High Seas Trader

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a game by Impressions Games
Platform: PC (1995)
User Rating: 9.0/10 - 2 votes
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See also: Strategy Games

Some time ago Impressions earned a soft spot in my heart by releasing a game called Breach 2.1 loved Breach 2, it was the kind of game that didn't try to show off, didn't try to be anything it wasn't. A game that was simple in concept, clever in execution and just damned playable. This was followed, not long after, by Rules of Engagement 2. Again, very playable, enjoyable and utterly worthwhile. It's because of those two titles that I'm willing to give Impressions the time of day when it comes to reviewing its software, and that's why I feel like I'm stabbing an old friend in the back when I tell you that High Seas Trader is nothing particularly special.

A vast behind

What we've got is a simulation of life as a 17th century sailor, trading on the open seas, battling with pirates, sailing from exotic port to exotic port, skirting the shoals of bankruptcy. Think of Elite 2 but in historical sailing ships. You buy goods at one port, find a good market for them, set sail, and sell your wares at the other end. All the while hiring and firing crewmates, improving and upgrading your ship and running special errands for certain citizens (delivering illegal goods, carrying passengers etc.). In fact, on paper it all sounds rather good and, indeed, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with it. It's very competent. Just nothing special, nothing to e-mail home about, that's all.

This is because all the emphasis has gone on the trading aspects rather than simulating life on a 17th century sailboat. To be honest with you, this game could be set in any era, using any mode of transportation and still be the same game. Although you get a pseudo-3D environment to sail in, it just doesn't feel like you're at sea, and so loses your attention all too quickly.

What Impressions should have done is plied more effort in to making the sea passages much more realistic, gone the whole hog and knocked out a MicroProse-style simulation game, with the trading aspects added for good measure. Then we might have had something. Instead High Seas Trader is all too flat and uninspiring.

Shiver me timbers

I have a theory that runs along the following lines. A game's strategic content is in inverse proportion to the quality of the presentation. I know it's something of a tradition for strategy games to have pretty poor graphics and sound, but I don't really see why this should still be the case. We're almost in the year 2000, for goodness sakes. High Seas Trader doesn't fare too badly on the graphical front, but things could still have been a lot better. The pseudo-3D that appears when sailing should have been a masterpiece, instead it's totally lacking in atmosphere. You slide along the water rather than sail through it, other ships jerk past rather than glide and should you fare badly and cause your game to end (by mutiny, death or bankruptcy), you just get dumped unceremoniously straight out to DOS rather than given the option of starting again. Very bad manners.

The Curse...!

All in all, High Seas Trader is a potentially interesting game which is let down by the curse of poor strategy game presentation. I absolutely impl ore Impressions to do a sequel, though, and to really push the boat out (so to speak) with the simulation side of things. It would make me extremely happy to think that the company that gave me so many hours of pure joy with Breach 2 and Rules of Engagement 2 could be great once again.

Go on Impressions, please, for me.

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System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

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