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Black Market (Beta)


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Rating: 4.5/5 (66 votes)
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BradBlack MarketWelcome to Black Market, a resource trading simulation from Big Block Media, where you'll be put in the space shoes of Vincent Wake, a greenhorn to the whole inter-planetary trading thing. Luckily, you'll both have the dubious guidance of Hardgrove, a man who lives inside Vincent's eye-patch (or rather I-Patch). He's like a tutorial that haunts your accessories. Black Market's gameplay is at its most basic a resource trading simulation. You buy your commodities for a low price then do some space truckin' to a planet where you can sell them at a higher price. You can smuggle illegal items if you want, but there's always a chance your cargo might get searched as you're docking. That's the least of your worries, though. A far bigger threat are the pirates that roam the trade routes.

And eventually those pirates are going to catch up to you, so you better be ready. Luckily, there's quite a few weapons at your disposal. There's your speedy beam cannons and missile launchers, then you've got your fighter drone swarms and EMP bursts. There's also a whole host of automatic defensive and offensive lasers and special gadgets that can give damage boosts or repair your ship. Combat itself is pretty simple. Use either your mouse of the keyboard hotkeys to select the weapon you want to use on an enemy ship and BLAMMO! it gets unleashed. The weapon will then enter a cooldown period and you'll have to wait a short amount of time before you can use it again. As you hit your enemy, they'll jettison a crate every so often and when you destroy their ship they'll leave behind a lot of crates. Use your tractor beam to pull in crates and you'll get extra money and, if you're lucky, some commodities or equipment.

Every time you make a trade or win a battle, you'll get experience points that contribute to you gaining a level. Every level nets you five skill points that you can invest in one of the four skills: weapons, navigation, trading and piloting. The higher your skill level in a category the more resources, ship parts or better ship you can buy in the case of weapons, trading and piloting or the more places you can go in regard to navigation. Most items have a minimum skill level requirement so if you're going to dominate the spaceways you better beef yourself up.

Black MarketAnalysis: It's important that you know that Black Market is planned as a three part series, the part currently available being Episode I. Big Block Media's current plan is to have the next two episodes be pay-to-play. While that might be a turn-off for some of you, don't let that stop you from enjoying Episode I which offers a lot of content and more importantly is a great game.

If you like games like Frontier or Caravaneer then you'll absolutely love Black Market. Hold on, though, even if you don't care for trading sims, there's a lot more to enjoy in this game. In fact, if you want commodity trading can take a back seat to engaging in space combat or completing the story missions. Likewise, if you only care about making a lot of money you can concentrate on trading. Since you're awarded experience for selling resources you can skill gain levels and open up new items. It's a well designed system that only has one problem. When you visit a planet, you can go to the local bar and buy people drinks in the hopes of getting info from them. The most important info will help you make choices about what to buy and where to sell. But, even if you get a tip like "burn battery prices are through the roof on Dante" you might very well have no idea where Dante is. This wouldn't be too much of a problem but you don't seem to be able to see the whole map of the planets. Your scope is limited and it will make you hesitate to go exploring, especially if you don't know if you even have the skill level to get where you're going. Still, there's a lot of trading opportunities on the planets you're familiar with.

The combat system is a big part of what really separates Black Market from other games in this genre. It actively engages you, battles are often quick so they don't get tedious and there's a lot of different weapon set-ups you can try. Most battles are a little bit on the easy side if your ship is fully repaired, but if you're careless you can find yourself running away in an escape pod. Having your ship destroyed is kind of annoying, especially when you were hauling a lot of cargo and lose it all or if you have to repurchase a piece of equipment in order to complete a story mission. Thankfully, the bottom of the barrel ship isn't too expensive and it's pretty good for hauling and fighting. If you want more of a challenge you can turn on the experimental beta combat mode where you'll find yourself fighting off several enemy ships in each battle.

For those who like story with your space combat, you'll find a lot here. It's not the greatest plot in the world, but the writing is well done. All the characters are distinct and the Black Market world is thought out and interesting. What Black Market does better than most games is humor. Not every joke will hit for every player, but I never groaned while reading any of them. In fact it's one of the few games where I welcomed the creators trying to be funny.

Black Market is a lot of fun with very few drawbacks. With a lot of ways to play there's bound to be something that will appeal to a player. It's updated frequently with bug fixes brought up by the community. It's highly addictive and thankfully there's a lot of content to gorge yourself on. Even if you're not a fan of resource trading games don't let that stop you from trying out a game this good.

Play Black Market

20 Comments

Does anyone know when it comes out of beta?

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Paul Greasley October 20, 2010 3:36 PM

We will be out of beta sometime next year, we have just released act 2 and act 3 is about a week or so away, but we still have piles of stuff to do before we are done, most of which is listed on the blog.

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FYI, the link within the review is both broken and points at the wrong domain.

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I thought it was worth mentioning, a LOT of the gameplay here is reminiscent of older PC games such as Freelancer and Starlancer.

Similarities to Freelancer include:
Combat:
- the cooldowns for weapons
- Many of the weapon types (missiles, mines, blasters)
- Tractoring in goods from destroyed ships
- Attacks from pirates on trade lanes.

Trading:
- Basically the whole trading system is similar to Freelancer. Store interface is similar, as is the bar interface, the weapon/ship/mechanic interface.

System travel:
- Planets and stations joined by travel routes, with star systems separated by wormholes.

Really, the main difference is the story. I really enjoy the story. I enjoy the gameplay as well because I enjoyed Freelancer.

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I have a problem with the game where you can't flee during a story-related battle.

I was playing for a couple of hours and had a frigate. I was destroying all pirate encounters in a few salvos, until these huge level 42 pirate ships started appearing. I had to run from one before because he was a little too stong.

But then I had to fight one for the story-related mission (the one where you go through the wormhole for the first time) and he was even stronger. So needless to say, I died. The flee button wasn't there.

So I am left with a pod without weapons. I managed to get to a shipyard to buy a new scout and I barely have any weapons nor can I find the type of weapons I was using before. The randomly flying pirates are level 21 or so and I can not kill them. So I'll have to start over now. I might not bother.

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If your ship is wrecked, and you dont have enough money, try buying one of the commodoties cheap (shown in blue) and sell for a higher price, increase the bulk as you travel from station to station, i.e making a fortune.
when you reach about 5 k, you can buy a cannon, that would be enough to blast a pirate away.
Dont activate beta if you are not up to the job, without it the highest level a pirate would be is 20.

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fuzzyface Author Profile Page October 21, 2010 4:49 AM

frikazoyd, I question how much inspiration they took directly from freelancer, rather both games are reminiscents of the greatest space game "Privateer".

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this is an awesome game! there goes my $$$...

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fuzzyface Author Profile Page October 21, 2010 3:32 PM

As mentioned briefly I really like the quest to revive some of the good old Privateer spirit! The game has all in it.

And I'm so glad it does NOT have 3D fighting! Thank you! The broadside to broadside scenes are just fine. I'm so tired of X-Wing like hushing the mouse around to keep some box in some cross hairs. (Aside from 3D being difficult to code in flash, I personally really dont need any 3D space fighting simulation anymore :-). Altough the current World of Warcraft reloading "skills" refreshing, could use some more deth - like talesworth arena, imho one of the best example of a deeper fighting system.

I like the story, it has originality and okay humour. Soul jars and all that.

My favorite punchline, the ghosts that want heavy weapons on your last request in return of their favor, so that wenn you ever pester them again, they can shoot you right out of space.

My other complain is, the values it transports. It teaches you to be a sneaky bastard, and doesn't let you have to behave like any other way. e.g. I use to live up, sometimes crisp but always honest. I'd wish that any of my multipleoptions I'm offered actually would make any difference - I've not yet noticed so. In the same way, the game is *very* linear, there is not sideplots, no chosing, no moral conflicts in decissions, nothing! Its just follow the main route, with some pauses to trade inbetween (in that regard it resembles very much freelancer, which was altough an okay story, also strictly linear).

Altough i dont want any 3d, some more "motion" in space would be preferable, like planets rotating slowly around their suns and tradelanes thus switch from time to time. (I dont konw the timeframes of the game, but if it are months that pass, a planet should move a little).

Next to a map, I'd like to have some log, to see prices last I've seen them last been on a planet. (And I wonder why in a hightech world, there is no interplenatry market communication available, so I could see *current* prices and amounts on all markets.

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Really great game.
Right from the start, the graphics in the intro are super impressive, and all along the game I really felt that there was a lot of care put in every detail. Maybe the story is a little too linear, but still, I'm considering buying the game. It's really a great idea to resuscitate this kind of game (Privateer-like, Elite-like?), I remember those games although I didn't really play with them at the time.

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Is the game to remain web browser based only, or will there be plans to release a standalone exe?

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Smoothfonzo Author Profile Page October 22, 2010 2:59 AM

Awesome game. For those worried about dying and having to start over with buying a new ship and re-arm your ship, I've figured out a way around it. When you're at the battle screen, and you've lost, instead of clicking on the dialogue box, close the game window, then load it up again, and you'll be at your location before the fight with everything intact.

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Anonymous October 22, 2010 5:55 PM

@Smoothfonzo:

I don't think it's really that bad to lose a ship. It's even a little fun. I've lost two, and it doesn't take too much time to get a good one back. With the skill points in trading, you can make money really fast. At first, I buy the cheapest ship, which is practically free to have a little more cargo, and I just try to avoid fights...

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Smoothfonzo Author Profile Page October 22, 2010 7:27 PM

True, it is fun, but you often have to track down even the basic weapons in order to be able to fight back, and I've been in situations where I couldn't find much.

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I like this game... very addictive to a point. However, I found it way too easy, and having the "guy in my head" tell me what to do and how to do it all the time, without any real options bugged me, and it made it too easy. Instead of clearly delineated hand-holding I think it would be nice if it took just a little brain power to figure out the missions and if there were options and multiple missions at a time. Also, I ran around in an escape pod trading up for half an hour and made a million dollars in no time when I died (OK I was like level 40 when I did that, it takes a little more time when your trading level is lower.) I guess I would say it just needs a little more challenge for the brain, because otherwise I'm just following instructions from some guy.

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Hi! I'm hi! I, in my opinion, LOVE this game!

It's wierd my screen name is hi.

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does the EMP generator actually do anything?

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Finished this game about an hour ago (Act III is available now). I'm glad I paid for it and would recommend it. I think it was updated recently to allow server-side game saving, so now would be a good time to start playing it. More thoughts below.

@Sebby19 - the EMP generator is a defensive "weapon" for battles. It clears the screen of missiles and mines heading towards your ship. I like to have one in a slot.

The game becomes very easy around the half-way point once you have the best ship and the best weapons. Maybe updates will add more challenge?

My ship strategy:

Use energy weapons - the Standard Particle gun, Ion Cannon, Vary Cannon, and Cascade Cannon - as your primary weapons. These appear to do the most damage in the shortest time, without a delay in hitting your target. Once you have enough money, buy a Barge class ship. When you have at least 12 million, buy the XX1 Colossus which is the best ship you can get at the moment.

I suspect that using all your automatic weapon slots for Defence Lasers is most useful. You don't need the extra firepower that other items provide. The Defence Lasers will reduce damage to your ship which will save you money repairing it. :) Repair items in battle are pretty useless.

As for techs, Cloak is the most useful outside of battle as it saves you time avoiding enemies. Emergency Restore kit is nice to have but with a good ship build you'll never need to use it.

The game is entirely linear. I would have liked to see side-quests and perhaps a side-plot. Or even random events where planets will reward you for bringing them resources or destroying pirates.

The story is pretty good. However I feel you get thrown in to the story and game too quickly. You won't really appreciate what's going on unless you have a good understanding of the backstory by reading most of the 'wiki' notes on the right of the game screen. I first had a look at this game months ago but decided that I didn't want to continue because I didn't understand what was going on. I spent a good few hours just reading about the game universe before deciding that I wanted to enter and see how I could interact with the story. This is obviously not the best way to draw in customers!

Some minor things that would make the game better (if fixed or added):

1. There's a quest where you attack the same character three times. After any battle, the enemy will say something about their wife/husband/spouses. When I played it through, this same character used the wife line after one battle and the husband line after another... (Clearly got something good going there...)

2. Various typos here and there, missing full stops etc.

3. Sometimes in missions where you have to talk to people at bars - Hardgrove will interrupt you before you finish reading what the last person says.

4. A permanent reminder of your current mission, displayed on the main screen, would help with remembering quantities of required items.

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Ytaker May 1, 2011 1:07 AM

Meaning of the game.

(black market) You are empty, in a room alone. You told us that your life was insignifigant that you could never make it amount to anythng. You said you would give anything to have a second chance, to make yourself better.

You did amazingly, and were meaningful. Hence, you get one question. If you ask us who we are we will lie.

They give you four questions. Here are all four.

How much do you control.

Very little. Almost everything. A million deals to make a thousand work. A hundred needed, to preserve ten key actions at ten key times. Figuratively speaking.

Why are you doing this
Because a long time ago someone saved us in exchange for a favour. To this day we have not repaid our debt. We must repay all debts.

What are you
We are conenient. We are satisfied. We are your foundation.

Who are you
We are something complety alien to you. (lie)

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