Frustration in Trials Frontier

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014


TRIALS FRONTIER is the first official entry in the Trials franchise for smartphones and tablets. From its humble beginnings as a flash game, Trials Frontier finally brings the classic motorcycle control gameplay to mobile devices, and while the gameplay is as addictive as ever, a few gameplay mechanics hinder it from being highly recommended.

First off, the visuals are alright for a mobile game. While not as detailed as other games such as Horn, it adapts an art style which is commonly seen endless runner type games. The graphics won’t wow you, but they won’t throw you off as a lack of effort either.

The touch controls for the game are highly responsive, which is a huge plus in the game that requires players to have near perfect control over their motorcycle’s acceleration and rotation. The only problem is if the player isn’t careful, not minding where your hand is may cause the motorcycle to suddenly accelerate or lean in a wrong direction, and in a game such as this, every little move you make counts. In the early parts of the game, this doesn’t matter much, but in the later parts of the game where you’re pitted against enemy riders or “ghosts” of other players, near-perfect control and mastery of your motorcycle is essential.

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That being said, the game is addictive. Progression is initially fast and winning over AI opponents is greatly satisfying. The progression system, however, is exactly what breaks the game.

Trials Frontier is free to play, and in-app purchases are available. Quests move the game forward, and many of them require the player to acquire “parts” which are either used by NPCs to build something or to upgrade the player’s bike. The problem with this is these parts are acquired in a post-race spin the wheel type of game, which means players may finish a race without acquiring the parts needed to complete the quest. Later on in the game, players will need to fuse parts in order to create ones of greater caliber, and these upgraded parts will also be needed for certain quests and upgrading one’s bike. Players will likely need to grind to get these items, which poses another problem due to the game’s energy system.

Races cost a certain amount of “gas” units to begin. So aside from having to complete a race to get a certain part, players will need to expend gas units to race, and may often land on a space in the wheel which is not the part they want to get. Gas units are replenished over time, however, the whole waiting and grinding wheel spins becomes unpleasant as the game goes into the later stages. This can be made easier, albeit through in-app purchases.

Several types of in-app purchases exist, such as granting an unlimited amount of gas units for a certain amount of time or gems, which one can use to spin the wheel again. As the grinding gets tedious and frustrating, succumbing to in-app purchases seems to be the only stress-free way to get past quests. Without in-app purchases, players will have to either be extremely lucky to always land on the parts they want or be extremely patient by racing certain tracks over and over again to get the parts they want. By then, the progression in the game gets tedious for those who opt not to use in-app purchases.

Overall, Trials Frontier is a fun game to play, seriously marred by its progression system which forces players to either grind or pay to move further in the game. If you’re not willing to do either, you’ll eventually be stonewalled by the game’s progress mechanics, becoming a frustrating mess of repetition.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 14, 2014.

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