High Seas Trader is a commerce simulation at heart. The basic principle of buy low, sell high is dominant throughout the game. In this forum, you happen to be on the high seas, an entrapaneur/trader with contacts in far off places like Singapore and Cape Town. On the surface, the premise is well executed; however, one serious flaw revolves around the inane amount of combat you're forced to endure while on those high seas. The game as an economic exercise is good but as a combat simulation it sinks deep in the briny depths. Realistically speaking, the amount of combat you must suffer through in High Seas Trader detracts tonnage from it's usefulness as a profitable business strategy venture. In fact, it seriously gets in the way. Even the shallow attempt to spice up the fighting mode by giving you the option of various types of cannon ammunition seems wasted as discernible differences in effect are negligible. The sheer number of combat opponents is like a tidal wave -- impossible to avoid.
Once past that major shortcoming, High Seas Trader is a decent vehicle for voyaging on the vast waters of fortune building. It contains numerous spreadsheet options that help you track your economic progress. The usefulness of charts in determining and monitoring prices, demand and availability of products is impressive. The interface for using the charts and spreadsheets is user friendly. There's a screen for just about any aspect of trading you'll need (bank, commodities, ships, etc.). The trading aspect of the game, as you would hope from the title, is excellent. If you could only get on with it instead of having to incessantly deal with sea-roaming marauders.
The game has lots of wind in it's sails. Ship improvements (although at times it seems this is more a function of elasped time rather than the amount of gold in your coffers), reputation (four characteristics) and level of character promotion (journeyman, tradesman, merchant, master merchant, viscount) all play a large role in strategy development in High Seas Trader. The game is menu driven and usually seen from a first person perspective. Screen shots vary little from one location to the next, however, which drains a bit of realism from the overall look. Using a point and click interface, you simply choose the place you want to go (bank, market, tavern, etc.) on the screen and up pops a relevant spreadsheet/chart or another piece of artwork containing even more pictorial menu items. Too bad all the towns look alike. Navigation is handled fairly well and with the interesting character and trading aspects, the game could have been a yacht instead of a floundering dingy caused by poorly designed combat and sailing segments. Unfortunately, in High Seas Trader, this one significant piece of debris is damaging to the point of berthing this one in drydock and wishing for an overhaul. That's really too bad since there is a really good game lurking just beneath the surface.
Graphics: Artwork is okay but redundant. Visuals are appropriately era based but on the simplistic side.
Sound: Repetitive and bland.
Enjoyment: Totally lacking in combat strategy and maneuvering. This wouldn't be a problem if the game didn't throw you into combat situations at every turn (and then throw you out to DOS when you lose). The economic aspects and character development are done well but combat sequences make you want to walk the plank.
Replay Value: Surprisingly, taken as an economic simulation, the game has high replay value since trading situations, commodities and character development can lead to different waters. But you'll always have to fight to get there.
A follow-up to Impressions' earlier game Merchant Colony, High Seas Trader puts you in the shoes of a young impoverished nobleman who must take to the high seas (where else?) in order to regain fame and fortune.
You'll trade in a variety of goods, deal with banks and merchants, acquire property, and outfit your ship with guns, equipment, and crew. Sailing is done from a first person perspective behind the ship's wheel. The seas are, of course, never safe; pesky pirates will attempt to intercept you and relieve you of your worldly possessions.
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