Fame and fortune on the high seas, with only a mild chance of scurvy? Sign me up! Thanks to Orlando “Sugar Lips” Bloom, pirates have become a little passe lately, but I assure you, there’s still plenty of awesome left in the swashbuckling genre, and Tradewinds Legends is one of the best examples of this in the app store. If you liked Sid Meier’s Pirates or just enjoy turn-based adventure/strategy games, this is definitely worth a moment of your time.
The game starts you at the bottom of the maritime ladder: you have one ship, a little cash, and big dreams of commanding a powerful fleet in the future. Through a combination of missions, trading, and battling sea-faring nogoodniks, you slowly amass the means to procure better ships, better weapons, and better goods for more lucrative trading. If you need a little extra scratch, the moneylender is always happy to give you a helping hand. There is also a banking system to protect your assets, and you can even purchase mystical items for a little added security. Just remember to keep your ships in good repair and try not to upset the local ruler when you’re in port.
The controls are touch-based; each turn consists of you selecting a new sailing destination. Along the way, you might run into pirates you must fight or bad weather to run you off course. Once you’ve arrived, you usually want to pay a visit to the local ruler for missions or mosey over to the local market, either to unload profitable cargo or pick up new goods to sell at your next port of call.
The trading system in particular is extremely well-done, both easy to learn and delightfully addictive. The combat system, sadly, is less impressive, with all of the enemies effectively identical and far too easy to beat. Ramping up the difficulty and variation of the pirates would have made them a much stronger feature, but as it is, they were little more than a mild nuisance.
I’m a sucker for games with good writing, and Tradewinds Legends has it in spades. More than once, I found myself chuckling at the delightful wit and creativity of the dialogue and descriptions. The game itself is not especially creative, but the writing is top notch, as is the gorgeously appropriate art and music. Besides combat, my only real complaint is the difficulty of distinguishing buildings when you’re in cities. Eventually you start remembering where stuff is, but until then, there’s a lot of extra tapping involved. The small screen also makes navigating some of the menus a little more challenging, especially in the marketplaces.
Bottom line: the game is a little too easy to be truly great, but it’s still an exceptional value for the amount of entertainment and production value it packs in.
Here is a video demo of the Tradewinds Legends app on the iPhone
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