Ancient Trader – What We Think:
Ancient Trader, a game of sailing the seas, trading goods at port, and naval combat vs other traders and monsters from the depths. Sound familiar? I guess it should. Be it PC, console, board game, card game, or any other form a game can come in, we’ve seen elements of this before. So what makes this one special? It’s all about simplicity and execution.
Keep it simple, stupid
While others of it’s ilk spend their time with complicated formulas and drawn out systems, Ancient Trader plays more like a traditional board game. You move about a grid the number of squares your boat is capable of and land on sea monsters, rival ships, treasure and other interesting tidbits. When you find a port, you buy and sell one of three trade products, upgrade you vessel, or take on a quest (Which simply require you to travel to another port for cash).
When you run afoul of monsters or other traders, battle is equally straight forward:
You have three upgradeable weapon types, each represented by a color. Each player chooses a card and the one with the highest value wins. The element of strategy comes with the colors representing a rock-paper-scissors style concept. If your color is greater than the color chosen by your opponent, your card receives a two point boost in power, potentially winning you the round with a lower numbered card. The loser of a round loses the card they played and a new round begins, until one player is left without any cards. In the end, whoever wins the battle walks away with a little gold or cargo from the loser. The overall object of the game is to go from port to port earning enough money to upgrade you vessel and purchase the three unique artifacts. Once they are collected, the monster known as the Ancient Guardian will appear. Defeat it to win the game.
Execution, the killer element
Ancient Trader works on a level beyond its humble mechanics; visually it’s fascinating to simply sit and stare at the weathered old map that makes up the playfield, with vessels and creatures and other objects looking like woodcut prints come to life. Combined with hauntingly subdued music it creates an environment that’s just fun to immerse yourself in. Local multiplayer means you can truly play board-game-style with your friends gathered around your TV or monitor. Children of even a relatively young age are likely to enjoy playing along with you and learn a little math in the processes.
It’s amazing how wonderfully crafted games like this can try to sneak past on the XBox Indie blade. Ancient Trader deserves a look, as it definitely makes for a great, quick, casual distraction.
Note: To play the PC version, you will need first to install XNA 3.1