For ages now, I’ve loved the idea of airships and merchants travelling to floating islands. It’s a bit of a trope in a lot of shows but I personally really liked the idea of exactly that and I’d imagine a wandering merchant who’d trade away and… today’s Indietail is exactly about that!
Merchant of the Skies is a casual Exploration-themed game about trading wares in at a cheap price and selling them for a high price in other places while balancing your maintenance fees and fuel costs. There are a lot of layers to this game and I’m happy that I got to play this game… As mentioned yesterday, however, I just didn’t get to review it quite yet which is why I’m here today, apologising for the long delay. Here’s my review.
Developer: Coldwild Games Publisher: Coldwild Games Genre: 2D, Pixel Art, Casual, Base Building, Trading, Exploration, Indie Release Date: April 17th, 2020 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC, Switch, Xbox One Copy was sent by the devs.
You start off inheriting a boat and just getting sent off on a journey. The beginning is relatively hard actually since you don’t really have too many options. So you embark on a journey after refuelling your ship and deliver some letters as well as a few goods to a different place. The game has a bunch of different modes that you can select for a plethora of win conditions, but in the end, it really just depends on what you’d like to do. You can try and amass as much gold as possible or try to set up supply chains between islands. You can become a wandering capitalist or more of a postman of the skies if you want to. While you’re somewhat limited at first and while you’re at risk of soft locking yourself by driving off into the distance and getting stuck with no fuel, I find the freedom you enjoy later on quite amusing and entertaining.
The game itself is relatively simple: Buy at cheap prices, sell at high prices, invest in more goods, rinse and repeat. You’ll get the idea quite easily. Eventually, you’ll see the benefit of the expensive but a lot larger ships that may fly slower but store a lot more goods, so you’ll upgrade for those…
The best part about Merchant of the Skies is probably the fact that there is so much to explore. The map is covered at first in a mysterious fog of war, which is why you need to take expeditions into different parts of the map. You’ll simply click there and enter different places. It’s all relatively simple, again, but quite satisfying. On top of that, there are different quest lines and options for you to opt into. You can build a trading company of sorts and try to optimise resource deliveries from your different workshops and areas… Completing quests unlocks tickets that can be used to reduce the taxes… and when you purchase a lot of goods or trade with a lot of people, they develop over time and they unlock more features.
And well, what wouldn’t a game like this be without special islands and buildings. There are inhabited islands where you can refuel, trade or upgrade your ship. You can also deliver letters and tourists if you want to. Doing so will give you quest markers to point you in different directions, which is very nice as it incentivises the player to explore different parts of the map. There are also uninhabited islands that you can buy and exploit for resources such as iron, wood or stone. At the same time, you can also encounter special islands with a Majestic Carrot, for instance, or a God of sorts that needs to be fed. I personally had a lot of fun with this game and didn’t even realise how quickly time passed while playing.
But there are still some issues that I have with the game even when it’s really satisfying and enjoyable. For starters, I would have loved more variety in terms of music and sounds. The game’s music gets somewhat boring as time goes on and there were times where I had to just mute it completely and play other music over it. Sure, it’s soothing but I don’t want to fall asleep while I play games. At the same time, the game doesn’t seem to allow you to quickly move all or 5/10/a bunch of materials. I would have liked to see controls that allowed the player to move half a stack or a full-stack instead of rapidly clicking on the goods. It’s a bit unhandy and annoying.
At last, you may or may not be swimming in gold at some point. You can upgrade your ship relatively early and while there are a lot of things to do, you can eventually just complete tasks quite easily with the surplus of money you have. I would have liked it if the game was a bit more challenging. The only threats in the game are your cost-related. I would have liked it if there were express-delivery quests, sky pirates, expiration days on quests or goods, as well as more upgrades and threats. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity, in my opinion, but overall, it’s a nice game, even if it may get a bit easy as time goes on.
So, Merchant of the Skies is essentially really relaxing but is lacking in challenge and musical variety. The game is definitely worth it on a sale. If you’re into Offworld Trading Company or games like that, you may want to try out this title, too.