Thursday, September 3, 2020

REVIEW: Orion Trail

Back in June we purchased's Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality which included 1,741 items in one bundle with proceeds donated to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Community Bail Fund. A lot of those items were assets for developers and PDFs for tabletop RPG modules and campaigns. But a significant chunk of them were indie games which means I'm pretty much set on review material for a while. Here's my first review of Orion Quest, developed by Schell Games right here in Pittsburgh.

Dare to travel the absurd and dangerous Orion Trail, where only the luckiest, bravest, and most stubborn captains will make it all the way to the end. Come face the terrible and weird Synapsion Brain Beast. Cower before the pedantic might of Baxxtor the Instructor. Submit to the overwhelming cuteness of the three eyed Warp Weasel. Become famously incredible or incredibly dead!

As the name implies, Orion Trail takes the classic edutainment game and shoots it into the stars. In addition to the Oregon Trail format, Orion Trail borrows from several sci-fi franchises to parody many tropes seen throughout the genre. Heavy on the Star Trek, the game also references Hitchhiker's Guide, Firefly, even Willy Wonka for some reason.

Players take on the role of a Galaxy Force captain on a mission to explore and survive a mostly uncharted sector of space as they encounter strange, terrifying, and stupid obstacles along the way. Each event along the enigmatic Trail features a number of solutions that can lead the crew to riches untold, perilous challenges, or total obliteration.

At the start of each mission, players select a captain and a crew each with different stats that effect the outcome of different choices along the way. Players also need to keep an eye on their food and fuel supplies or else risk getting left in the dark. You even have to stock up on Red Shirts to sacrifice on away missions.

The game does a fantastic job at both emulating and parodying sci-fi classics. Encounters among the pixel galaxy can involve anything from stumbling upon space debris to wandering into alternate dimensions where everyone is evil.

For the most part, the game is entirely text based and the different options and outcomes mean the often repetitive events are always fun to read through. Every choice a captain makes on their journey is run through a Probability Drive. This is a rare game where your choices really do matter.

Options are tied to your crew stats, but only three choices are available at a time and no matter how high your stats are there's always a chance of critical failure. This results in chaotic uncertainty every step of the way. Take different paths or make the same choices each time - either way, you'll still face different outcomes.

Orion Trail is a clever game and probably the best execution of its simple idea we're ever going to get. The pixel art is full of energy and personality and the soundtrack really evokes the feeling of wandering the final frontier. You’ll want to play through all six of the game’s missions as fast as possible so you can instantly replay them again and again.

Orion Trail is available on and Steam. Never give up, never surrender.