High Seas Trader (AGA version) (Second Review)

Title		High Seas Trader (AGA version) (Second Review)
Publisher	Daze Marketing, 1995
Developer	Impressions
Programmer      Tony Hosier (Amiga)
Game Type	Strategy
Players		1
HD Installable	Yes
Compatibility	AGA machines only
Submission	John Burns (john@jgb.abelgratis.co.uk) Profiled Reviewer

I recall buying this game back in 1996. At the time I got it I did so
because it had looked like a good clone of that classic Microprose game,
Pirates!. Sad to say I was disappointed and after playing it for a week or
so it was resigned to one of my disk drawers never to see the light of day
again, or so I thought.

Last month the A1 transformer on the TV which I use with my Amiga went
"bzzzzzt" accompanied by a rather horrid burning smell thereby making its
way to electronic heaven. Therefore I was left with no alternative but to
work from my VGA monitor on stuff for my website etc. However, as they say
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy", so I decided to try out some
of my old games and see which I could get to run, this being one of them.
So I gave it a reprieve and the following is the result.

As I have said this is a Pirates! clone and as such will always suffer
when compared to such a classic. The object of the game is to become rich,
famed and regain the title which your father wrongly had taken away from
him, etc. etc. Okay, so that's the plot but how do we achieve this aim?
Not surprisingly, given the title, it is accomplished by plying the sea
lanes, buying and selling goods whilst fighting off the usual pirate ships
and foreign states which are enemies of your own.

The game begins with some well rendered logos for the developers and the
game title and then after listing the developers, (which you can't skip),
you are presented, if starting a new game, with a series of menus in which
you choose your name, name of ship and nationality from the 5 available.
You are then taken to your home port which is dependent on said
nationality; Liverpool for English, Lisbon for Portuguese etc. All ports
are identical in the sense that they offer the same facilities, Bank,
Tavern, Market, Docks and Charthouse, though the size of the port does
effect what some of these facilities offer. Unlike in Pirates! port
graphics vary according to size and location i.e. A port such as Shanghai
has pagoda style buildings whilst those in N America look like stockade
type affairs. This is just eye candy of course as they all perform the
same functions but it is nice to see the cultural and settlement size
differences depicted thus.

The game itself is completely mouse driven, move over a building and a
message appears informing you of its function, left click and you enter.
If you enter the tavern you are shown a picture of various people standing
and sitting around and by clicking on these you can recruit sailors,
soldiers or apprentice sailors, gain information or be offered contracts
to transport goods. Other buildings such as the bank give you a menu in
which you can deposit or take out some of your money. This all works well
enough and is pretty easy to get to grips with. The other part of the game
is when you have to travel from port to port. Here you have two choices,
either using a waypoint system (providing you've hired a helmsman) or
manually. If you choose to begin the voyage manually you'll soon become
aware of just how long these voyages actually took though it is undertaken
in a nice looking first person perspective view where you control the
ships course by moving the steering wheel with the mouse. Nice for maybe a
small voyage from say Liverpool to Glasgow but for anything else invest in
a helmsman, you won't regret it.

The same 1st person perspective is used for sea battles which brings me to
a major gripe, namely the game cheating. I have said this about other
games and this one is no different in the respect that your enemies can do
things which you can't. In this case it's the fact that enemy/pirate ships
can fire at you whilst heading directly for or away from you. Sorry, but
since the cannon on these ships are side mounted it is ludicrous and also
makes a mockery of any steering which you try making to get out of their
sights and them into yours. Of course when you wish to fire you must turn
broadside on, aaargh. There is an auto button with which you can resolve
such conflicts automatically though this only lets you either evade them
or be captured. I must confess that this is probably the best option early
in the game as, until you have a larger ship and crew, boarding is

Well I don't think there is much more to be said of the game. Graphically
it is lovely and one can appreciate the effort which has been put into
this aspect. Control wise it is pretty easy and intuitive though if I was
to nit pick I would change some of the menus slightly though I dare say
this is maybe just my preference and not what everyone would want. I
haven't mentioned the sound so far, I'll just say that there is an option
to switch off the music which does become monotonous after a couple of
minutes though the sound effects such as cannon fire, seagulls squawking
etc. are pretty good.

So what does this all add up to? Unfortunately not a lot, yes it's a nice
game with some innovative touches for the genre such as the 1st person
perspective but this does not disguise the fact that the game just doesn't
grip you and rather than find you've being playing it for hours longer
than you meant to you'll be glancing at the clock to ensure you don't play
it for too long. Since I now have it back on my hard drive and it runs on
my monitor I'll no doubt give it a go from time to time but, and it's a
big but, these times will probably be pretty far apart.

P.S. I've now got a new telly so no-one need bother offering me one, as
if.  ;)

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