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OG survival on The Oregon Trail [My Thoughts]

Dying of dysentery has never looked this crisp and colorful.

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Most folks snag their Nintendo Switch when they’re away from home- public transportation to and from work, a plane ride towards an exciting vacation, dying slowly of boredom at a family gathering, etc. It’s also popular for the couch loungers amongst us- to roam (sprawl) unfettered from the restrictions suffered by PCs and less talented consoles. (I guess you can technically choose to tether yourself to the TV for your Switch gaming, but still.)

Being neither a traveler nor in possession of a couch, my time with the Switch is primarily when I’m feeling crappy- mentally or physically, really- and want to burrow in bed. The timing of the Black Friday sale was perfect since I spent a good portion of the past week being knocked on my ass post-Covid booster. (The paaain, boss, the paaain. Plus aches.)

I was super excited to snag The Oregon Trail at a fairly respectable sale of 40% off.


You bet your sweet ass. The changes made to this modern version of the beloved classic have shifted it into a great spot as a tasty resource management survival sim. (We can also call it a roguelite or a roguelite adventure if you want to toss more genres into the fire.) There’s a good showing of impactful/consequential decision-making to be made on the old dusty trail, and they dovetail nicely into our pillars to boot.
Necessities: monitor health, morale, stamina, hygiene, and food.
Management: restricted by wagon space, be ready to leave stuff behind if your wagon is badly damaged!
World: the environment and weather you travel in can impact resources for your party and oxen, delaying or uprooting your travel.
Tension: Dysentery, river fording, broken legs, and many more classic hazards lie in wait- it’s easy for a poor choice or roll of the RNG dice to completely fuck you.
Resources: While you’re given some cash to start- and can make a little more on your travels-it’s vital to supplement your supplies with hunting, fishing, and bartering.
Health: An array of injuries and illnesses are waiting in the wings to befall you at pretty much any time. They often require supplies, medical knowledge, or rest- all in short supply.

In a nutshell:

The game is a lot of fun. The main game premise still asks you to trek from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon over the course of several months via an ox-drawn wagon. You still travel with a party - though this time, you can choose them based on visible stats that influence aspects of gameplay. But rest assured, even though the characters are named, you’re free to change the names to those of close friends, the better to lament when they die of snakebite personalize the experience.

The default journey is broken into legs, and then each leg is split further into a variety of waypoints. The waypoints range from spots to hunt or fish to campsites with other travelers, historical sites of interest, to chance encounters with random NPCs. I like the ability to pick my path as things progress- it gives you just enough rope to hang yourself when you send your party for water at a dubious pool or think you have enough hardtack on hand to forgo hunting till the next checkpoint.

Not to mention the array of random events that can occur between the checkpoints.

Feature-wise, completing a major leg unlocks a fast-travel start for future games, so no worry about redoing the slog or endlessly repeating the start. You can even play an easy mode similar to Pilgrim mode in The Long Dark- resources deplete significantly slower, and bad events almost never happen. Further gameplay can unlock custom scenarios and additional tools or NPCs. There’s even a small DLC available for $5! Graphically, it’s a colorfully beautiful retelling of a pixelated classic, and I found it incredibly intuitive to handle on the Switch, even with the lack of any touchscreen controls. There are 15 playable Journeys, 7 Quests inspired by historical events, a fishing mini-game with over 80 species of fish, and 140+ achievements. Basically, there’s a lot of shit to do. Even more crazy, it’s one of the few games I own with music I don’t despise- so that's magical right there. I wouldn’t say it’s as immersive and gorgeous as the music in TLD, but it’s not half bad at all - and really adds to the atmosphere.

All in all, I think it’s worth the pickup - in general, but especially on sale- and encourage you to come die triumph on the trail with me!

PS: If you somehow need more encouragement, check out these randomized tombstones.