Today, Astraware released the sequel to their popular trading game Tradewinds: Tradewinds 2! Tradewinds 2 is said to deliver over 100 hours of gameplay, 20 Caribean ports to discover and explore, tasks, rewards, weapons, ships, pirate fights, trading, and much more.
I’ve never played the first Tradewinds, or any other game of this genre, so I’m going into this review as a newbie, who isn’t even sure if he’ll like the genre. I also didn’t have a chance to play the game before it was released (I’ve sent in my signed NDA form last saturday so I hope to be a beta tester soon!), so I didn’t have time to develop any strategies or something like that. Therefore this review is not going to be about how to effectively and succesfully play this game, but I hope to explain what this game about, and what you can expect as soon as you install the trial and set off to the Caribbean for some brand new adventures.
Installation and trial info
We’ll be looking at the PPC version of course, but there are is also a Palm version available here. Installation for Pocket PC can be done through .exe and .cab file, both available from here. The installation is straightforward, and will supply you with a trial of Tradewinds 2. This trial has limitations, in that it lets you play 36 sailing weeks. One sailing week is the same as a trip from one port to another, so you can make 36 trips, and discover the ports that you visit without limits! You might want to spread your 36 weeks over both game modes to make sure that you tried them both.
Starting up the game, menu screens
When you first start the game, you’re welcomed by a tune that perfectly matches the style of the game; and a screen where you need to enter your players name. I found the buttons here to be pretty small, but I managed to enter my name anyway!
After entering your name, you’ll see the main menu screen. Here you can start a new game, load a saved game (there are 10 saveslots!), change settings, and change the user names.
The available settings include sound and music settings (change the volume or totally disable it), and the display settings allow you to disable the tutorial and port animations. While the font remains small, this is something you’ll get used to. It’s necessary in order to display a lot of information on your screen, so we’ll just have to accept it. It’s better than tapping “Next” buttons all the time in order to advance through text boxes! There are also two in-game menu screens, but we’ll deal with them in the next chapter.
When you create a new game, you can choose between Story Mode and Free Trade Mode. In Story Mode you start in your home port, and then you’ll need to start visiting other ports and their buildings, trading products and figting pirates on your way, in order to complete the various tasks that you can accept along the way. In Free Trade, you can just buy and sell goods, and fight the pirates that you meet, all with the goal to gain wealth! Can I see the golden coins flickering in your eyes already? I chose to start playing Story Mode to get to know the game.
The next screen allows you to pick your character. The first four characters are available immediately, and after you beat Tradewinds 2 with one of these default characters, you will also be able to play with LaRoche or build your own character in the Character Generator. I chose to play with the first character, Russel Van Gregor. While “Russel” and “Gregor” aren’t necessarily Dutch names, the “Van” piece is, so I immediately felt connected to this guy since he must have his roots in the Netherlands too, just like I do.
Story mode starts with an on-screen introduction. You are explained that you are in your hometown, and you are expected to meet the Governor of Great Cayman. So let’s get started!
As we are told, we start off in Great Cayman. We can also see this in the top left of the screen. The top right shows you the date, which increases by a week everytime you sail to a new port. In the centre is your current city, with various buildings you can visit. The bottom shows your current cash, the amount of money that’s on the bank (gaining 1% interest each month!) and your debt.
Then, you have three more ‘buttons’ you can tap with your stylus or click with your D-Pad: Set Sail, Port Menu, and Menu. Let’s discuss the menu’s first.
In the Port Menu, you can view all the “Buildings” in your current port. In your home port, these include the Marketplace, where you can buy and sell goods (whatch how the red/blue colors indicate if you can get a good deal at that location!), the Bank, where you can deposit and withdraw money; the Moneylender who gives you some extra money on your hands (at a 10% interest rate!); the Governors Residence; an upgradeable Warehouse to safely store your goods; and an Alehouse where you can find out about the latest gossips and where to get good market deals. This is the place to get tips and hints in the game! At this moment, I decided to purchase some goods in the Warehouse.
Then there are the “Items”, which show you the current special items (not your purchased goods). At the start, these include two items that make your ship stronger.
“Tasks” show you your current task, which will show you (after talking to the Governor) that you need to rescue the Lucky Maiden and it’s crew, defeat Bouchard, and return to the Governor for your reward.
“Cargo” shows what’s currently in your ship, what the unit cost was and what the market price is.
Then, “Log” shows recent activity.
Note that you can also see the latest Log messages in ports, between your port buildings and your financial situation. This displays information about arriving in a port, what your latest purchases were, etc.
Finally, you can see information about your “Ship”, including it’s strength, cargo capacity, available cannons (used for figthing pirates), and your ammo.
The next Menu screen that is available is the game menu on the right. This contains more general options, such as Save/Load a game, return to the main menu, change the sound and display options, register, check the About and Credit pages, and leave the game. The first item in this list is Set Sail, which is also visible from your Port view in the bottom left.
I decided to sail to Barbados, and check out the market there. It turns out that I can sell my fish for 6 times as much as I purchased it for, cotton 8 times as much, and timber 3,5 times as much! This port also has (in addition to the Bank, a Governor and an Alehouse) a Shipbuilder where you can upgrade your ship, or buy/sell guns and ammunition. I clearly don’t have enugh money to upgrade my ship yet, and since I didn’t run into any pirates, my ship is still OK so I don’t need the Shipbuilder’s services at the moment.
Then I decided to just sail to Santo Domingo, but I didn’t get very far. Pirates! After introducing you to the fighting system (you can fight one ship at the time unless you use special ammo, and the green meter on the right displays your ships status) we learn that it’s Bouchard who is attacking us. Let’s see if we can complete our first mission by defeating him!
Luckily, our first fight is just against one ships, so the “battle one ships at a time” will not become a problem at this point yet. But expect to meet larger groups of opponents later! Just tapping the ships starts the fight, and before you know it cannon balls are flighing across open see, trying to sink both ships. But, of course, mister Van Gregor wins, and we get a 1,000 gold reward! Then we talk with Gregor’s father, who has searched for Russell for many years. With Mr. Van Gregor being proud of his son, they decide to go home.
However, instead of returning to Great Cayman, I was taken to Santo Domingo, which was my initial goal when I set sail. Now, with lots of more gold earned with my very smart business deal and unmatched fighting skills, I decide to pick up some more goods and see if I can make more profit. And, comparing the market in Santo Domingo with the one in Barbados, I can! So I get 25 units of Cacoa and 5 units of Sugar, and get back to Barbados. I really have luck on my side since the price hasn’t changed, and I can leave Barbados with a nice amount of cash. On my way home to Great Cayman I run into another pirate ship, which I defeat for another 1,000 gold. Then, I quickly visit the Governor to claim my reward: 1,000 more gold, and the compass from my mother! Checking the “Item” menu I can see that the compass decreases my chances of being hit by a storm are decreased by 20%. And, in the “Ship” section, I see that my Ship Hull decreased from 39/39 to 38/39 so I will have to take care of this by visiting the Shipbuilder.
Bu just making four trips (Great Cayman > Barbados > Santo Domingo > Barbados > Great Cayman) I found that Tradewinds 2 is very easy to pick up. See how we just used 4 of the 36 weeks that the trial offers, since it’s now January 29th in the game? It’s guaranteed that there will be lots of choices to make later on, trying to make your best way to the top and dealing with events that you can’t control, such as storms and pirate attacks. Not only the market must be used to your advantage, but you will also need to work on your ship upgrades, repare it when it gets damaged, and keep an eye on the most effective weapon selection. Also new ports will be unlocked, new tasks will become available as other governors agree to talk with you, and you will be able to trade more goods as you progress through the game. The game will also get harder, as an Astraware “insider” revealed to me. If you think to have a good business deal and invest all your money, be aware of the consequences when you lose a battle, lose your products, and don’t have any money to fix your ship!
We’ve just looked at Story Mode, but since Free Trade Mode is basically Story Mode minus tasks, you can see that we also did a good job at discovering how Free Trade Mode will look like: just trade and fight, trying to earn lots of money, get the best available ship, fill your bank account, and dominate the Caribbean!
After using only a small portion of what’s available in the trial, Astraware is raising great expectation with Tradewinds 2. With graphics and music that really fit the Caribbean/sailing style, the in-game story takes you on a journey that will defenitely entertain you for many hours, developing your trading skills along the way which will be useful for Free Trade Mode.
As someone who has never played a game in this genre I must say that Tradewinds 2 made me really enthousiastic and that I look forward to playing this game a lot more often!
Astraware Tradewinds 2 for Palm and Pocket PC is licensed from Sandlot Games, and it’s available from this Astraware webpage.
Tradewinds 2 discussion forum here!
Get your PPC trial here!
For PPC, operating systems from WM 2003 up to WM 6 are supported, as well as QVGA, VGA, square, portrait, and landscape screens.
Tradewinds 2 costs $ 19.95 currently at discount for $ 14.95 directly from here!
I recommend purchasing directly from the developer, since that will make sure that the biggest part of your money end up with the people who worked so hard on this game. =)