In Fortune Winds: Ancient Trader, Legendo tries to take the exploration and adventure of seafaring games and distill it into small concentrated doses. The team did a fairly good job, but probably distilled it a bit too much.
The goal of Fortune Winds is to explore the seas, trading goods at various ports of call, upgrading your ship and finding three artifacts that are required to take on and kill the Kraken. You theoretically have an unlimited time period to do this in, but your rivals will be trying to do the same thing, so you can’t take too long.
The gameplay is turn-based, so each turn your ship has a limited number of tiles it can move, though that amount is upgradeable. There are three different goods you can buy and sell, each with prices varying from one to nine gold and, of course, the goal there is to buy low and sell high. That’s fairly easy to do because the mercantile system is not complex and doesn’t react to past sales. So if you find a good, profitable trade route, you can milk it as much as you need to.
The only reasons to voyage outside of that trade route are for quests, which are only on the two bigger maps, upgrading weapons and finding the artifacts. There are three of them, and you cannot face the Kraken and win the game until you find and buy them all. Exploration can also be rewarding, though only as a side effect of searching for new towns trying to find artifacts and trade routes. Throughout each map there are monsters to fight, items to find and maelstroms to send you randomly across the map.
Combat is a nautical game of rock-paper-scissors. You have three types of attacks, colored red, blue and green, each one with a two-point advantage over one other color. You and your opponent pick one card, and whichever one attack has more points wins. As soon as you are both out of cards, whoever won by more points over the course of the battle wins. To keep you from using the same card over and over again, each time a card is used it either goes down in strength by one point or disappears for the duration of the battle.
There is also hotseat multiplayer for up to four players, but it can be an awkward game at times, considering you have to somehow hide your battle options from your opponents. After all, if they know exactly what type of attack you have selected, you’ll never win a battle against them.
The graphics are the best part of the game, easily. The entire game is drawn in 16th-century cartographical style. The UI, the map, and even the ships, monsters and battle cards look incredibly true to the source material. The sound effects and music blend in well with the atmosphere created by the graphics. They certainly won’t win any awards, but they build up the ambience, which is all it really needs to do in a game like Fortune Winds.
Sadly, there’s just not a lot of meat to it. There are three maps to play on and you can choose to play to a monetary goal instead of killing the Kraken, but regardless of the goal, the strategy is the same in every game and on every map. Find a trade route, get lots of gold, upgrade your ship, profit. And when each game takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish, it just doesn’t last long before you want some more variety. While the graphics and game ideas are right up my alley, there’s just not enough variety to last most people more than a couple of afternoons here.
Pros: great period graphics, good gameplay ideas
Cons: lack of variety, little replay value