Astraware, the British mobile app developer and publisher responsible for a whole host of decent games over the years, have recently started to become very prolific in their support for Palm’s webOS platform. From Astraware Boardgames to OddBlob and Police Range, the releases have come thick and fast, and the latest to emerge from their stable is Tradewinds 2, originally a PC game that has been converted to smartphones. The previous Astraware releases on webOS have all been good, solid games; I’m happy to report that not only does Tradewinds 2 cement this, but it also improves upon those games and provides a more long lasting and in depth experience.
Tradewinds 2, as you might guess from the title, is a trading game at it’s heart. You guide your 17th century sailing ship from port to port in the Caribbean buying goods in order to sell them off at a profit elsewhere. The trading market is really well thought out, as goods not only have different values at different ports, but are also affected by the time of years. So, as an example, you might buy some cotton from one port in January, stow it away for a few months and sell it for a huge profit somewhere else in November. The way you come about the information isn’t as simple a reading a graph of statistics, rather you have to visit pubs in the ports and try to glean the information from the patrons, who will be more willing to give you trade secrets if you buy them a drink first. The system is very good, and means you really feel as though you are becoming part of the world instead of just looking at stats.
You can use some of your hard earned money to buy weapons for your ship, or even buy whole new ships altogether with larger cargo holds, or improved armour for combat. The combat itself is simple. When you come across a pirate ship or fleet of ships, you can target one ship at a time for your cannons to blast away at, or use limited special weapons to deal large damage or hot multiple craft at once. You also have the option to flee if you think the battle may go against you, at which point your ship will crawl away, still taking a fair bit of damage. There are various shops in each port, such as a money lender for some quick cash if you are stuck, a warehouse where you can store goods and a bank where you can put money aside. Visiting the governors mansion on each island in story mode lets you attempt missions, which vary from simply going after some pirates, to more interesting quests where you have to track down a precious stone. Gathering clues from locals on different islands and trading some cargo on these missions is fun and opens up the game nicely. The game is actually surprisingly fast paced, with your ship whizzing to a port, buying or selling, shooting over to another port, getting ambushed by pirates or caught in a storm, and it is the sort of game that sits nicely in card view awaiting your return.
The graphics are good, with the ports well drawn and animated nicely so that they buzz with life. The only disappointment with the graphics are the battle scenes that are a little lifeless and static. The music is nice and never grates, and definitely falls into the jaunty pirate category. There are different characters to play the game with, each of which will give you a different ship to start the story with, with an extra character to unlock, as well as a cool character generator to enable you to create your own seafarer. There are 20 ports to visit and 100 missions in story mode, as well as a free trade mode where you can make your own way without the story. The only real problem i have with the game is that the combat can become a bit of a chore, mainly because fleeing an unwanted fight can take far too long. I would have preferred the option of an instant exit with a set health loss.
There is also an element of unfairness in the fighting, as when you have just scraped through a fight with a little health, the island you land on may have no ship repairing facilities, meaning a journey to another island that brings the danger of another unavoidable pirate encounter, which with little energy you are unlikely to survive. Despite this, Tradewinds 2 remains an excellent trading game, and one that will suck many more hours from you than a lot of more, higher profile games will.