Game: Merchant of the Skies
Genre: Strategy | Simulation | Adventure
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam & Xbox One )
Developers | Publishers: Coldwild Games | AbsoDev
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US E
Price: EU €14,99 | USD $14.99 | UK £13.49
Release Date: July 30th 2020
Review code used, with many thanks to AbsoDev
Merchant of the Skies is a trading game with light base-building and tycoon elements, it was released in April this year on Steam and has received mostly positive reviews. Now Merchant of the Skies has flown its way on to the Nintendo Switch, let’s see what it offers.
Mix of Genres
Merchant of the Skies doesn’t have one particular genre nor does it stick to one genre. This game is a mixture of multiple genres, from resource management, trading to exploration of the world map to base-building.
Violence is non existent in Merchant of the Skies as there aren’t any enemies to battle against and it makes a pleasant change and relaxing gameplay.
Meet Uncle Boe
The campaign mode is where you will begin your voyage around the skies. Uncle Boe sends you on your first quest after you inherit his trade business and a tiny airship and some coin and then you sail off into the blue skies in your airship to make your fortune.
A tutorial of sorts at the start of the game leads you through some of the basics of the game but I think it could have been expanded in more detail to the player especially in the later stages of the game when a little help is needed when rarer resources are necessary.
As you explore the world you’ll ferry goods between ports for the best prices, complete jobs for the many guild houses and in time purchase your own islands to produce locally-sourced goods to sell.
Islands are either a thriving place with a trade center, a trade guild, a recharge station and usually a house where you can pick up passengers to ferry them to another island of their request to earn some coin. The other islands are resource islands where you come across different resources to gather and then sell on, hopefully for a profit. Your airship will dock at the side of the island, however, there’s no running around these islands, they’re essentially fancy menus for trading and upgrading your airship.
Sail The Skies
You’ll take on quests from the Trade Guild and the resource quests from the Shipwright and these quests mix in well with trade aspects of the game as you can do them at your leisure and concentrate on the trading in the game. After all, you want to become the finest and richest trader in the skies.
When you start sailing around the skies the map is obscured by fog, which slowly disappears as you sail through it. It’s quite exciting to discover what is hidden under the fog. One drawback I found was at the start of the game your ship doesn’t have a lot of fuel and what it does have is consumed rather quickly. This leads to a lot of pit stops back to islands that have a recharge station where you pay to fill up your ship’s fuel. I felt it breaks the flow of the game up.
Once you progress the game and purchase a larger ship the pit stops for fuel are reduced and it lets you concentrate on the bigger aspect of the game which is trading.
Discover Strange Island Inhabitants
You don’t only trade goods to the shops, you also have the option to purchase many of the untamed islands of the world, allowing you to build port facilities and production centers there to generate your own goods to sell on to the shops.
You’ll come across some islands which are a little strange, on one particular island you will find a singing carrot, yep you read that right! The Majestic Carrot as it’s known and when you interact with it you follow the carrots instructions to play a rhythm mini-game to collect a reward.
Another one of these islands is the Mysterious Hands and when you interact with the hands you can receive some batteries which are used when the airship runs out of fuel. Visiting these islands breaks up the repetitive nature of the trading side of the game of finding goods, trading said goods and refueling your airship.
Merchant of the Skies offers a simplified version of trading sims, acquiring resources on the cheap and selling them for a profit is a simple yet addictive gameplay mechanic that does draw you into this world in the skies.
However, for everything Merchant of the Skies does well, there are a few things that it doesn’t do as well. For example, you can see at a glance the resource prices across every shop which is great but you can’t see what islands you do own and what resources are being produced on these islands. As this is an important part of the game I’d like to see a menu showing me what my empire consists of.
Visuals and Controls
Visually, I really like the look of Merchant of the Skies with its pleasantly pixelated steampunk world, that gives off an atmosphere of a calm and whimsical world. The soundtrack is very limited and you will hear the same music over and over again. My solution to the repetitiveness of the music was to turn the volume down, but I shouldn’t have to do that if the developers had added a little more variations in the soundtrack.
Controlling Merchant of the Skies is done using the Joy-Cons, it works fine though at times it can feel a little clunky and it does still feel like the controls from the PC release of the game.
Merchant of the Skies is a neat trading simulation game, with relaxing game play. Though I don’t think the game allows for much of a replay after you have finished the campaign mode.
There is a sandbox mode to play around with, but once I’d played and completed the campaign mode I’d basically completed everything the game has to offer. There isn’t anything particularly new in the game, however, the gameplay that Merchant of the Skies offers is engrossing and an enjoyable experience all the same.
Final Verdict: I Like It.