Ubisoft strikes gold… er, spices with it’s first 100%, home grown title for iPhone and iPod Touch…
Ubisoft is no stranger to the gaming industry. You can pretty much expect quality from projects that Ubisoft releases, and the iPhone is no exception. While the Assassin’s Creed series of games were all ports from DS versions of the game, Dawn of Discovery: The Harbor is their first full game that was built for the iPhone from the ground up. (Rabbids was more of an app.) I’ll be honest, I was a bit disappointed when I found out this game was a simple management game. However, the more I played, the more I was impressed with the depth of polish this title has received.
The story follows the path of a, the 14th century harbor master, trying to make his way in an age of discovery and sea-faring traders. The game starts off simple enough, and very graciously applies new tasks as you progress. You will travel to 4 different locations in the storyline, all offering different ships, trading goods, and harbors. One harbor might focus on trading weapons, while others are more into raw materials. Some harbors have lots of large ships, while others have more small, fast ships that want to get in and out quickly.
The gameplay should be very approachable to newcomers in the genre, but may seem a bit easy to experienced players. I was able to beat the game in a couple hours, although there certainly were a few levels that I had to retry. In each level, rather than keeping ships from crashing, you are focusing on trying to make as much money as possible in trades. Large ships turn more profit, but can block ports for smaller ships. Some captains tip well but require fast service, while others are more patient but might “forget” to tip. All of this comes in to play with managing your resources, aka trade goods. I ship might come in to port with wood, but requires pearl before it leaves. If you don’t have any pearls in stock, you will need to find an incoming ship that has enough and dock them somewhere. In later levels, the docks themselves will fall into disrepair, requiring some of your precious gold to fix.
Aside from the story, there is also an endless mode that allows continuous play. There are in-game achievements which are displayed quite creatively. Rather than a standard list of goals, the achievements are placed into four different categories. As you complete the achievements in a category, they build an object in your office, such as a trophy or other objects. It’s a shame there are no online leaderboards, as these are pretty much standard in iPhone games nowadays.
There are many management games out there, and most are pretty much the same. DoD brings incredibly high production value to the table. The music is absolutely fantastic, with classical scores that often sound like something out of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The visuals are also excellent, with a cool rippling effect for the water, and surprisingly crisp ship models. All this is tied to together with a story that, while you don’t necessarily have direct control over, is somehow still engaging.
I mentioned earlier that I was disappointed to see that this game was simply time management. I felt this way because the current console/pc DoD games are more similar to games like Tropico, and I would love to see a great console-quality game like this on the iPhone/iPad! I can understand that Ubisoft, being fairly new to this device, probably didn’t want to take any risks. Even so, Dawn of Discovery: The Harbor is a breath of fresh air in a tired genre on the app store, and I’m looking forward to future games Ubisoft has to offer for the iDevices.