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Space Trader

Primary Genre Secondary Genre

When hearing a name like “Space Trader” most players are going to be either pleasantly surprised or slightly disappointed when they try this week’s game for the first time. Ironically, it’s not your average space trading game and relies heavily on an action packed first person shooter side-game to augment the trading, exploration and questing aspects.

The 3-D trading areas are fully explorable I've got the renegade Crusher Carl in my sniper sights

Space Trader involves the player attempting to make the most money possible over a set period of time in one of three independent scenarios. Importantly, there is no need for the player to pilot his ship between trading centres in the game. All the action takes place on various scenic locations around the solar system, and although the travel time between locations is certainly factored into the game, the travel itself is instantaneous for the player.

Commodities can be freely bought and sold via interacting with merchants on each trading station, and additionally there are bonus cargo items scattered throughout the levels that can be picked up and sold immediately or kept so that the player can get the best price for them at another location. The 3-D trading environments are by no means vast, but they are large enough to convey a sense of realism and reward the exploration of each nook and cranny with the free stashed items everywhere.

The trading interface My ship landed on the surface of Mars

It is in the best interest of the player to take as much time as needed to fully explore each area before moving on. Time only passes in-game when travelling from one port to another. NPC’s will commonly have quests for the player to accomplish which might include transporting cargo to a particular character for reward, assisting local authorities to bring a local crime lord to justice, or accepting third-party contracts as a hit-man for less scrupulous folk.

The first person shooter mini-game is triggered immediately when a mission is accepted and is played out in a variety of cool settings from the inside of the player’s ship, to underground car parks, subway stations and warehouses. It is fast moving, action packed and would be very familiar to those that have played any modern FPS title recently. There are 4 weapons, health and armour pickups as well as bonus cargo crates to be found in most missions and the difficulty level is quite forgiving. Enemy AI is sometimes a little obtuse, and since the player is given 2 chances even if incapacitated during a mission, there is no reason not to attempt all of them that are available.

It is very easy to make money in Space Trader. Due to the wild variation of prices at each location and also the effects of random events which can make the price of a particular commodity rocket or plunge, the cash will soon mount up. This is not necessarily bad, since the game feels like it has an action bias in any case. The targets that are required in each scenario will be attained in the first few play throughs, and due to the small number of scenarios available, replay value is questionable. If for some reason you run out of cash, the bank is at hand to offer you a loan, and an exorbitant rate of interest to boot.

In terms of graphics and sound; character models and animations are cleverly presented. Locations are stylised and distinctive. The action sequences are smooth even with a high number of models on screen at once. It is apparent that Space Trader has been put together by a team that are very confident and competent at making an immersive 3D experience. Without a doubt one of the best 3D indies I’ve played in terms of graphics in a long time. Sounds for all NPC’s are varied so that they never seem too repetitive (there’s some quirky humour in here as well) and the gunfights are bought to life well with some good quality sound effects. It’s hard to fault this game on either front.

The issues that I have with Space Trader revolve mainly around the lack of more scenarios. The three included ones will only take a few hours to beat at the most, and after that, simply grinding through them again for a top score doesn’t seem very appealing to me. The amount of locations available in each scenario is also limited to four or five, and seems to detract from the grand scale that is often better replicated in more freeform space trading games.

However, top marks are awarded for a very attractive presentation and an idea to fuse two mainstream genre into a playable package. The price tag of just $20 seems more than reasonable for Space Trader and I have to admit that I had a lot of fun with it until I ran out of scenarios.

Graphics 95%
Sound 88%
Playability 84%
Longevity 64%
Overall Score 82%
Silver Star

Published on 15 Feb 2008
Reviewed by Steve Blanch

Keywords: space trader review, hermitworks entertainment corporation reviews, hermitworks entertainment corporation games, space trader scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.