in one shot. You can use Gems to re-spin and make the wedge you need slightly larger or pay the fuel to run the mission again to have another free shot. Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 re-spins until the wedge you need is big enough to have a chance to land on, and by that time you have wasted your free Gems or depleted your fuel supply on a single mission.
Loot Wheel, you can go straight to hell!
The mission system itself can choke your progress as well. At a certain level you unlock the Terra-cotta Warrior Challenges where you have to race a terra-cotta warrior to pass the mission. Just FYI, the terra-cotta warrior is a cheating SOB. These missions seem to be randomly placed on previously beaten levels, so if you have a current mission that simply requires you to beat the level to pass, but the terra-cotta asshole happens to be on top of it…until you beat him…you aren’t beating the mission. This requires you to grind the dreaded loot wheel on past missions to get the parts for upgrades to your bike. See the paragraph on the loot wheel to know why this is another tablet-stomping scenario.
The patient will be able to enjoy this game. Play your 10 minutes worth and walk away and go on with your life. Just don’t expect to be able to play it whenever you want to.
Great graphics, great style, and highly addictive. At its core, the simple, burst gameplay waxes nostalgic of Excitebike and is the best part of this game.
Suffers from the blight of micro transactions and progress choking, time based limitations. Making this game a 'pay-once-and-play' would be a step in the right direction. The Freemium features really brought down this games gameplay score.