Subtrade: Return to Irata is Dan Bunten's classic M.U.L.E. revamped for VGA and set underwater.
Presentation aside, the game preserves the graceful game mechanics and the multiplayer addictiveness of its model, with four players competing for economic dominance in a round-based closed market scenario. True to the setting, players grow fish and hoard pearls and take domesticated turtles by the leash to their seafloor farmlands.
In finest M.U.L.E. tradition, Subtrade is best when played with four human players, though uniform AI replacements make for a moderate challenge. Each game ends after one year, i.e. twelve rounds, with the wealthiest player winning.
One of the best M.U.L.E. clones ever made, Subtrade: Return to Irata transfers the galactic capitalism of Dani Bunten's timeless classic to an undersea economy. Despite new species, background graphics, and different commodities, gameplay is still M.U.L.E. at its heart: up to four players vie in a cutthroat competition to be the richest businessman in a futuristic economy. The different phases of M.U.L.E., e.g. land grant, production, and marketing, are preserved intact and are greatly enhanced by intuitive mouse-based interface and VGA graphics. The auction interface, which is the best part of M.U.L.E., is still as furious and fun as ever, with computer players that are aggressive enough to pose a real challenge. Unlike Linel's Traders, another M.U.L.E. clone, Subtrade does not introduce new gameplay options or the number of commodities. While this means that M.U.L.E. fans will have seen it all before, the game's faithfulness to the original also means that the elegant simplicity of M.U.L.E. is well preserved. The computer AI also seems to be better than the original classic, since I found it much more difficult to corner a market, and computer players respond quickly and aggressively to price-cutting.
Overall, Subtrade is definitely one of the best M.U.L.E. clones, if not THE best. M.U.L.E. fans will definitely enjoy this one, although the disappointing lack of tournament mode means that an average game with 4 players can be finished in less than 1-2 hours.
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