REVIEW: Sea Trader

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Now, the first thing you will likely notice about this game is that it has horrible art.  This is true.  But considering it’s a sim/resource management game, you won’t be paying much attention to that after awhile since you’ll be too busy crunching numbers.  If you don’t like to crunch numbers and manage resources, you will not like this game, because that is literally all that is going on.

So you’ve got your ship, and a little bit of money.  You start out in a town.  Go to the shop.  He’s got some goods for sale at various prices.  You’ll probably spend all your money.  You may want to buy a sampling of them.  Take them to the next town.  Will you turn a profit if you sell them there?  No?  Then sail on to the next town.  And the next town.  And the next town.  If you sail around long enough, eventually you’ll make a profit.  Then you’ll know what the average price of the goods are, and you can go back to the cheapest place you saw something, buy a whole boatload of it, and take it to that place you saw it selling for mad money.

That is the entire mechanics of the game.  You’ll soon find out that selling anything but the luxury “fine art”-type items is a waste of time, because you make so much more money selling those than the piddly food items.  Eventually, when you get enough money, you’ll be able to make “donations” to the port authority until they let you into the black market.  Then there’s no point to doing anything but trading black market goods.  You need insane amounts of money to buy maps to move onto new areas.  You get awards for trading high numbers of certain types of goods, so you may not want to ignore them if you’re playing a 10-year trading empire game.  But you can for the three year cycle.

In addition to the trading, there are also random events that happen to your ship while you’re sailing around.  Usually it’s pirate attacks, but occasionally you’ll be attacked by sea monsters, mermaids, and sometimes your ship will be inspected.  If you’re carrying black market items, you can either dump them or bribe the guy for a small amount of money.  Or attack the ship and sink it before they figure out what you’re up to.  You build a reputation for shooting down pirates, and that lets you into the various port authority locations, so you may want to watch how many of these guys you shoot down since you’ll lose reputation points for doing so.  Bribing works best.  To sustain pirate attacks, you’ll need to upgrade your ship.  Upgrades also make your ship go faster (I think), and you can upgrade your hold to hold more stuff, thus netting you more money when you fill it with goods to trade elsewhere.

This is literally all there is to the game. I think most people will hate it, because it’s literally just sailing from port to port while you burn days off your total, trying to earn enough money for maps to new areas.  There’s something oddly satisfying about its simplicity, though, and I couldn’t put it down when I figured out how to play and went through the 3-year cycle.  Ideally, you would play a 10-year game, which would give you enough time to earn all the achievements.  If you really, really like crunching numbers, you can knock yourself out, but as much as I liked this, I don’t even think I’m up for that.

So yeah.  If you like sims and resource management, try it out.  Used copies are very cheap, and it’s a pretty unique Game Boy Advance experience.

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And yes, I know these images are from Gamespot.  I don’t care.

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