Psi 5 Trading Company makes impressive use of its limited resources by delivering a sense of traveling through space in real time with its simple but effective graphics. Furthermore, the game also manages to deliver complex strategy gaming that unfolds in real time.
The biggest failing of the game is its use of two separate executables. One lets you set up the game by choosing your cargo run and crew and the other allows you to actually play the game. There's no reason why these two functions couldn't have been done with one executable program.
Taking care in crew selection is important and you'd be well advised to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the choices. There are six candidates for each position and all have fairly significant flaws of some kind. One may react poorly to stress or may be a poor team player while another may excel at part of the job but be poor at another aspect. A third may be good in most respects but so frail you stand a good chance of losing him or her during battle.
There are no perfect candidates, so you must choose carefully and devise a strategy to overcome the individual weaknesses since during gameplay these strengths and weaknesses become apparent very quickly.
The game offers an impressive deep array of choices. Your navigator can set five different paths to your destination port ranging from the most to least direct. The most direct path gets you to the port in the shortest amount of time, potentially earning you a bonus for speedy delivery of cargo. But, it's also likely to be the most heavily infested by hostile units.
You can also call for a straight course or a more evasive course that makes it more difficult for enemies to target you but doing so comes at the expense of longer travel time. Through your engineer, you can prioritize different subsystems like weapons, shields and engines for energy usage. You can assign different priorities to enemy ships to your weapons expert and can also instruct him to use specific weapons if you know he excels at a certain weapon.
Although there are many options, the learning curve is relatively low because everything is done through choosing and prioritizing targets. You decide what to do but have to trust in your crew to actually accomplish the tasks. When things get rough and multiple enemies start taking shots at you, it can be quite intense trying to keep up with everything.
The game's display is laid out nicely with an image of your currently selected crewmember in the top right and a view of space in the top left. The bottom half of the screen is used to display any status information you've requested. Everything is laid out logically and is easily accessible.
The crewmember view is mostly useless and really only serves to let you know whether that particular person is alive or dead. The space view, on the other hand, is entirely useless but it's a nice touch nonetheless. The view changes to reflect your current navigation settings and will also show any space battles occurring around you.
Psi 5 Trading Company is an unusual game. The complex strategy gameplay is carried out in real time but with an impressively simple and easy to use interface. Unlike many strategy games, you cannot control every detail of what goes on; instead, you can only delegate orders and wait for them to be carried out effectively. This gives the game the feeling of a strong management simulation.
If you're intrigued by that idea, Psi 5 Trading Company is a polished and enjoyable game worth a look.
Graphics: Easy to read graphics and pleasant layout with simple but effective space graphics.
Sound: No sound effects used.
Enjoyment: The game manages to put a unique and remarkably complex strategy game into a very simple interface.
Replay Value: You have five routes from which to choose with each replay a completely new experience. Furthermore, you have six crewmember choices for each job with each applicant having very different attributes.
Psi-5 Trading company puts the player in command of a space freighter crewed by a host of quirky aliens. The player must pilot the ship through pirate-infested space and needs to decide whether to fight off or attempt to evade the space robbers. Time is short and commands must be timely and prudent as numerous emergencies crop up as the ship is attacked and systems fail or are destroyed. The player is challenged to get the precious cargo to its destination!
One of the earliest real-time space combat / trading / strategy game was well ahead of its time for its blend of trading and combat that preceded EA's classic Starflight by a few years. A hit on Commodore 64, it was largely unknown to the nascent PC gaming world. Even with its limited 4-color CGA palette, the game's graphics are superb, and the action gets very intense at times. The aliens are even more colorful and varied than Starflight, and some space combat sequences approach the intensity of Star Control despite non-intuitive controls. Remember: buy low, sell high :)
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