In order to be successful, platforms need games that cater to every possible audience, including casual-friendly titles. When Facebook added games, such as Farmville, everyone and their Grandmother clicked their way to build a farm, and annoy friends with requests. While New Frontier Days, which also released on the Nintendo 3DS as Frontier Days, doesn’t feature any microtransactions, the sheer amount of waiting you do in the game will surely try your patience.
New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers includes three different game modes; story, survival, and free play. There isn’t a narrative to follow in story mode, and it acts primarily as a tutorial to the other modes. Here, you must listen to the requests from young pioneer Jessica, expanding your town in the process and keeping your townsfolk happy. Regrettably, from the moment I took control of my little pioneers, my ears were assaulted by the harsh sound effects that blast over the speakers whenever Jessica's dialogue appeared or you move a building around before being built. Not only that, but the blend of country meets the old west music overpowers everything else in the game to the point I had to lower the volume considerably. That's not saying the music doesn't fit the experience, it does, but it should not be as loud as it was, especially when it starts to repeat. As you begin, you are taught how to control your pioneers to chop down wood, go fishing, and even construct buildings. From there you are left with goals that must be met, especially preparing for the festival at the end of the year. There aren't many ways to fail, outside of having all your pioneers become bear food, or your town can’t afford the festival at the end of each in-game year.
Outside of building sawmills, which can process the lumber from chopped trees, you can plant fields, and make campfires to cook raw meat and fish. Bringing in more pioneers allows you to perform multiple tasks at once, but I found the unit management to be cumbersome at best. Selecting a unit, which can be accomplished by using the analog stick on a controller or using the touch screen, you click at where you want that pioneer to move. However, that also unselect them, requiring you to click on them again to continue their journey across unknown land or perform a new task. This feels counter-intuitive based on the many strategy games I’ve played in the past. Once you are on your own, you can venture outside of your little town, build roads, and hunt boars for food. Boars are massive, towering over your townsfolk and rivaling buildings in stature. If you aren’t careful, your pioneers can be killed while hunting. At one pint a flock of sheep come marching right through my settlement, and right over one of my buildings. Apparently, clipping isn’t an issue as one of my pioneers were right on their tail, walking right over the building.
Completing the tasks given to you will reward you with cards. These are significant additions that can increase the price of your lumber if you choose to sell it, or even provide you with a horse to ride around. There are in-game achievements, as the Nintendo Switch as a platform doesn’t include any at a system level. Completing these will slowly unveil tiles for various illustrations, adding a bit of replay value if you are inclined to complete them. As you progress, you can advance the “Age” of your settlement, eventually unlocking churches, castles, and more.
By design, you are meant to wait around for your pioneers to complete tasks. While this is a hallmark of games of this style, there simply isn’t that much you can do in the game, even if you amass a launch amount of pioneers. The AI isn’t smart enough either to continue doing tasks. Send a pioneer to fish, and once the meter above their head finishes, they won't find a new spot to fish, choosing to wait around for a new command. They also won’t mind a bear gnawing their arm off, as they continue to complete their task as if nothing bad is happening. Actions completed inside a building can be repeated, but I found I had to shift jobs consistently based on what I needed to be done. If you place a pioneer in a building, you’ll see a static character dressed in red outside the building to indicate that you have one inside. If they aren’t busy, they will stand there with their arms in the air, waiting for you to direct them further.
Once you complete the story mode, you can play through free play or survival. As you might expect, free play allows you to build your settlement without interrupting tutorials. Survival mode, however, offers a handful of difficulty settings, giving you several cards from the onset to help you succeed. Jessica still pops up when you earn new cards, telling you what they are.
New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers is a game for those that don’t mind waiting, maybe best played while watching TV or doing something else around the house. I can’t imagine playing while traveling, as you’ll be staring at your pioneers while they complete their tasks. While this style of games works in browsers, the fact is, waiting around is not fun. I understand it comes with the territory of a simulation strategy title, but there just isn't enough to do while yo wait. The colorful visuals are easy on the eyes at first glance, but zooming in everything becomes a blurry mess.
Note: The New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers review is based on a digital Switch copy of the game, provided by the publisher.