While there are plenty of titles where players can race vehicles through just about any environment imaginable, there aren't many that let players create those vehicles themselves. Trailmakers
aims to scratch both of those itches. The game lets players construct a vehicle from scratch using a variety of parts before racing it around a sandbox environment. Whether you want a dune buggy, a plane, or a helicopter, you'll be able to build one and take it for a spin.
In the game's Expedition mode, players are dropped onto a planet whose desert expanse just begs to be explored, but it's going to take a long time to do this on foot. As such, the very first action players perform is to follow a tutorial where they're instructed to build a basic dune buggy from a number of starter parts. You're taught how to place and rotate parts, move the camera to get a better view, and save your blueprints for easy construction later. The result is a vehicle that looks like it fell out of a LEGO Technic set. You can see the vehicle construction in action in the video below.
Once we constructed our vehicle, we're able to climb into the driver's seat and pootle off into the distance. I say "pootle" because the original vehicle won't move very quickly. It only has one engine and isn't exactly built with optimised aerodynamics. The only aim of this mode is to get to the destination marked with a finish line — how you get there is up to you. However, it becomes clear that if we're to stand any chance of getting there, we need to modify and upgrade our vehicle design. As we explore the surrounding landscape, we find more vehicle parts, blue crystal-like boosters, and blueprints that can be used to alter the vehicle. There were also quite a few translucent blue bolts to collect, of which we never found a purpose during our time with the game.
Players can re-enter the vehicle building process at any point just by stepping out of their vehicle and pressing a button. Over the course of the next few journeys to our destinations, we have to do this many times. At one point, we need to widen the axles to cross a bridge, upgrade engines to conquer steep hill climbs, and even add rocket boosters to make it over a massive chasm. You're not always going to get the design of your vehicle right first time. Our first attempt to cross the bridge saw us fall through the middle because our vehicle wasn't wide enough. Luckily there are checkpoints spread throughout the mode, and you'll respawn at the last one you triggered every time you die.
While there are stunt ramps to keep us occupied, the main objective of the mode is to find all of the vehicle upgrades and collectibles, some of which are hidden in hard to reach places. If you're not into hunting for collectibles, there are other game modes to try. Sandbox mode allows players to create any vehicle with a limitless amount of resources. Here, the only restrictions are how far your imagination will stretch. We also tried out a mode where we were placed on an island to take part in races. All we had to do was to choose a vehicle and try to beat the best time. You can see footage of this mode below.
If you want to see what kind of strange contraptions you can build, you can try out the title right now while it's in Early Access.