The first time I saw Winds of Trade, it reminded me of my young self playing Uncharted Waters on Super NES and how happy I would be sailing around the world trading items and making new discoveries. So yes, I reviewed Winds of Trade under that nostalgia, expecting that again, and I could live that old feeling...not fully, but for a brief moment.
Winds of Trade, almost there
Winds of Trade is a ship trading simulation. So basically, the player must buy ships and make trade routes by the sea, by making money for buying more ships and establishing new trade routes. Old folks will probably remember Koei's Uncharted Waters series and Ascaron's Patrician. Sadly today, both are kind of forgotten, but you can always find a new indie trying to update the genre. Winds of Trade attempts following another way for enacting this genre, by making most things simple yet fun. In my opinion, it is like a Sid Meyer's Railroads to Railroad Tycoon. It simplifies the genre, while being well polished and pretty focused on the central theme: trading goods.
The game has some random quests. Most of them are trading opportunities, but some are about smuggling missions. The smuggling missions are a nice way to make money fast, but if it fails, the player will lose tons of money. In this game, as opposed to most (if not all) ship trading games, the countries and cities are created randomly, as well as the economy and that works fine. The supply/demand factor works well, but sometimes it looks like neighbor cities don't trade in the continents and this could make the game a little weird since the player can trade expensive goods between two side by side cities.
The player can also fight with other ships, but in my opinion, it's the weakest aspect of the game, since the player has very few options for upgrading ships. While in Uncharted Waters the player would have tons of cannons, ship armors and military focused on the ships themselves, Winds of Trade simply allows the player to buy more cannons for the ships.
The combat is turn-based and has very few options, considering that the player can only shoot enemies or try to escape from them. Yes, the player can choose a military like ship, but in most cases it will be used for the transportation of tons of goods and not for fighting. When I was playing it, most of my matches ended up with less than 10 ship combats. And that is strange since I would go to a lot of smuggling missions. It looks like the navy is not working very well.
Recommended for newcomers to the genre
Winds of Trade is not the game that hardcore trading games fans are looking for. The trading system is too simple, there are not many options for earning money and most of them are way too plain. A hardcore gamer will probably find that the way to win is by buying stocks of the service that makes most of the money (manufactured items, like clothes and books) and work a trade route with this company, and then by buying stocks from the raw material companies that are used for creating the same products. So you will control all production line and make tons of money. Mercantilism 101!
Then why should the player care about missions and other things? This is a low point to some gamers, but it can be a high point for other kinds of players. So before you buy it, think about which kind of player you are. If you want to enjoy some good time sailing around and making money, maybe this game is for you. If you are looking for some action, complex narrative and gameplay, this game will make you happy for one or two days.
Find out more about Winds of Trade on the developers' Twitter account.