Hitting the old dusty trail: Peter Molyneux quietly delivers

Peter Molyneux is a world famous, or infamous depending on who you’re talking to, designer and programmer.  Throughout his career in the video game industry, he has garnered a reputation for over-stating the experiences his games will deliver; building up a fantasy of gameplay that excited the players pre-release, only to be brought down to reality with the harsh criticism of under-delivering on his promises post release by the gaming community.


(A peaceful player’s pet in Black and White)

Although his tendency to overhype his titles has led to the games being seen as overinflated expressions of Molyneux’s ego, I have enjoyed two of his titles for their ingenuity and explorations into morality, Black and White, which I discussed in my article Peaceful victory: why more games should feature diplomacy, and Fable (1).

(Evil playthrough character in Fable)

In his most recent release for the mobile platform The Trail – A Frontier Journey, Molyneux and his team have dedicated them to delivering a fun and unique gameplay experience.  Its primary mechanic is item collection and crafting, the means of which is achieved and utilized as the players make their way down a long and winding trail along the frontier of the new world.

(Vistas from The Trail)

The Trail stands as a happy reminder of Molyneux’s innovative designs, and an evolution of his character, as the game has been developed and released with relative silence from the previously boastful developer.

Its beautiful vistas and copious amounts of crafted item recipes to unlock, make the game a fun world to explore.  The elegance of The Trail’s design comes from the player’s need to constantly forge and equip new gear, with each kilometer walked on the trail taking its toll on their gear.  It is in the player’s interest to learn and create better gear, and in doing so they also acquire the means to sell their goods for chit, which they can use as the end of each leg of the trail to purchase goods from NPCs and other players.  This balance of economy, utility, exploration, and crafting, holistically involves the player in the frontier experience in a manner in which few other games have been able to do.

(Equipping items, crafting items, and trading items, in The Trail)

Have you ever experienced a game that was overhyped before its release and ended up being a complete letdown?  Have you had personal experience as a fan or critic of Peter Molyneux? I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please do so in the comments below, or write in to playprofessor@gmail.com.

Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on FacebookInstagramand Youtube.

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