Tradewinds Caravans


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Rating: 4.5/5 (36 votes)
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Tradewinds Caravans

FunnyManAhh, the silk road. Incredibly hot, bug-infested, and filled with sand that gets into everything. When the tedium of taking your caravan from one place to another is just starting to bug you, bandits attack! Your own guards fend them off, but not without substantial losses, and then it's right back to trudging your way through the sand. This is the life.

tradewindscaravans2.jpgOkay, so joining a caravan on the silk road might not be this year's vacation craze, but it does make a good setting for a game. In Sandlot's newest addition to the Tradewinds series, Tradewinds Caravans, you get to experience the excitement and derring-do of a merchant's life, without the boredom and general unpleasantness that would tend to come with the real thing. In this loose, fantastical simulation of a merchant's life circa 100 BC, you will explore the silk road, fight your way through swarms of bandits, and uncover the unique story of the character you choose.

Pick one of four starting characters to get your merchant career started. This isn't just a cosmetic choice; each character has their own back story, mission, and ability in combat. tradewindscaravans3.jpgWhichever character you pick, you will be plopped down in some city along the silk road with only your back to carry goods and just two weak guards. In order to open up the other cities, you'll have to work your way through the story, but once you've opened things up, you're free to wander around as much as you like. Indeed, once you complete story mode, you'll unlock open road mode (along with two extra characters!), where you'll be able to wander the entire length of the silk road from the start, with no restrictions.

There are four main screens in Tradewinds Caravans. On the world map, you select which city you want to visit next. Naturally, you can only travel along existing pathways of the silk road. When you select an adjacent city, you drop down onto the exploration screen where you lead your caravan across the intervening space keeping an eye out for bandits and the occasional treasure left behind by a less fortunate merchant.

tradewindscaravans4.jpgIf you are so unlucky as to run into bandits—and you will, regularly—your guards get a chance to fight them off. Combat is fairly simple. You can assign a target to your units, use your character's special ability, or use any combat items you have purchased. You can also pause and resume the battle at any time, but for the most part, your units will stand or fall on their own merits.

The final important screen is the city screen, which can have anywhere from one to seven specialized buildings to help you in your adventures. The healer repairs your units, while the guild lets you buy more. The market gives you a place to buy and sell your goods, and the stables lets you buy pack animals to hold those goods. The moneylender lets you manage your bank account or take out a loan. The temple lets you buy trading tips or special items, while spending gold at the local seat of government can persuade tax collectors to look the other way.

Analysis: This game is fun. The story is compelling, a pleasant surprise from a game I expected to focus on the trading itself. Both of the characters I played had distinct personalities that evolved as the story progressed. I could have wished for the side quests to change more between characters, but that's a minor quibble with an otherwise impressive story.

On the other hand, I must confess that the game failed my initial expectation—trading—almost completely. The combat aspects of this game—and they're quite good, mind you—dominate completely over the trading. This impact would be less if bandits continued to drop the same small cargoes throughout the game, but their cargoes are magically linked to your own shipping capacity. As such, the dominate strategy I was herded into was of acting like a policeman, not a trader, which is disappointing in a game called Tradewinds Caravans.

The game keeps track of your caravan as it was when you left the last city, and you can continue from there if you fall in combat. While on one hand this helps the true trader survive with less escort than might otherwise be wise, it also emboldens the merchant-cop. Some of the tensest moments I had in the game came before I discovered this ability, when I thought fleeing for my soldiers' lives was my only option. You may want to set your own challenge and pretend this feature didn't exist, so that you too are forced to flee.

And flee you will; the enemies also scale up in ability as you progress. While this makes sense from a balance perspective, the effect on the player is to make any progress you might make seem as effective as sweeping back the tide. Indeed, in the endgame, it seemed that any force I put together was crushed by the overwhelming might of the enemy, and the only viable strategy left was to burn through combat items like tissue paper. The expense paled in comparison to the bandit cargo that was seized this way, making it almost seem like I had become the bandit raiding merchant caravans, and not the other way around.

If anyone's picked up on my style yet, you've probably guessed that I'm about to twist this one final time, and you're right. As I said earlier, Tradewinds Caravans is fun, and for that reason, I am willing—happy, even—to overlook its flaws. It wasn't quite the game I had expected, but what it was, was good. Despite a few issues, the combat was solid and the lessened control actually feels more realistic than either the fine-grained control of an RTS or the utter lack of control in a simpler game. The story wouldn't hold up to a novel's standards, but compared to what one often sees in games (even—and perhaps especially—mainstream ones), it is excellent. Even the trading mechanic that I glimpsed through crossed swords seemed solid, if it could only be uncovered.

All-in-all, Tradewinds Caravans is a solid game that you won't likely regret buying. And from my stingy, often regretful fingers, that's no small compliment.

WindowsWindows:
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25 Comments

WhitneyGH Author Profile Page July 6, 2008 2:28 AM

This is quite a fun game. I especially enjoyed the little inside jokes in the characters' dialog. For instance, there was a "Princess Bride" reference ("You killed my father, prepare to die") and a reference to the infamous "aristocrats" joke. I agree that the combat modes overwhelm the trading aspect of the game, but I found that trading became easier once I beat the story mode.

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Anonymous July 6, 2008 3:10 AM

I'm a big fan of the Tradewinds series, but this one seems to keep crashing without warning. The window just completely closes. It has no relation to what I'm doing at the time- it has closed while in town, buying things from the market, talking to characters, on the road, etc. It also doesn't appear to have relation to time. I could play for 5 minutes or 40 minutes before it suddenly kicks me off.

Is anyone else having this problem? I use Windows Vista, wondering if that has something to do with it...

Also, I can't even see my cursor when I'm in full screen mode...thankfully I have a touch screen so I can just tap my way into the options menu to fix it, but it's a bit of a hassle.

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if you've played the other tradewinds games, it's fairly obvious that trading has never been a major part of the gameplay unless you choose to make it so, which, actually, you can. the story has always taken center stage.
the statement that the combat element of the game overpowers the trading element is shortsighted; in a common and fairly forgivable mistake, the makers confused "challenging" with "tedious and repetitive." the faceless bandits quickly turn into a dull, irritating chore.
as for the story, it's ridiculous to even mention that a story "wouldn't hold up to a novel's standards" because it doesn't have to, it's a game. at any rate the story lines were totally impressive, and seemed to me an elaboration and improvement on the slightly shallower stories from the last game, legends.

anyway, it's a good game, and a lot more flexible than the reviewer has made it out to be.

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I tried the demo, I quickly got really annoyed by being able to only travel from one city directly to the next one, it felt like half the game was spent pressing a series of buttons to travel around.

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Jennifer Cleckley July 7, 2008 1:26 AM

It's one of those games that starts out all right, but gets harder and harder, as you go along.

The poor monk seems to start out at a disadvantage, from the get-go.

The thing is that you don't seem to be able to increase the number of units you can have in your caravan, even though you have maxed out the caravan. :P

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Dragonscale Author Profile Page July 7, 2008 5:35 PM

I don't like this one as much as the previous games. The plot and dialogue are still hilarious, as expected, but the gameplay is lacking. Being forced to take specific routes in order to get to a location is tedious. I think they should have made a more non-linear map. Combat is a little clumsy; it's not as fluid as the sea battles of the other games. By itself, it's still solid, it just wasn't up to my expectations.

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oh, no, i read the whole sentence (: it just seems a little bit like an affectation, that's all. jayis hardly ever reviews short fiction, after all.

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Well the secret to end game combat is easy. For this reason

The monk guy is ridiculously easy because of healing, use special abilities. You need 5 elephants, no melee units. As many elite archers as you can. Replace elite archers with summoners and mystics as you find them. Also, splurge the cash that you get for selling the goods they drop on 20 or so of the final ammo.

I have never lost a single battle through the two campaigns I've beaten.

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Anonymous July 31, 2008 12:20 PM

Hi,
Enjoying the game, but got myself in a little pickle. I have no idea where else to post this question, so hope i can do it here:

I can't get to Bactra for the 'true colours' part of the quest: there is no trial there, the mountains seem to block it all. I finished all the optional quests so far, safe for the 'horse races' one, but can never seem to get back in time.... Any help or link to Q&A much appreciated :)

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I need help... August 2, 2008 2:25 PM

I need help with the princess suitor task. I have tried to do it at least twenty times and I always run out of time. Is there something I don't know about this task, because I always run out of time when I still have at least two towns to run through.

Can anyone help me with this one?

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Anonymous August 7, 2008 12:03 AM

I can't get through the princess suitor task either. I am about to leave

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Some little help fot the Princess suitor task:

Try another (shorter) Way ;)

But what about the horse race? I even sold all my goods and my carriage elephants and went only with an axe warrior, to get faster and I ran out of time again! Is there some trick? Special item to buy at the trader's shop?

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I found combat was stupidly easily and highly tedious once you get the hang of it, actually (the trick is to learn when which units attack what). Further, Caravans is interesting in that it's the first Tradewinds game in which location is actually important; moving silk around China gets you only marginal profits at best, but holding on to that silk all the way to Constantinople will reap absolutely stupid profits. The old Tradewinds/Taipan trick of moving back and forth between two cities in order to make vast amounts of cash doesn't work here.

Come to think of it, that's probably why the reviewer thought trading paled in comparison to combat. Trust me, the money you get from combat is peanuts compared to what happens when you trade silks from China for perfumes or suchlike in Europe.

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Like someone else, here I've completed everything but the horse race and I can't think of anything else to try. Help please!

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I'm having so much frun playing Tradewinds Caravan - I've completed the storylines for the Monk, the Mother and the Servant, and am now working on the Princess ...

... but I'm stuck on the "When in Mongolia" quest (main). I'm supposed to hire a new caravan, and I've done everything from sell what little caravan I had and buying a full 15 unit caravan to restarting the game entirely, but nothing happens. There doesn't seem to be a certain city or place I need to buy a caravan from, and there doesn't seem to be certain number I need to buy. What am I missing?

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Here's the trick to winning the horse race!

It does help to have a fast caravan (pack horses and elephants are the fastest) or to have the Golden Saddle from the Trader, but the REAL trick is how you move on the travel screen. Each step is roughly a day, so if you go off to a corner to explore or to veer off course for that little treasure chest, that's lost time. As soon as you hit the screen where you manually move your caraval, use the red arrow keys on the side of the screen to scroll to your destination, and click that city. The game will automatically move your caravan in the fastest, most efficent path there is.

Good luck!

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so where is the walkthrough? lol i must be blind cause i cant see one~!

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Anonymous March 30, 2009 1:00 AM

As with other Tradewinds games, I was disappointed that I couldn't get units as good as what my enemies had--in Caravans, the enemy had dragons, demons, etc.

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I'm having the same issue with being unable to get to Bactra for the 'True Colors' quest as the Monk. I think it's a bug in the game. I have completed every possible task on the east side of Bactra, and the path is still not open.

rats.

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thuy duong August 23, 2009 2:07 PM

I did it , I did it
Guys, I completed the princess's suitor task of the Mother (name from Princess or MOnk i don't know cos haven't played yet).
Firstly, I was struggling like everybody but I found the way.
U have to complete all the other tasks then at the end, when u have no more task except the princess's suitor. Then u should sell all your cargo, all your horse (or elephants, or camels), remains only u and your guardians. This will help you to reduce the heavy and make you run faster.
Then follow the route from when u met the guy that order the task for you, buy the ink in Badagh, then follow the route to Constantinope (i dont' remember the exact name) and just run and run from countries to countries then u will made it on time.
dont' worry if u met bandits, it won't affect your speed.
Just try it.
Ah, I don't know is it correct or not but in my case, when I sold out all my cargo, and all my guardian is elephant soldiers so maybe it made me fun faster, I guess

Those are something from my experience ^^
Hope it's helpful for you guys

Good luck and have fun

From Vietnam

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rockonmom February 3, 2010 1:33 AM

I think I accidently double-clicked when going through the dialog with the Chinese doctor. I've found everything but five mugworts, but I don't even know what a mugwort looks like! Without those last five items, I can't get past this quest. Any suggestions?

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I cannot for the life of me figure out the When in Mongolia task either. I've gone all over the map and I've bought new guards, etc. Still not getting anywhere :\

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(Totally lost my log in stuff).

I can't find the mugworts either. I played this before I formatted my hard drive and found them, but that was months ago, so don't remember now. I've been from one end of the empire to the other, talked to everyone and don't know what I'm doing wrong. Haven't gotten any new quests, and haven't found the mugwords. Whaaa!

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If you need to find something rare, PLEASE don't be in ther middle of a sidequest that needs you to be hyper. Get every treasure bag on the roadsides, maybe fight a few more bandits if it's not an issue, and after traveling between every possible route both ways, you may get something if you already talked to everyone and looked everywhere else. Oh, and talk to guys you find on the road if you have a huge armada of soldiers at your whim and special at it's strongest. Particularly when they don't look like monsters or Mongols, cause if they do it could be an enemy when you are not going to be finding anyone anytime soon.

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