Flash Friday: Frontier

The Wild West genre seems to be gaming genre that is oft neglected by developers. Apart from Red Dead Redemption, no Wild West games, at least no substantially popular ones, come to mind. Despite this, it is one of the most adventurous gaming genres you could possibly play. Images of riding a horse around the vast, endless desert, gunslinger duels and skirmishes with Indians instantly come to mind. Yet there’s a part of this genre that is even more unexplored: the lives of the traders and bandits and all the people in those times who miraculously were not cowboys or some kind of native tribe. It was explored in the retro, educational game ‘The Oregon Trail’, but that was over 40 years ago and we have yet to see a game that offers the same experience… except maybe Frontier. The game I’m going to be talking about today allows you to live the life of a simple civilian, starting from near nothing, on a quest to make it big, through a number of ways. There are opportunities aplenty in this promising land that are just waiting for the right people to seize them.

You start the game on a simple customisation screen. You can change the look of your character a bit and also have six points to spend on four different stats: Trade, Travel, Defence and Attack. Defence and attack are self-explanatory but trade affects how low prices are for items when shopping and travel prevents you from running into bad situations while travelling. After that, you’re given a bit of backstory before being immediately thrown into the world. There isn’t much of a tutorial to speak of but there doesn’t really need to be. While the collection of menus may look daunting at first, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it and start your endeavour.

There isn’t really a set goal in Frontier. Of course, there are quests and a large helping of achievements but apart from that, what you do is completely up to you. An open-world Flash game is something I never thought I’d see. The basic premise for surviving in this intimidatingly large world is to buy trading products such as grain, bronze, iron and the like then travelling to another city or town where you can sell them for profit. You then use this money to buy materials to upgrade your vessel so you can carry more and travel with more mercenary’s that you hire in taverns. Travelling between cities isn’t a cakewalk however. Along the way you’ll run into buccaneers, mercenaries and enforcers who can be enemies or friends depending on how you play the game. Buccaneers attack on sight, enforcers ask to search for illegal goods you might be hiding and mercenaries are a neutral party.

You can join either the enforcers or the buccaneers if you wish to, and will receive quests from them to increase your rank in the guild. These can range from travelling to certain cities to getting your reputation(think karma from Fallout) to a certain point to fighting enemies for your guild’s cause. The battle system is simple and based mostly on luck. In a battle, you can either attack, turn autofight on or flee. Whether you hit an enemy, how much damage you deal and whether you can escape an enemy is almost completely based on chance. You can increase your chances by equipping your party with better weapons and upgrading your vessel but in the end, the game’s random number generator is the ultimatum. I didn’t have too much trouble with it but it can nevertheless prove frustrating. It’s no fun whittling down a tough enemy to one health point only to have them escape from you on their first try putting all your efforts to waste.

A nonsensical part of the game is how pointless the reputation system and guild systems are. Apart from being objectives for quests, the reputation system doesn’t seem to play any part. Even if you’re on -50 or lower reputation, you’ll still be welcomed into towns, mercenaries will happily pass you by and enforcers with kindly ask to check your cargo. Making your way up the ranks in a guild doesn’t change much either. Whether your the guildmaster of the enforcers or a high-ranking member of the buccaneers, enforcers will still check your cargo. Buccaneers will still attack their own guildmaster as well meaning ranking up in a guild is pointless except for the achievements. I ran into a number of glitches while playing as well which is to be expected in this big of a game. Sometimes I would skip battles altogether or be able to move forward despite an enemy being right in front of me. The worst glitch I encountered however was when, for some reason, I couldn’t travel any further leaving me in an endless loop travelling the desert.

In conclusion, Frontier is probably the closest a Flash game has ever come to being open-world, bringing both positives and negatives. Being so big and ambitious, you can expect glitches aplenty. However, there is also a great amount of detail with each city having their own, short description and history with different climates and amount of crime. If you’re looking for a Flash game to sink a lot of time into, then look no further than Frontier. It’ll keep you occupied for quite a while with its simplistic yet mind-numbingly satisfying gameplay. The Wild West has never looked so big and promising.

Pros:

  • Free
  • Lot’s of replayability
  • Plenty of achievements
  • Nice, thematic music
  • Game is quite forgiving in terms of difficulty
  • Loads of content for a Flash game
  • Attention to detail in the world(cities)

Cons:

  • Very glitchy
  • Repetitive gameplay
  • Gameplay primarily based on luck
  • Reputation and guild status doesn’t affect encounters

Verdict: 8/10

Play it here: http://www.kongregate.com/games/armorgames/frontier

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