Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A mage, a healer and a warrior find themselves protectors of the Oregon Trail. Unlike the real Oregon Trail, however, the three heroes won’t be defending just against bandits, trying to steal the goods. Orcs, bears and everything in-between will join the pillagers in attacking the caravan. Welcome to the Royal Frontier – or The Oregon Trail with orcs. Is it fun out here? Read on to find out.
Oregon Trail but with Orcs
Our task in Royal Frontier is protecting a caravan full of settlers, on their way to discover new lands. What awaits them beyond the horizon? Only time will tell; And if we don’t do a good job guarding the travelers – we may never find out. Their very survival depends on our ability to guide the three warriors through deadly combat.
First, players must select their party. Initially, only three heroes are available: a knight, a healer and a mage – the three archetypes of any grand adventure. There are additional heroes, later in the game; Although, I had only unlocked one of those, at the time of writing. After I’ve decided on the party’s composition, I would then select its perks. These were also unlocked throughout the game, with a max of 48. Their effects range from simply giving all party members extra HP – to the more interesting ones, like starting with ten random scrolls.
Anyone who’s played roguelikes like Monster Train should recognize Royal Frontier‘s map style. Albeit simpler looking, and with only three paths to choose from. Routes are mostly linear. There were but a few alternative paths throughout the game. Keep in mind, though, that this was only the first world. The one time I reached the second one – I died right away.
The contents of the paths are hidden until the player makes their choice. Of course, you can always expect a few fights, no matter which route you select. In addition, some contain random scenarios, inns, shops and treasure; Or, if you’re unlucky, an extra boss battle.
The first stop on any path is a battle. Royal Frontier’s combat is mostly turn-based. It has one reflex-based mechanic, with having to quickly press a specific button after selecting a combat action. By the way, each of my three characters also had a special, powerful attack.
After completing the mandatory battle, which took one in-game day, I moved on. What awaited next depended entirely on my luck. One time, my second stop was at the shop. It may seem lucky, if it wasn’t at the beginning of the run, still without any money.
There are two ways to level up in Royal Frontier. There is the traditional approach: through experience points earned after each battle. The other way is by unlocking perks, that come in handy for consecutive runs.
Each level allows the character to increase one of the three randomly chosen stats. The amount they can be increased by is randomized: For instance, one time they could increase their health by three points – but the next time, if health showed up again, that number would be lower or higher. Both the stats to increase and the amount they can be increased by are different each run.
While individual characters’ levels reset each run, the player’s level doesn’t. Every time the player finishes a run, whether with failure or success, they get experience. How far they made it determines how many points they earn. When the player collects enough points, they’ll level up, unlocking additional perks. Each level increases the number of perks by six, which means players must get to the eighth level if they want all 48.
I am the Boss
At the end of each map, there is a boss fight. These are like normal battles, but harder and with a unique character to defeat. Unlike mini-bosses, main bosses would also have guards, making their fights that much harder. In comparison, mini-boss fights generally feature just a stronger version of a normal enemy: like a bear with more health and powerful attacks.
As the players defeats the boss, the map is completed – a new character becomes available, and the game proceeds to the next map. It’s important to remember, though, that heroes do not reset their health at this moment. Depending on how you fared against the boss, it might mean that death is just around the corner. Once again, the perks do help with progressing further.
Royal Frontier has three maps, each offering 15 in-game days, and three paths. All of them are similar in nature, although the second and the third maps are harder. After beating the first one, however, the other ones definitely seem doable.
I soon realized that if I want to succeed, I must learn to manage my team. I know roguelikes are supposed to be difficult, but it was still harder than I thought. Royal Frontier isn’t as brutal as some other games in the genre, but it’s no cakewalk either. It’ll definitely take more than a few hours to master the various special attacks, items and everything else it has to offer.
It wasn’t until my second run that I was finally able to complete the first world. I do attribute this to luck, more than anything else. However, there were still some decisions for me to think about. For example, when it came to scenarios, I had two choices in most cases, with some being riskier than others. I also had to think of my team, their health and supplies; And whether the yet unknown reward was worth it. In most cases it was – especially when I got some stronger weapon.
I wasn’t sure about Royal Frontier when I just started the game. Yet the longer I played, the more I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say that it’s the best roguelike, but definitely not the worst. It also has plenty of easy achievements/trophies and can be grabbed on the cheap. What’s not to love?
Royal Frontier is available on Switch, Ps4/5, PC & Xbox. A code was provided by PR Hound for this review.