We have another XBLIG title for review today, a turn-based strategy game called Ancient Traders. The basic idea of AT is to complete a goal for the map, usually something along the lines of collect X amount of gold or kill a certain monster, while competing against other traders and fending of sea monsters. There isn’t really a story to speak but there may just be enough style to this game to make up for that.
The presentation of AT is by far its greatest aspect with a very cool and surprisingly intricate 1600’s style map set up. All of the action takes place on one of the aforementioned maps and all of the random stuff you’d normally see littering those old style maps (sea monsters, anchors, clouds blowing out breezes, treasure chests, etc.) are power-ups, towns, player characters, and enemies. The only problem with the presentation is because of the commitment to the style that they’re going for a lot of the colours that are used kind of blend together (only so many ways to make aged parchment look different) which can mean a lot of the various stuff on the map can somewhat blend together. The sound design isn’t really all that memorable with the kind of sound effects and music you’d expect from a nautically themed title.
The gameplay is pretty much that of a super simplified Civilization with all you’re doing being trading and fighting. While there are “quests” you can do within a game they are pretty much just head to a particular city rather than the city you were planning on going to or fighting a certain monster. The basic structure of the game is designed for multiplayer as the entire game takes place on either random maps or pre-laid out scenarios, which is also very similar to Civ.
The combat system is at least somewhat interesting using a rock-paper-scissors style three ways to attack. You and your opponent roshambo it out and whoever’s attack is the loser, loses the ability to use that attack again that battle, players continue fighting until one player is out of attacks to use. You spend the money you’ve earned via trading, fighting, or exploring to upgrade your attacks at the various ports of call you encounter and with enough upgrading you can break the system and win any battle.
As for the matter of upgrading and the store system in general there’s no description as to what everything in the upgrade menu is meaning you’re just spending money on what you think you need. In fact the issue of not really explaining stuff is kind of endemic to this game as more than once I wasn’t really sure exactly what the specifics of certain things were. It seems like you could figure out everything eventually but realistically you’ll be bored of this title before that happens.
As I said before the game seems like it was designed for multi-player so thankfully it has a decent multiplayer mode. The multi-player is the exact same as the single player in terms of gameplay. There is both local and online multiplayer but I was unfortunately unable to find any online matches. What this means to me is that this game is essentially just a board game with no shit to set up but if manage to get a friend to pick this title (it’s $3 by the way) too I’m sure the online is just as good as it’s kind of hard to screw up a turn-based strategy game’s online mode.
All in all this is a competent if not simple strategy title with a quirky style and presentation. This game is probably best used as board game and played with a few friends on a coach. Playing alone gets stale rather quick and as for playing online good luck finding a game. Due to it’s cool presentation and at functional if not unimpressive gameplay Ancient Traders gets a 3 out of 5 stars.