When the title of the game is “Galactic Trader,” one would normally forget about any sort of adventure. Most games with “trade” in the title tend to be overly bloated business-type games that just aren’t all that fun. Well, small miracles happen every day as 3 Blokes Studios have launched Galactic Trader this week, and it actually turned out to be both very involved and interesting without being weighed down by features and rules.
Published by 6 Waves, Galactic Trader still holds a good number of the business elements that have come to differentiate business games such as Trade Winds (one of the oldest examples of trading games we can think of). Nevertheless, rather than sail about passively, the game takes a much more active approach to play with a very treasure-hunting sort of concept coupled with random space battles (yes, space battles). As odd as it might sound, everything fits together quite well. The downsides: a distinct lack of an overarching goal, and overly spammy notifications.
So players are an intergalactic trader, and the idea is to build up a trade empire within a particular sector of space. Players travel about from planet to planet digging up different minerals in a treasure-hunting (e.g. Treasure Madness) sort of way. Of course, the key difference is that users aren’t using shovels, but lasers. Consuming energy, players can dig up minerals, experience, or the occasional ship part randomly at each grid space, or scan the region to see exactly what grids actually contain something.
Depending on the size of the ship one has, users can only carry so many pieces of cargo, forcing them to return to a home base periodically to make a drop off, which will cost energy upon planetary return. However, should players have a few Facebook Credits lying around, they will be able to teleport their goods back to base safely at the cost of one credit per trip.
Once it’s stored back at the home base, users can do a number of things with the ore including direct sale, research, or bolstering one’s fleet. Since the game is entitled “Trader,” the sale is the best place for us to start
When visiting the “Galactic Trading House,” players will be able to see the market value of every single mineral in the galaxy. From here they can buy and sell items, but what makes it of particular interest is that the value periodically updates itself. This means that the sale price of ore will constantly change. In addition to sale, players can also buy ore from the trading house. Typically, this costs Facebook Credits, but as it updates, random minerals will cost in-game coin instead. Furthermore, there’s a nifty feature that allows users to post a message to friends, informing them when the cost of something is particularly low.
The Trading House is also host to another social feature in that players can post up to three items for sale on the “Open Market” as well. This is a market only visible to Facebook friends and allows them to buy and sell from each other directly.
So why is this important? Well, since the galaxy is a dangerous place, it becomes prudent to build a fleet to protect one’s self, and ships require specific materials, as well as coin, to build in the first place. This goes beyond building more cargo ships (which you can do), but actually constructing attack vessels as well. When traveling around the game’s star map, such as when one is traveling from a mining local back to home base, it is possible to be randomly attacked by an evil, bug-like race of sentient critters.
This enters a rather interesting game mode, as players are able to control the flight paths and targets of each ship as they blast away at enemies. It’s an interesting concept, but feels a little shallow. While ships can be moved at the user’s discretion, enemies can shoot almost clear across the battle space anyway, thus the only strategic mechanic is to focus fire on one enemy at a time. Perhaps this becomes more tactical in later levels, but early on, it’s more just an interesting break in the routine every once and a while. Still, it does have a great deal of potential, and should this be integrated into a sort of player versus player mode, then it could become the biggest contributor to lasting appeal.
That’s really one of the noticeable qualms with Galactic Trader. Everything is heavily cyclical in the sense that players mine ore, to get better ships, to mine more ore. As it stands, the space battles are merely a brief interruption in this routine, and there is just no real goal to reach for. In most games, there is a virtual space, or some visual, to improve, while in others, it’s a competitive element (e.g. Mafia Wars). Neither is present here.
As for other elements of the game worth noting, there is also a research mechanic that allows users to transmute materials they have into rarer ones or even ship parts, so that they may build new ships faster than normal. In addition to this, Galactic Trader also allows friends to gift these materials (as well as energy). In fact, and while on the topic of social elements, many ships actually require a set number of friends to construct all together.
Coincidentally, social elements are a reason for another complaint. Players are constantly bombarded with pop-ups telling the user to gift energy, request gifts, invite friends, or some other mechanic of social play. Since the game is brand new, this will likely be fixed very quickly, but as it stands, a pop-up occurs every 25 seconds, unless the player is mining.
Regardless if existing issues, Galactic Trader is a very different take on some older ideas, and can be potentially a lot of fun. Right now, the biggest issue is the lack of long term goals (at the moment, all that exists are short term mission goals – e.g. mine X amount of Y ore), which is likely going to affect the stickiness of the game in general. Nevertheless, the app does make excellent use of Facebook Credits without forcing it upon the user, and really does get friends involved and working together. Long story short, while the game is far from perfect now, it could become very high quality with future iterations.