The most appealing part about most space-themed VR games is the thrill of combat while you pilot your lethal ship armed to the teeth with various destructive munitions. You duck and bob and weave your head in all directions, craning behind you to lock onto that last, elusive enemy, before finally pulling the trigger and blowing them into a billion pieces. Sounds intense, right? Well, that’s not actually what Orion Trail VR is about. Instead, it’s something much better: it’s a sitting-in-the-captain’s-chair simulator and I wouldn’t ask for anything else.
In Orion Trail VR, you take on the role of the captain of your very own spaceship. As a final frontier-incarnation of the classic PC game, Oregon Trail, Orion Trail VR is less about engaging enemies in intense dogfights among the stars and more about avoiding space dysentery as you prepare to survive the trials and tribulations of life in the great dark expanse of space.
If this sounds awfully familiar, that’s because it is. Orion Trail VR isn’t a brand new game built from the ground-up for VR, it’s actually just a port of a successfully Kickstarterd independent PC game of the same name that released just a couple of months ago. But it’s not just any old port, of course, as the entire perspective of the game has been shifted to a first-person view, the interface is brand new, the interior of the ship is entirely fresh, and the character models are all recently created. It doesn’t quite feel like a different game per se, but it’s a more impressive port than you’d expect.
As the captain in Orion Trail VR, you’re in charge of completing missions as you progress along a boardgame-style map of checkpoints. As you make your way across the galaxy, you’ll come across dozens of random encounters that are equal parts clever and hilarious. I lost crew members to a mirror-world of evil counterparts. I was victorious in my conquest of a massive mound of intergalactic ice cream. I even explored the deepest and darkest corners of the most barren planets to trade pieces of my ship for burgers.
But when you live by the random-number-generator (RNG) you die by it as well. While you can select crew members and complete missions to build up your various different resources (Crew, Food, Fuel, and Hull) to prepare for random situations, you ultimately have no idea what’s about to happen. On top of that, regardless of how prepared you think you are, a series of unfortunate events could quickly deplete any one of your resources at the blink of an eye.
As satisfying as the hilarious scenarios and comical animations are, it left me wanting a bit more. I’d have loved to see more of the events play out on the screen for each scenario, rather than simply relegating the vast majority of the game’s “action” to hoping the RNG winds up in your favor. It’s a minor issue that doesn’t actually detract from the overall experience, but an issue nevertheless.
Schell Games, who also created the award-winning title I Expect You To Die, have done a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of the classic exercise in misery that is Oregon Trail by replacing the unintentional disaster-humor with intentional slapstick comedy. They also told UploadVR that their short term plans are to be “vigilant with bug fixes and making sure the game is working properly” but were tight-lipped on any future long-term plans or updates.
I have no qualms with saying that Orion Trail VR is both one of the funniest and one of the most unique experiences out there, VR or otherwise. You’ll get several hours of entertainment from this spacefaring affair and it’s definitely worth playing.