Welcome to a new game genre: First Person Trader. No, it doesn’t sound quite as exciting as a first person shooter, but I guarantee it’s ten times more addicting!
Using a heavily modified version of the Quake 3 engine, the folks of HermitWorks have created a fantastic 3D trading simulator, and the smoothest first-person game I’ve seen for on the iPhone to date.
Space Trader: Moon Madness controls using a left and right joypad area. The left is for moving and staffing, and the right is for looking. This works perfectly, and I was instantly comfortable from the the first five seconds of starting a new game. I honestly can’t think of a better way to do first-person controls on the iPhone, so I hope other game devs out there use Space Trader as current gold standard, and follow in it’s footsteps. It’s that good.
The 3D environments are crisp and have a descent amount of detail. You can travel between the Moon, Earth, and a space station. All three are unique, and each has a different feel to it. More impressive though, are the characters in the game. I’m amazed at the amount of detail that some of them have. Some of the characters will move around the station, but the majorit stay in the same place with each visit. If you can’t find someone, you can always contact them directly from your HUD.
The sound is probably the only let down in this game, as there is practically none. Sounds for foot steps and making purchases is about as far as it goes. Would have been cool to add in various ambient noises, or perhaps even some limited voice acting. To be honest, this doesn’t take a lot away from the game, but simply would have made it more immersive.
Ok, so now that the technical stuff is out of the way, what exactly do you do in a FPT game?! It sounds complicated, but if you understand the concept of “buy low, sell high,” you will do perfectly fine. The goal of Space Trader: MM is to increase you’re “net worth” by traveling between the three locations while buying and selling goods as the market changes. For instance, I would by Gold on Earth while the price is low, then travel to the Moon and sell it for $1,500 more per unit. I would then use that money to buy more expensive items at low prices to sell elsewhere.
You can gain information on approaching trends through the newspaper, or by paying locals. These are vital in your trading career, and will help you make wise decisions about what to buy with your limited funds. If things get too pricey, you can borrow money from the bank to cover a purchase. You can also deposit money in the bank if you have some extra cash. Both of these options will gain interest over time, and can
either help our decrease your net worth.
A nice addition to trading gameplay is the inclusion of various missions you can perform for people you meet. Generally they involve delivering an item, or purchasing items for someone in a different location. This brings a light RPG element to Space Trader, but unfortunately it wasn’t capitalized on. I would have liked to see some plot-focused missions, or maybe missions that actually effect the market in various ways.
As you explore the different environments, you will find various cargo scattered about. As your net worth increases, and you buy more cargo space on your ship, these items will offer more and more when you pick them up. This provides a purpose for actually walking around the environments, rather than just skipping from one contact to the next to sell items. Oh yes, and upgrading your ship’s cargo space is also affected by the market. Sometimes it’s better to actually sell cargo space to make money, or to buy more space during certain times. You can only hold as many items as cargo space allows.
Aside from the sound, there are two other things that disappointed me with this game. The biggest is the fact that it only saves the game when you travel to a new destination! I had several cases where I had to close the game, and I would lose all my progress since I last traveled. Secondly, the game is far too short. You will complete the game in about an hour or less. Granted, Space Traders is designed for you to play it over and over to increase your high score, and get a better trader rank. I played it three times before writing this review, and I enjoyed it all three times. The problem is, the missions don’t change at all, so you’re doing a lot of the same tasks over again, which isn’t that fun. Granted, you don’t have to do missions to enjoy the game.
180 days to trade seems like a lot, until you find that one trip from the Moon to Earth is 25 days! While this may be realistic, it hurts when you have to travel in order to see the market change. I would make it a top priority to upgrade your ship’s engines, as this seems to cut travel time by %40-50. Still, this only adds a few trips to the total game time. I would have loved to see an “extended” mode that gives you a whole year to trade and grow your net worth.
In speaking with the developers, they mentioned having HUGE plans for this game. Things like adding new locales, new missions, multiplayer, and even FPS action elements to future updates. I can’t rate a game based on what it will be, but I can say this game is already under-priced at 99 cents, so if more major features and content are slated to be added later, you need to get this game before the price goes up!
Presentation & Graphics
Among the best as far as first-person games on the iPhone go. There’s still something to be desired from the environments, but if detail was removed in place of a smooth framerate, I say it’s worth it. The character models look great for the most part! No framerate issues to speak of!
It’s a shame audio was mostly overlooked. Some good ambient sound and minimal voice acting could have gone a long way. Luckily it doesn’t really effect the gameplay a whole lot.
It’s simply a joy to walk around and trade with people. I don’t know why, but it is. The game makes it very easy to understand how the market works, and could almost be used as an educational resource in that way. The first-person controls are the best I’ve experienced on the iPhone, and the in-game HUD is extremely accessible and easy to use.
This game is definitely different every time you replay it. This is great, but there are a few things holding it back from having virtually unlimited replay value. We need random missions, rather than the same ones every time. Online leaderboards are a MUST for a game that involves scoring. How about unlockable locations when you reach a certain trading rank? Most importantly, this game needs an extended gameplay mode that doubles the amount of days you can trade. It’s just too short as is, and it feels like you’re yanked out right after you start really sinking your teeth into it.
First off, you’re not going to find a better looking/playing first-person game for 99 cents. It’s extremely playable, enjoyable, and… addictable? There are definitely improvements to be made, as the game is not perfect. If the developers pull through on their promise to add new content and gameplay features, Space Traders: Moon Madness will be the app the keeps on giving for a while to come. In it’s current state, Space Traders is easily a $3-5 game, and plays as a premium game should. There is so much potential to evolve Space Trader into something so much greater than the great game it currently is, and I’m anxious to see what it becomes in upcoming months.