Oregon Trail II
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (January 2013)|
|Oregon Trail II|
Oregon Trail II is an educational video game released by MECC in 1996. It was published by SoftKey Multimedia. It is a revised version of the original Oregon Trail computer game. It was redesigned with the help of American Studies PhD Wayne Studer. In contrast to the original version of the game, Oregon Trail II made an effort to include greater roles for women and racial minorities.
In addition to the regular edition, MECC released a 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Oregon Trail II Computer Game. The CD-ROM came with an official strategy guide and certificate of authenticity, all packaged in a commemorative wooden storage box.
Oregon Trail II includes far more detail than the original. For instance, rafting down the Columbia River is a much greater challenge than it was in the original game. Whenever an event(e.g. an accident or illness) happens, the game halts and the player must decide what to do in response, so it is much more interactive than the previous version. Players are also able to talk with other settlers along the way and ask their advice when needed.
This version also allows the player to choose between 20 years of travel (rather than 1 in the original) from 1840 to 1860. Travel is much easier in later years, as there are more towns and trading posts along the way to resupply your party. The online guidebook resource alters its displayed help based upon the year of travel, but not with the target and trailhead ends chosen—hence to read the book, one needs wade past pages of useless information applicable to sub-scenarios (such as alternate routes over a local regional stretch) one hasn't chosen. However at any point in the game, if the player dies, the game is over.
At the beginning ("New Game"), players may start a new game where they choose their name, occupation, level, date of travel, their starting point and destination, and type of wagon. Also, they may select how many others are with them in their wagon, along with their names and ages; this drastically added to the game's popularity as players could seemingly "live out" the journey with friends and family.
Outfitting the supplies and choosing the parties equipment of their journey becomes a possible point of player control leading to increased scoring chances. One has the option of taking a computer generated "package deal", ostensibly offered by the trailhead town's merchants and sized for five or six months of consumables. Or the player can shop the town and choose his own strategy, quantities, tools and so forth—or take the package then shop or trade in addition to that. One problem with the package is finding someone to trade you for something you want to get rid of or have less of, for something you'd rather take, get, or have. Conversely, some assets are only available by the package (e.g. Chains, anvils, plows) or by trading—though many of those can be purchased from merchants or blacksmiths farther down the trails. If a player decides to buy supplies without the package, the player may buy chains or anvils from Westport, Fort Kearny or Fort Laramie. All forts or towns with a blacksmith's shop will sell chains, nails (measured in pounds), and anvils.
Other options include loading a saved game, and the "quick start" option. Quick Start quickly generates options mentioned above for the player, with the only editable field being the name, and initiates a package deal with equipment. In a "quick game", the player automatically has 4 others, the 5 month package deal, a large farmwagon, is a banker, and starts from Independence, Missouri.
In Oregon Trail II, the player can choose from a number of different occupations, many with different skills that can assist you in your journey across the west. Such occupations include banker, doctor, merchant, pharmacist, wainwright, gunsmith, mason, blacksmith, wheelwright, carpenter, saddlemaker, brickmaker, prospector, trapper, surveyor, shoemaker, journalist, printer, butcher, baker, tailor, farmer, pastor, artist, and teacher. (Occupations listed in descending order in terms of cash on hand in the beginning of the game.)
After selecting an occupation, the player can select various skills by clicking the word "Skills". Then a screen appears. The player chooses skills with a 120 point limit. Automatic skills are free. The more important the skill is, the more it costs. Each skill can make something good more likely to happen and something bad to less likely to happen.
|Skill||Cost||What it does|
|Medical||50||patients who get sick or injured are less likely to die|
|Riverwork||50||less likely to have wagon accidents when crossing rivers|
|Sharpshooting||50||more likely to kill animals in one shot|
|Blacksmithing||40||more likely to repair broken wagon parts|
|Carpentry||40||more likely to repair broken wagon parts|
|Farming/animals||40||makes livestock less likely to die and makes your party immune to smallpox|
|Tracking||30||more likely to find more animals to kill|
|Botany||20||more likely to find edible plants|
|Commerce/trade||20||more likely to get a better deal when trading|
|Cooking||20||to get more nutrients in food|
|Musical||10||boosting wagon train morale|
|Sewing||10||makes clothing last longer|
|Spanish||10||to translate from Spanish to English when talking to Spanish speaking people|
While some occupations have more money than others, the low income occupations get a greater final bonus, which proves crucial in getting a decent score in the end of the game. However, if the player settles at a destination other than the one they had selected at the start of the game, they will not receive a bonus, regardless of their chosen occupation.
Along with selecting an occupation, the player must also choose if he wishes to be a:
|Greenhorn||Regular member of the wagon party, routes are automatically chosen. However, Greenhorns, like the other two levels, still have control over the travel pace of the entire wagon train.|
|Adventurer||Wagon train captain, allowed to choose paths at trail forks, but can be demoted to a Greenhorn when morale falls too low, but can be re-elected when morale goes up again.|
|Trail Guide||Same thing as an adventurer, but receives $500 when hired. When morale falls too low, the game will end.|
Starting towns Here is a choice of starting points. However, some towns are not available in all years.
|Town||Previous name (in earlier years)||When it existed|
|St. Joseph||N/A||1842–present day|
|Council Bluffs||Kanesville||1846–present day|
Here are four possible destinations. However, some destinations are not available in all years:
|Destination||When it existed||Previous name (in earlier years)|
|Oregon City||all years||Willamette Valley|
|Sacramento||all years||Sacramento Valley|
|Salt Lake City||1847–present day||When first founded, the town was known as "Great Salt Lake City", but was shortened into the name used today sometime in the late 1860s|
|Jacksonville||1846–present day||Rogue River Valley|
There are three different choices of wagons that the player may start out with before going to their chosen starting point. Additional wagons can be purchased during the game if needed, but they will cost more, especially the further west you travel.
|Wagon type||Weight capacity (lbs)||Weight when empty (lbs)||Cost at start||Cost in-game|
Especially in large towns, the game offers players an immense selection of supplies. Dozens of medicines, clothing items, food items and other miscellaneous essentials (and not so essentials) are available for purchase. During the beginning of the game, package deals are available up to six months of provisions. However, many perils in the game will cause many provisions to be lost or used for trade. Some feel it is prudent to purchase the largest package deal offered, but others challenge themselves to make it to Oregon without buying any food at all.
Another factor that plays into the game is the weight of your wagon. The more supplies, the heavier the wagon. After you reach your wagon's weight limit, you will not be able to continue on the trail and may have to dump goods, unless you haven't left town yet, in which case you can buy additional wagons to "split" the load. Also, if the weight is under the limit by a few hundred pounds (a few dozen kilograms), the wagon will be stuck in river mud for each crossing. The first river crossing is the Missouri River(from Kanesville—later Council Bluffs) or the Mississippi River (from Nauvoo)
Many items are potentially useless. An example is furniture, which serves no purpose other than added points at the end of the game and adds weight to the wagon. Such items include a grandfather clock, hope chest, and a kitchen cupboard. One exception being butter churns, which combined with a milk cow, can make pounds of fresh butter.
Six different animals are available during the game to bring along on your trek across the western unorganized territories. All three draft animals can be killed for food when necessary, interestingly enough though, the "non-draft" ones cannot. In fact, chickens, milk cows, and pigs don't get injured or go missing nor do they get caught in quicksand. They can die however, but it is never announced to the player, instead a note is added to the diary, thus never giving them the option to butcher the animal for meat. They do not require feed, water or any other care, yet they can be stolen or lost in wagon accidents and can even be "dumped" very much like regular supplies. This makes little sense considering chickens don't weigh very much, and milk cows and pigs walk alongside the draft animals. The most likely scenario is that when animals are "dumped" they are released to fend for themselves, no longer in the player's possession. Draft animals cannot be dumped, but when they die or get injured, one of the options given is to abandon them. All draft animals require special feed such as hay when crossing deserts, which can be gathered beforehand. Here is a table of the livestock the player can purchase.
|Horses||Can cover more ground quickly, but requires many to pull a heavy load, more likely to wander off. Despite what the Guidebook states, horses can survive on trail forage and do not require special feed. Their fast pace decreases the likelihood of sickness to your wagon party. They can be stolen, because they are attracted to thieves.||In Independence and St. Joseph, $82.50, In Nauvoo and Council Bluffs, $90.00|
|Mules||Stronger, but slightly slower than horses, least prone to disease, most tolerant to high temperatures, requires less hoof care, water, and they are stubborn.||In Independence and St. Joseph, $44.00. In Nauvoo and Council Blufs, $48.00|
|Oxen||Strong, slow draft animal, highest endurance, most prone to sickness, most tolerant to cold weather, requires less to pull heavy loads compared to horses and mules, less likely to wander off and get lost. Because of their generally slow pace, the chance of party members getting sick or injured is also increased.||In Independence and St. Joseph, $11.00. In Nauvoo and Council Bluffs, $12.00|
|Chickens||Provides fresh eggs for food or to trade, rides in cages tied to the wagon. Can be lost in accidents or stolen.||In Independence and St. Joseph, $2.95. In Nauvoo and Council Bluffs, $4.00|
|Milk cow||Provides gallons of milk, and if the player has one or more butter churns, will also give fresh butter for food or to trade, can replace an ox as a draft animal, will cease to produce milk if worked too hard. Can be lost in accidents or stolen.||In Independence and St. Joseph, $55.00. In Nauvoo and Council Bluffs, $60.00|
|Pigs||Has absolutely no purpose other than added points at the end of the game, although they can be slaughtered for meat. Can be lost in accidents or stolen.||In Independence and St. Joseph, $22.00. In Nauvoo and Council Bluffs, $24.00|
Some animals are mentioned in the game but never physically appear, while mules do show up in thumbnails on the trail, they only do so three different times and are never seen at towns or forts, unlike horses and oxen that can be found quite frequently. Cats and dogs also appear occasionally, but neither of the two are purchasable or tradeable to the player. The three "non-draft" animals never appear in the game at all. One of the ways the player can die while hunting is to be mauled to death by a mountain lion, though they are never actually seen during the game. Fish appear in thumbnails and if the player has any fishing gear, fish are automatically collected at random water locations. Rattlesnakes appear in a thumbnail when a person is bitten.
Several species may be encountered while hunting. This includes:
On the trail
Trails and landmarks
On the trail, players will encounter many historically accurate landmarks, rivers, forts, and trading posts. The landmarks will change with time, as they did in real life. For example, if the player travels in 1860, there will be many trading posts, but those wouldn't exist in 1840. Furthermore, some of the trading posts and forts that exist in the earlier years become abandoned in later years. Also, famous trails other than the Oregon Trail are part of the game. These include the California Trail, Applegate Trail, and Mormon Trail.
The Oregon Trail was used for the emigration of settlers heading for Oregon. The California Trail was much like the Oregon trail, but used for other purposes besides settling. The California Trail started from Fort Hall and ended in Sacramento, California. It was used for the California Gold Rush from 1849 and on. The Mormon Trail was used by Mormons, who were people who traveled from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah, seeking religious freedom. The Applegate Trail was a branch of the California Trail that ended in Jacksonville, Oregon. The Applegate Road passed the Black Rock Desert into California's Siskiyou Mountains. It reached Jacksonville following the nearby Siskiyou Trail, which became US Route 99 and the modern-day Interstate 5.
Inside the game is the original hunting sub-game. In Oregon Trail II, the player can choose between three firearms for hunting: the pistol, the shotgun, and the rifle. The pistol is the most basic hunting weapon and is generally only effective against rodents. Killing larger animals, such as deer and bear, take multiple shots. The shotgun is (realistically) effective against birds and other animals at close range, but does not have the range or power to take down buffalo, as well as being somewhat unrealistically unsuccessful at long to medium ranges. Overall, the rifle is the best firearm in the game, as it usually kills an animal, close or far, with one shot. Ammunition and gunpowder are both required in order to hunt, purchasing a rifle or shotgun sheath can help prevent accidents.
Unlike in the first Oregon Trail, the hunting mini-game is played in a first-person perspective. The loud report of the firearms also causes animals to run away (if not hit), thereby making the game much more difficult.
During the course of the game, many random events may occur which may require a decision and impact the progress of your party, supplies or health. An incomplete list of these events include:
- Buffalo Stampede
- Prairie fire
- Strangers Approach
- Abandoned Wagons
- Severe Weather (lightning, fog, duststorm, etc.)
- Missing person or livestock
- Wild Fruits or Vegetables
- Quicksand Ahead
- Obstructed Path (fallen rocks and boulders)
- Death of party members or animals
- Wagon Dust
- Wagon accident (Tipped Wagon, wagon caught on fire, broken parts, Wagon stuck in mud or deep sand, etc.)
Diseases and injuries also account as random events that typically occur with unpredictability, though this is not always the case. Here is a list of several ailments and other health problems that can happen to party members as well as the player.
- Accidental Gunshot (via hunting)
- Alkali Sickness
- Animal Bite (via hunting)
- Bad Cold
- Broken bone (arm, foot, hand, hip, or leg)
- Cuts and Abrasions
- Drowning (almost)
- Food Poisoning
- Internal Injuries
- Mountain Fever (via ticks)
- Rabies (via Animal Bite)
- Scarlet Fever
- Smallpox (disabled with farming/animals skill)
- Snakebite (via rattlesnakes)
- Sprained joint (ankle, elbow, shoulder, or wrist)
- Typhoid Fever
- Water Poisoning
If the player chooses an early year, a random disease may occur, and is labelled "Unknown Ailment." For example, beriberi that occurs in 1846 is labelled "Unknown Ailment."
On the trail, the bottom area of the screen offers the player brief info such as the date, temperature, distance traveled, terrain, as well as small messages or alerts regarding trail and weather conditions, wagon train morale, and even health and food supply.
A maximum of four messages can appear at any given time. This can be problematic if the game is trying to show more than four and the player isn't seeing them all, but the game will display statuses based on priority. For example, "Low food" will push "Morale slipping" to the second slot even though the latter was there first.
|Morale is high||The wagon train population is content.|
|Morale slipping||The wagon train is beginning to lose their faith in you.|
|Low morale/Very low morale||The wagon train mood is falling significantly, though morale is of no concern to Greenhorns, Adventures can be dismissed and relieved of their election as captain, but they can be re-elected at anytime, Trail guides can be fired, thus ending the game.|
|Resting||This message appears after the player selects the option to rest and how many days they wish to.|
|No progress||Your wagon as well as the rest of the train is at a standstill, but days are still passing, this can be caused by severely heavy loads, and/or deep snow, mud or even sand. The game views this as "resting", which causes health and morale to raise back up.|
|Slow going||Movement is below average. Causes may include too heavy of a load, not enough draft animals, hindering terrain or weather.|
|No water||There is no fresh water in the area. This does not refer to the player's own water supply.|
|Alkali water||Water in the area can cause sickness if drunk.|
|Bad water||Water in the area is completely unsafe for people or animals to drink.|
|No food||There is no supplies in your food inventory. Prolonged travel can result in starvation.|
|Low food||There is a limited amount of food items in your inventory. This helps alert you before you run out.|
|No fruits/vegetables||There are no plant items in your food inventory. Prolonged travel without either can cause party members to get scurvy. Both alerts appear at the same time and will disappear once the player buys, trades or finds either of the two.|
|No meat||There is no animal product in your inventory. Prolonged travel may cause party members to get beriberi. The player is given an option to hunt for food, but not kill draft animals for meat.|
|No grass||There is no forage in the area for your draft animals. Prolonged travel without feed can result in animals dying and leaving you stranded.|
|No draft animals||There are no horses, mules, or oxen in the player's possession.|
|Desert||You and the wagon train are at or currently in a desert.|
|Muddy trail||Terrain caused by heavy rain, notorious for slowing progress.|
|Deep sand||Terrain is geographical, grass is rarely found.|
|Rough trail||Terrain is geographical, known to slow progress as well as increase the chances of wagon damage or accidents as well as injury to people or animals.|
|Rainy||High precipitation and moisture, usually in warmer weather, but varies on location.|
|Snowing||High precipitation and moisture, usually in cooler weather, but varies on location.|
|Poor health||The general health of you (the player) is low.|
|Person near death||You, or another party member is on the verge of dying unless action is taken, such as resting.|
Some other unique aspects of the game include the California Gold Rush after 1848 and your ability to prospect for gold. The prospector occupation will typically find more gold than any others. The player can't see their character panning for gold, but it shows the amount of gold panned on a "claim sheet" measured in its dollar value. Usually, it is over $1200 (1849). The value decreases in later years, because the gold slowly disappears as more people come to prospect for gold. In 1853, people will stop panning for gold, as they switch to hydraulic mining. By 1860, the Gold Rush would have ended. Also, the player has no option to prospect for gold before 1848 because nobody knew that California had gold until James Marshall discovered it in the American River in Coloma.
Besides getting kicked off the wagon train as a trail guide, there is another way the game can end prematurely for your character, regardless of position. If health drops too low, the player's character can die just as easily as his/her wagon party members. The main character usually will not get sick or injured unless the other party members have died, with the exceptions to this being an accidental gunshot, animal bite/mauling while hunting, starvation, thirst.
At the destination at end of the game, you can also read a "What Lies Ahead" section which describes what happens to the player's character after they settle. Also, the player is able to save his diary, kept by the computer that highlights the events of the journey. The player may also write in this diary himself. Finally, an extensive glossary and guidebook are available for players who want to learn more about the historic sites on the trail. The glossary gives information about the medicines, locations and famous people along the trail; while the guidebook comes in handy for wagon captains or trail guides who decide which route the train takes.
A remake of this game, entitled Oregon Trail 5th Edition, adds various new features to the game. The plant gathering feature was carried over from editions 3 and 4. The "Wild Fruits and Vegetables" event from Oregon Trail II is removed. This feature involves identifying which plants are edible and which are poisonous. (Incidentally, the option to "go look for edible plants" whenever someone is diagnosed with scurvy was kept.) The player can also go fishing. Updated graphics have been provided for river crossings. A cartoon of Captain Jet, and some children has been added which plays at certain points in the game. The conversation pictures are no longer animated. The soundtrack of Oregon Trail II has also been removed, replaced with a single repeating audio loop.
A medicine named "Duffy's Elixir" appears in the game, and is promoted by a suspicious salesman. The name of this medicine is likely derived from actual medicine Daffy's Elixir.
Looking for edible plants whenever someone is diagnosed with scurvy has a very low chance of success. In the remake, it is pointless as the player can go plant hunting at any time during the game.
Much of the "advice" given does not relate to anything the user does within the game. An example is to "not pack your wagon until you bring in all your supplies". This is useless advice, as the wagon is packed automatically.
In some towns and forts, a physician informs the player than he has been informed that the player's party has been seeking a doctor. This happens even when all party members are in good health.
When a search party for missing person is unsuccessful, the health status menu classifies their health as "missing".