The Franco family used to be one of the influential houses of Portugal. That is until the head of the family sailed out of a disastrous voyage to find the kingdom of Prester John. The disarray that followed brought about an end to the nobility of the Franco name. 100 years have passed and Portugal has prospered through it's sailing and trading empires. Young Leon Fanco wishes to restore his family's good name and make a name for himself as a sailor. At the heart of his ambition is the fair lady, Christiana, who is desired by the likely heir to the kingdom. Towards that end, Leon has been working hard to secure finances for his first ship. With the first step of his dream complete, Franco sails out with his father's good friend as first mate, you're off to find fame, adventure and fortunes out on the sea and in uncharted waters.
Uncharted Waters is a sailing and trading simulation. Your goal is initially to sail between ports and trade goods between them to make a profit. Along the way, you may be called upon by merchants and royalty to do specific tasks. Several different nations as well as pirates roam the sea and not all have good relations with one another. You can take as long as you want and explore as much of the world as possible to complete your ultimate task of marrying Christiana, which will require your fame rating to be quite high anyway. Available at most ports is a trader for cargo, a supply station for your crew's food and water as well as repairs, a shipbuilder, an item store and finally a pub for gaining information, crew and gambling.
All of the game progresses on an overhead-view, by sea you navigate your fleet by direction and can issue additional orders including landing on any piece of land to search for supplies. A variety of hazards live at sea including storms, other ships, seaweed and simply bad winds and currents.
You play the role of a young boy whose family is on the verge of extinction, only yourself and your father are left of a once noble family. After Vasco da Gama's glorious return to Portugal in 1498, your father is inspired to make a similiar expidition to India and restore the glory of your family. You are left in Lisbon to study, while your father leaves for new lands. Unfortunately the voyage ends with the death of your father in treacherous waters. The first mate is the sole survivor and together you decide to complete what your father never managed, and you start preparing a ship for uncharted waters.
What struck me instantly about this game was the amazing music. It just made me go "whoah" from the first note. It really fits the theme of the game perfectly. The rest of the game is also very well done, and easy to learn. It is a trading game, to put it simply. Using the little money you have, you need to equip a ship with crew, water and food, and of course trading stock. Then sail to other ports and sell your goods to the highest price.
The game interface is a simple combination of a scenario window and an info window, and since the game can be controlled completely with the mouse, navigation is really easy. Left-click to confirm, right-click to decline. The only thing that can be confusing is the actual sailing. Your crew will sail in the same direction until you give another command... so if you don't issue any orders in the beginning, you will be heading straight for America (without enough food and water). To change the direction or issue a command to your crew, just click the right-button. The game will freeze and the First Mate will ask for your orders. It's as simple and functional as it gets.
You will also gain new skills and better reputation as you progress, making it easier for you to hire new and better crew, and of course to buy more ships.
The game doesn't show your location on the world map, so you will need basic geography knowledge if you don't want to get completely lost.
Uncharted Waters is the most un-KOEI game ever made by KOEI, perhaps because it is the only series not designed by Kou Shibusawa, the prolific founder of KOEI. Based on the high-seas adventure period in 17th century Europe, you are an honest merchant trying to amass fortune while coping with pirates and fickle mayors. In Uncharted Waters 2 you can choose to play as one of the characters, each with different goals and purposes. Interesting, but slow-paced.
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