Trackless Review
Trackless Review
My journey through Trackless was most enjoyable and I’d recommend it to gamers with a heart for text adventures
Posted: 09/30/17 | Category: Review | Developer: 12 East Games | Publisher: 12 East Games | Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux

Genre: Graphic Text Adventure
Release date: September 12, 2017

Patience is a Virtue  
 

Last fall, I discovered crowdfunding. JustAdventure’s Bob Washburne piqued my interest as I read his updates on various game campaigns. So, off I went to test the waters. Aubrey Serr was raising funds on Fig and his artwork and description of Trackless looked both intriguing and innovative. I jumped in as a backer. Almost a year later, a Steam key arrived in my email with an announcement that the game was ready to play!

Trackless presents a unique implementation of classic text adventuring. Set 10,000 years in the future, the game is played from a first-person perspective. Armed with some luggage and a cell phone, you are a "seeker" who has traveled, by train, to participate in a series of trials to prove your worth. If you succeed, you will gain access to a mysterious monolith known as The Object..

Words for the Wise 
 

Your adventure begins in a train compartment and your first challenge is to figure out how to play the game. You walk, click and type.  It is assumed you know that the WASD keys are used, with the mouse, to move and look around. Left-clicking on an active object gives you a chance to interact with it. A small icon appears to indicate if the object requires (1) a simple click for information, or (2) typed input from you to perform an action.

For example, when you click on characters, each speaks to you with a short bit of dialog that does not require a reply. For some objects, clicking simply provides a description.

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In other cases, you right-click and a small window opens for you to enter a single verb.  For a door, you might type "OPEN." For a button, you might type "PUSH."

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And here is where Trackless gets both interesting and infuriating. You earn points for interacting with each object. Entering a wrong verb earns you zero points and a "NOPE" response. Entering a verb previously used gives you minimum points with a brief comment that implies you lack creativity. Entering the perfect verb (and one not previously used) earns you maximum points and a "GREAT!" response.

One of the challenges of classic text adventuring is that most require you to initiate a Vulcan mind-meld with the parser. Trackless is no exception. Some inputs are no-brainers…OPEN a door, READ a sign, etc.  Some require a Thesaurus as you wrack your brain for synonyms to avoid reusing verbs (FIX, REPAIR, or WELD; PURCHASE, BUY, or REDEEM). Others are more obtuse. When presented with a grandfather clock, do you WIND (NOPE), SET (NOPE), OPEN (NOPE), READ (NOPE), or WAIT (GREAT!)?  When you find a VCR, do you RUN (NOPE), PLAY (NOPE), VIEW (NOPE), or REWIND (GREAT!)?

Have Cell Phone, Will Travel  
 

All information in Trackless is presented on the screen of your virtual cell phone. It has numbered keys (0-9) that provide different functions and views. You have many opportunities to add new themes to your phone which change the background and give you special features. At the end of the game, I had at least a dozen phone themes to flip through and I was not sure what advantage most of them offered. At a minimum, some were easier to read than others and at least one let me see ghosts. Some provided a list of active objects in the current zone, with distances to each. This was handy in helping me gain full points by finding and interacting with every active object in a specific area.  On occasion, you’ll receive a text message from a friend but there is no option to respond.

As you play, you continue to accumulate points that are tallied on your phone. These are spent in a handful of places to enter new areas or to purchase items. While a high score may boost your self-esteem, there is nothing to indicate how you are doing in relation to the maximum points available, and no summary at the end to recap your success (or lack thereof).

What a Wonderful World  
 

What I loved most about this game was the combination of unique (and extremely cool) artwork, panoramic scenery, and the soundtrack by Makeup and Vanity Set. The world of Trackless is a hand-drawn 3D landscape populated by 2D people (think paper dolls). The scenery is larger than life with mountains, waterfalls, dams, bridges, gardens and buildings. Overall, you have the sense that you are in a vast universe that extends well beyond the visible horizon. It is a world in motion with water flowing by and clouds floating above. You walk, you ride a train, you fly a plane and you sail a boat. Each leg of your journey provides an ever-changing view of the scenery you are passing. It is a truly beautiful experience.

The soundtrack is enhanced by high-quality voice acting, with each character having his/her own style of speech. Thus, you can read and/or listen as you play.

The save system is both good and bad news. Street lamps appear regularly and your game is saved as you pass under their light. However, there is only one save slot so there is no opportunity to return to any point earlier in the game other than your last streetlight encounter.

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There is no menu, and game mechanics consist of a few commands that can be displayed on your phone. A review of Steam achievements leads me to believe that there are multiple endings but the only way to find out is to restart Trackless from the very beginning. While playing, I did not recognize choice points that might have changed my path. Thus, I am not sure what I would do differently to alter the outcome of my game. As it was, I completed all phases of the quest, viewed The Object, and headed home with a new wardrobe. Not bad for a few hours of work!

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Seek and Ye Shall Find  
 

My journey through Trackless was most enjoyable and I’d recommend it to gamers with a heart for text adventures. Although it is much simpler to play than the old interactive fiction titles (requiring a single verb rather than “hit elf with sword” or “go west”), it still requires some guesswork to figure out what each object is expecting. Overall, Trackless has the charm of a text adventure yet is packaged in an interactive graphic environment that is beautiful to behold and delightful to hear. Although there is a basic structure to your quest, you have the freedom to travel in different directions and explore at your leisure.

It took me about 3 hours to complete my first pass-through to The Object, and the only major sticking points I encountered related to guessing the right words. I ended the game with no real sense of closure, as I never really understood who I was (beyond a "seeker") or what the quest was all about. If there was something to do at the end, besides gazing at The Object, I did not discover it. Then, again, perhaps I had made decisions that resulted in an ending with a bit of a fizzle. Or perhaps Trackless is really all about the journey and not about the destination.

 
Unique artwork creates interesting characters and a stunning landscape. Sit back and enjoy the view!
+ Rewards for using new verbs for each action create a layer of challenge for those who enjoy wordplay
Great soundtrack and excellent voice acting make this a game that screams for good headphones
 
Single save slot requires a total restart to try for a different ending
Game focuses on the present moment with no real backstory or explanation of your quest 
Expect to end this game with more questions than answers 
 Logo
 
 
Trailer:
 

System Requirements

MINIMUM PC:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: 2.0 GHz 
Memory: 2 GB RAM
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Graphics: 1 GB+ of video RAM
Storage: 1 GB available space
 
 
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