Friday, 24 September 2010

Ancient Trader - 360/PC

This cracking sea-faring adventure is available either from the Xbox 360's indie game marketplace or for PC direct from the official website.

Taking place on a beautiful sepia-toned naval map, the aim is to be the first to take on and defeat the game's boss - the Ancient Guardian.

First, however, you have to significantly upgrade your ship and to do this you need cash - and lots of it. Working out the most lucrative trade routes throughout the archipelagos is vital, then, and as you are up against other players, it's a race for supremacy.

Players buy and trade exotic goods, sink fearsome ocean-dwelling monsters, collect waterlogged cargo, upgrade their hulking galleon and do battle with rival captains on the high seas.

Each upgrade to your ship not only enables the player to traverse greater distances across the map, but also increases the power of your cannons, muskets and swarthy sword-carrying crew mates.

Even when your vessel has been upgraded, three artifacts must be purchased from various ports before taking on the gargantuan beast of the deep. As you are always up against other players, deciding when to make your final push is often fraught with peril. Take the plunge too early and chances are you'll be unsuccessful. But leave your preparations too late, and you'll find a rival has already beaten you to the punch.

Along with this main game mode, full online multiplayer throws in a few more objectives, such as accruing the most wealth quickly. Unfortunately, I found getting an online game was particularly difficult. Not because the match-making system was flawed, but because there weren't many people playing - a crying shame as this is a brilliant and well-balanced gem of a game.

Battle takes the form of a simple rock, paper, scissors card based affair, but what it lacks in depth is more than made up for by the game's beautiful presentation and easy to navigate menu system.

It's a truly wonderful title and with plenty of maps of varying sizes and sharp, simple gameplay, Ancient Trader stands head and shoulders above other similarly priced games. Make it your next online purchase.

Ancient Trader is available from the Indie Games Marketplace on Xbox 360 for 240 Microsoft points. PC owners can buy the game from here

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