FrontierVille's Pioneer Trail: We're not on the homestead anymore

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frontierville pioneer trailWhile this is certainly true for obvious reasons, its rings true for so many more. The Pioneer Trail in FrontierVille has been coming at a snail's pace (in molasses ... with a bum leg), but soon--we're told the expansion will launch sometime today--we will finally embark on a brand new journey. And by "brand new," we don't just mean new areas--we've seen them already, really--but new, never-before-seen features in a Zynga game.

Like we guessed, Zynga has made Pioneer Trail a brand new app, meaning once you accept a Goal within stock FrontierVille involving a kidnapping by the dastardly Gratchett Gang, you will be launched into a new version of the game. But don't worry: Your homestead is coming too, and just how you left it. Though, there will be a few nifty new buttons on your main Neighbor Bar.

We're concerned most with the Travel button, which starts your journey to rescue those folks from the Gratchett Gang. If you hadn't noticed already, Zynga is taking FrontierVille's story focus into overdrive, and Pioneer Trail features several cutscenes that set the tone for each map.

The Pioneer Trail
Once you start on the trail in Beaver Valley, you must select three friends to fill the roles of Doctor, Hunter and Carpenter. (Admittedly, we've seen this before in The Oregon Trail by Blue Fang, but it takes a decidedly different approach.) Players also have the option of taking some non-player character (NPC) friends, though that's not nearly as rewarding. The idea here is to choose three of your most reliable friends who will actively help by visiting and providing materials. Once that's through, you can begin clicking around the environment, which features full ambient sound and new audio tracks for each portion of the trail. When you click on, say, a tree, your carpenter will take the action rather than your character. The same goes for hunting and administering medicine, but your personal avatar has two special roles.

Pioneer Trail Story Scroll
During your travels, your character will find Story Scrolls (pictured above), which present choices that will either make future endeavors on the trail easier or more difficult. Most decisions are cut and dry, but later the "right" choices become more ambiguous. The second role your avatar fills is that of a haggler. Along the way, you'll meet up with Trader Bart from time to time, and he'll offer you deals like, say, three pieces of meat for two medicine. Depending on your inventory, this could be a no-brainer, but Bart is certainly not above swindling.

We should mention that everything done on the trail is governed by a new resource system called Rations. Every action players take on the trail will consume a Ration. Players start with just 10, but each real friend added to your traveling party will add another five Rations for a grand max of 25. Players can visit you on the trail to provide you with Rations, and they're frequently the reward of Goals and simply collecting from debris and other areas along the way.

FrontierVille's Pioneer Trail: We're not on the homestead anymore
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Speaking of friends, it's entirely possible to fire any of your three main buddies for being inactive, which will publicly call them out on the Facebook News Feed. (So, it's in your best interest to pop in on your friends' trail groups every once in awhile.) Friends that aren't part of your traveling troupe also play a vital role in Giganterous Social Missions. For instance, when a flash fire breaks out on the poor McBaggins' (remember them?) home in the High Plains, it's up to you to recruit as many friends as possible to throw buckets of water at the fire. Your friends' avatars will appear as doing so every time you log into the game during Social Missions--just like when they visit your homestead.

Of course, there is a competitive element to Pioneer Trail. As you progress through the trail, you'll earn Trail Points and prize tickets on the way to Fort Courage, which will be tallied against your friends' totals. Luckily, you can play the storyline over and over to best your friends scores. But there are other reasons to play through the game more than once, like Hidden Goals. As you clear things on the trail, small blue exclamation points will appear in areas off the beaten path. These simple to accomplish yet hard to find Goals will boost your score in relation to your friends, and it's said to be impossible to find every Hidden Goal during a single play through.

Giganterous Social Missions
Aside from all the new things you can do on the trail, which certainly add up to a huge amount of content, the expansion itself is literally massive. Each map on the Trail is five times as big as the largest available homestead, and is covered in brand new artwork that can be purchased to recreate your favorite scenes from the trail. The new maps and artwork are stunning compared to existing Zynga games.

And, better yet, a new game feature entirely is coming called the Matchmaking System. While Pioneer Trail will not launch with this feature, it will match players up with similar FrontierVille pioneers that aren't Facebook friends to journey with, ensuring that--eventually--you'll always have friends to play with. This time around, Zynga has moved three massive, beautiful maps away from the farm, so to speak, and--guess what?--it looks like a whole lot of fun. Perhaps the time has finally come for the developer to move even further away from crop sharing in cyberspace, and I already like where it's headed. FrontierVille's Pioneer Trail launches today.

Click here to play FrontierVille's Pioneer Trail Now >

Check out the rest of our FrontierVille Cheats & Tips right here. >

What do you think of Zynga's expansion to FrontierVille thus far? Do you like where Zynga is going with its Facebook games, and what more would you like to see from the developer? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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