Orion Trail is more than just a modern remake of Oregon Trail in a new setting, but even with that in mind it sends me straight back to those magical early 90’s days sitting in an outdated-even-at-the-time school computer lab, pretending we were learning something. Scattered in among “fun” spelling or math games was the old classic Oregon Trail, generally the only actual game in the mix, and the universally popular choice among my classmates. We named our characters after each other, compared how our games were going, and boasted about our incidental successes despite none of us really knowing how to play the game. The concept of actually making it to Oregon rather than dying of disease or drowning in the river along the way was one completely foreign to us, and we were generally all dead by the end of the period.
With that in mind, I fully endeavoured to play my first run through the game exactly how I would have back then. Here’s my travelogue:
As the first order of business, modern day me notices there’s tutorial that I should probably read, but just kidding, this is young me, I don’t see that friendly “how to play” button! Even if I do, I’m not wasting a second of my precious 45 minutes with a computer that has games on it. I’ll figure it out as I go! My report card says I’m a bright young man who exceeds expectations, I couldn’t possibly screw this one up.
Woah wait what do all these numbers and icons mean? There’s a green man that says “diplomacy” which I assume is something to do with diplomas. There’s a yellow beaker that says “science”, but that’s an actual school subject, so I’m only giving that one to the guy named after my one sciencey friend. Bravado? Like, whatever it is that defines Johnny Bravo? Cool hair, I suppose. Some of that seems good.
Were this really the computer lab, I’d have the benefit of peer pressure to influence my choices. But wait, what’s that red bullseye icon? Attack? Are there fights in this game? Do I get to fight things? Are there special moves? What are the controls?
With the youthful hope of soon uppercutting something, I pile on the attack stat for my captain and most of the officers to follow. I want to see some fights. Each character is, of course, named after my friends based on the slightest resemblance. I am the captain, who is also a bear. He has the most attack, naturally.
Now it comes time for me to purchase a carefully calculated balance of resources for my journey. By which I mean as many laserguns as possible. To my dismay, there is no such option, nor the option to buy nothing but bullets (laserbullets?) as was the tradition in classroom Oregon Trail games. Why worry about food, medicine, or other such essential resources when you can just shoot up the countryside?
There’s an option for ‘crew’, at least, which I suppose could count as a fighting force. They probably come with standard-issue guns or martial arts skills or something. I promptly load up on as many of them as I can and nothing else. I’ll just fight for all my food and fuel. I really hope I get to shoot a lasergun at something. I played Doom once for like five minutes before getting caught, I’m ready for this.
My first encounter with an on-board food replicator gone awry contains a lot of big words and I’m not really sure what to do until I see the most obvious plan of attack. Punch it!
It didn’t work. Also, we’re already really low on food. Where do I get food? How do I shoot the laserguns? I mash on the keys. Laserguns don’t even acknowledge their own existence, nevermind fire. This might be a problem.
A second encounter has me confronted by adorable space kittens, to which my crew is violently allergic. To my dismay, there isn’t a single red “attack” option in the mix. However, my accidental amassing of crew members with high science skill in addition to fighting means I can easily fabricate a cure for those allergies. It works wonderfully, and young me is up from his chair, boasting about how he beat the cat part and won all the kittens. He is asked to sit back down.
We are still really low on food, not helped by a random event that subtracts a little more from my supply. I start to wonder if the crew are edible, just in case it comes to that. I am a bear after all. If you think my young self wouldn’t have thought of that at the time you didn’t know me then.
Okay, this is it, at last. Confronted by the disgruntled commander Khang (I see what you did there), I am offered a choice between a debate, a game of space chess, or a duel. I want to fight something and my chance has finally arrived.
I promptly lose the dice roll that determines the duel, despite being totally ready to unleash my best Street Fighter moves. I would have totally won if this was Street Fighter. I know how to do a fireball and even once pulled of a shoryuken by accident. Where are my laserguns??
Thankfully, a few encounters later, I’ve stumbled upon a fighting arena. This seems the perfect opportunity for some violence. Bring it on.
For once, it actually goes quite well. Sure, I lost some redshirts, but that’s why I spent all my money on them. My strategy works after all! Even better, when asked what I desire for my victory, I’m able to ask for food. My hosts are somewhat baffled by this but follow through anyway. The day is saved through violence and not caring for the lives of my crew!
After a few more encounters, my stats have been modified to the point that attacking everything is no longer the wisest course of action. I debate whether young me should acknowledge this, until I realize that my current best state, tactics, is a shield icon. These are also for fighting. Tactics are allowed.
I continue on, my food and fuel reserves constantly flickering near total oblivion. At this point I’m running awfully close to my computer lab time limit, when properly deducting the amount of time I’d spend comparing my game to those sitting next to me or heading to someone else’s screen when the claim that I “gotta see this”. But, determined, I press on.
I’m standing now. Frantically clacking away at the keyboard, clicking the mouse. I have to leave. The period is over. The computers have to be shut down. But I’m so close. Just one more click. One more star to visit. So little food, so little fuel…
Newly armed with my shield-fighting technique, as well as my considerable accidental science score, I manage to trickle through to the end of the mission without having to eat any of my redshirts. Or burn them for fuel. It’s a close call, but luck and punching were on my side.
I am awarded the title of “Admirable Tactician”. I am also awarded a detention, probably. Totally worth it. The galaxy will have to wait until next week to be explored any further, but in the meantime, I am the champion of the computer lab, and all my peers respect me. Or, more likely, they nod and go back to talking about Mortal Kombat.
Still, at heart, I know I’m the real winner.