When the Swedish company Iridon Interactive opened its doors in 1998, they set out with the goal of gaining experience in the field of international game publishing and development. Several years passed and in 2004, Iridon changed its name to Legendo Entertainment. Legendo Entertainment began to focus on unique and interesting points of view for their titles: myths, legends, classic novels, and historical events.
Eight years later, we have been graced with their newest creation, Fortune Winds: Ancient Trader. This title is fitting for such a game, as we will soon discuss. The game plays intuitively and is easy to grasp in short order. As usual, I will discuss several topics to cover the game, including setting, plot, gameplay, graphics, sound, music, and replay value.
Fortune Winds: Ancient Trader takes place in a fictional island region, with several map sizes to choose from and play on. Several of the islands have multiple ports, some with related names (for instance, the island of Quertagena shares Puerte Grapa and Puerte Ruby, references to colors). The game has artwork that would date the maps that you play on to the 1500′s, and the technology and goods being traded match the time period as well.
This title has a set goal in the normal play mode; find all of the required artifacts to discover and defeat the legendary Kraken. The items include the sextant, the compass and the logbook. Custom game modes are available, but limited to the default ‘Legendary Kraken’ mode, or ‘Achieve Wealth’ mode. The second game mode mentioned tracks a person’s wealth based on the amount of money earned trading goods between the ports, fighting monsters, defeating enemies and completing quests, as well as finding chests adrift on the open seas.
I found that this game is a refreshingly unique take on the buy low, sell high trading game. It adds aspects of turn based strategy games and Rock-paper-Scissors (RPS) style combat games to the mix to round out the activity. Setup begins with the player choosing a difficulty level, a map and an avatar based on seven accurate culture representations of the period. Through the course of an “expedition”, you roam the seas and trade with the local towns to build your wealth. You then use this wealth to purchase artifacts and upgrades for your ship, including cargo space, speed and combat levels. The eventual goal in the default modes is to defeat the Kraken, the legendary beast that roamed the seas, swallowing up unsuspecting ships as they went about their business.
The trading system revolves around the purchase and sale of tea, spices, and fruit. Each port has its own fluctuating price point for each product, and it’s up to you to take advantage of the price differences to make a profit. For example, if spices cost one gold piece per pack, you could load up your cargo hold and venture across the sea to another port that would be willing to buy them for up to nine gold each. However, it is not as easy as it sounds…
The combat in this game happens often, and it takes some wit and strategy to effectively defeat your opponents. The combat system is built on the RPS system. Each weapon has different upgrade levels that make them more powerful in combat. When you enter combat, you first choose to either attack or defend with guns, cannons or swords. The power of each weapon can range from 1 to 9. Bonuses are given to weapons that beat each other in an RPS fashion: guns receive a +2 bonus against cannons, cannons gain +2 against swords and swords gain +2 against guns. The cards also have color coordination to better fit combat with monsters. The colors associated with each are: guns are red, cannons are green, and swords are blue. Anyone familiar with Pokemon will understand a color’s strength and weakness modifiers for each.
In exploring the open seas, it so happens you can run across all kinds of surprises, from flotsam full of goods to sell, to chests of gold, and even maelstroms that blow you to a far flung part of the map. Quests can be obtained on islands which are also a source of income. Quests task you with visiting specific ports for a variety of reasons or defeating a monster that has been terrorizing a port somewhere on the map.
The game however, is very short and repetitive. If you play it for awhile and figure something out that works, you can basically repeat the process and continue to beat the game. The ports are all the same, and all that changes from game to game is the size and layout of the map. Trading is effectively the same through the course of the game with demand staying high even if you deliver boatload after boatload of goods to certain ports. The prices will fluctuate a bit through a match, but once you find a trade route, its just about staying alive and finding the artifacts.
Depending on the difficulty level and game mode, the maps are larger or smaller and the AI are more or less effective at trading and combat.
One of the real draws though, may be the game’s hotseat mode that allows up to four players to go head-to-head in a single screen, turn based, multiplayer match. To tell the truth, I’ve never been a fan of having to share the screen with a person I’m playing multiplayer with, even with split screen console games. However, the potential is there for folks familiar and comfortable with this to have a good time together. Both ‘Legendary Kraken’ and ‘Achieve Wealth’ game modes are available for hotseat games.
This game is quite artfully done in a 16th century map theme, a la Abraham Ortelius, creater of the first modern map in the 1500′s. Legendo’s attention to detail in the crafting of the maps, creatures, and avatars make the game feel more authentic to the era they were trying to portray. After viewing the credit reel, it was made apparent to me that the whole of the artwork was drawn up by two gentlemen, whose effort was well received by the likes of myself.
The sound effects are clear and crisp without being out of place. While buying and selling, you can hear the clatter of gold coins entering and leaving your possession, as well as the hustle and bustle of people in the market square. The combat sounds are fitting, with the clang and boom of swords and cannons, and sharp cracks of black powder dragoon pistols firing in the fray. Splashes, smacks and snarls mix with these sounds as your ship combats a fearsome sea monster in a fight to maintain your money, goods, and dignity.
Anyone familiar with “Age of Mythology” will be familiar with the kind of music that is played in the background of this game. It involves several primitive instruments, including a lute like instrument, pan flute, bongos, and cymbals. All of these sounds are backed by a soothing shoreline sound effect that keeps a drone in the background so as to keep the player from becoming bored of the silence. All in all, the music is fitting to the calm action of this title.
This game is fun for the first few plays, but loses its luster quickly. Due to the lack of map types, gamemodes, or other things to do besides search for your artifacts in ports around the map, the replay value is not great. Maybe I’ve been spoiled to the simplicity of this game by the complexity of titles like “Civilization” and “Age of Mythology”, but it is boring to play for much longer than 2 hours in a sitting. I imagine it was built to be a fun casual game to play when you were short on time since one play of this game on a given map usually won’t take more than 30 minutes.
That being said, it is very accessible to most audiences, and would be worth checking out if you are a fan of historical games, the market strategy genre, or basic RPS titles. Stay away if you’re searching for epic journey games like “Civilization”, because this isn’t it.
For general audiences, this title gets: