High Seas Trader logo AGA Amiga Computing Bronze Award

Calling all Sea Captains that want to buckle their swashes. If high seas adventures are your bag then get ready to shiver your timbers. Tuna Haddock reviews.


Since the days of Elite, strategy trading games have been a very popular genre. Now Impressions, the masters of strategy, have turned their talents to the high seas and combined the usual dose of trading with a rum punch cocktail of sea shenanigans, pirating and combat.


There is no storyline to the game as such, more a brief background. You are cast in the role of a merchant sea captain during the 17th and 18th century, eager to prove your worth and win back your family’s honour.

Your Father was a Viscount serving the Earl but when the Earl died his son took over and to cut a short story even shorter, he was a bit of a bad sort. Your Father, being an honourable chap, would not stand for it but the new Earl, being far more powerful, strips him of his wealth and title.

And now you seek to regain your family’s honour by working your way up the ranks on the high seas. You start as a mere peddler and you strive for the ultimate title of Viscount. You must increase your rating in daring, honour, loyalty and nobility.



Gameplay is divided into many distinctive parts. For one, you have to navigate your ship. This is done by choosing the port you wish to go to and plotting a course to it. A problem arises though, because when you place the cursor on the map you can scroll it around. This is supposed to be a plus point but if you move your mouse too far, the map jerks unexpectedly off the area you want, and even moving your cursor to the instruction panel of the same screen can result in losing your place on the map.

While on the high seas you will have to deal with pirates and attacks from enemy ships. You do battle by firing cannons and you have a wide range of artillery at your disposal, from the small Swivel Gun or the Demi-Culverin to the Cannon. This works well and brings variety to the game.

And the main part, as you’ve probably gleaned from the name, is trading. As you sail between ports you will have to buy certain goods and then decide where to sell your cargo for maximum profit. This, as you’d expect, is the game’s strong point and is quite in-depth.

A good captain will also take care of his crew, making sure conditions are good and ensuring there will be enough supplies for the voyage. Wages will also have to be set according to morale and funds available. If you neglect these, you will find you will have a sickly and mutinous crew on your hands. When morale gets low you can boost the rum rations or entertain them in the local tavern when you reach land.



Just recently, Black Legend brought out their venturing game called Voyages of Discovery. Although a very similar concept, they both have very different gameplay. Voyages uses a turn-based system and places emphasis on discovering continents and building an Empire as well as trading.

There is more to Voyages of Discovery, but High Seas Trader looks far more attractive and is probably easier to get into.



The game implements different tunes for certain areas of the game. For example, above deck you have a different tune playing to when you go to your cabin. All the music fits in with the time and atmosphere of the game, but as stand-alone tunes they’re not exactly brilliant. If you particularly want to have in-game music it is adequate enough but more than likely you’ll turn this off to have just the sound effects option.

But again, I’m afraid, they’re not very good either. There is the occasional creak of the boat or the splosh of the anchor as you plot your course on the map, and there is also a rather dubious seagull cry throughout. I feel as though a great deal more could have been done to increase the atmosphere.




High Seas Trader has been very nicely presented, however I do feel that some of the visuals have not been exploited to the full. For example, when the crew mutiny, you only get a still screen (albeit a very nicely drawn one) of you having to walk the plank. The same goes for the market. Although you do get a well set-out table which contains all the information you need, I would like to have seen some visual representation of the goods you can trade, or just something with a bit more appeal.

The game boasts to have a ‘stunning’ 3D perspective. This is apparent when you are sailing the ship and you can see the ocean ahead and supposedly the helm of the ship. Again, I feel this could have been done better by maybe showing the front of the boat or having the wheel more prominent to give more of a realistic feel.

The actual effects do work well though, from the lapping of the waves to the storms with the darkened skies and bolts of lightning. Overall, the graphical style is good, although limited, and the ports look nice. The inside locations such as the tavern or the cabin fit in with the period and also look very good. Although everything is very nicely drawn, I do feel that some animations would have not gone amiss.




On the while, High Seas Trader is a competent trading simulator, with more variety than you usually get ina game of this sort. However, it’s not without its drawbacks. The 3D view gives the game a certain graphical appeal, but I can’t help feeling this could have been implemented more effectively. Also, the navigation of the ship is far too fiddly and as this is a major aspect of the game it does become very irritating.

There are elements that do work very well though, such as keeping your crew in order and morale high. Combat with enemy ships also adds variety. The trading aspect works well too, especially with various events affecting the economy such as wars or locusts which will alter the price of harvested crops, but by talking to the bartenders you can pick up all the news you need.

Those heavily intro trading simulations may well want to give this game a try. It is quite fun for a while but there were quite a few negative aspects which would put casual players off returning for another go.

High Seas Trader logo AGA

James Leach buckles his swashes, holds his head up and says: 'I am a software pirate!' But only in this game, mind. Not in real life.

This game is a great idea. Just think about it. All the elements of a classic strategic sim are here – exploration, trading, battles plus adventure. And all done from a first-person point of view. So how can it possibly fail?

Well, let’s have another look at those elements, shall we? Firstly the exploration. This, initially, is done well. There are several ports of port graphics to visit, so Liverpool doesn’t look like Lisbon, which doesn’t look like Guadeloupe.

But each port has the same elements, generally. There’s the tavern (for recruitment and news), the bank (dosh, obviously), the market and the dock. So once you’ve seen a few ports, you’ve seen them all. Then they tend to be places to buy rations, cheap things to sell expensively somewhere else, and to get soldiers and sailors to replace those killed en route.

The trading is pretty simplistic. In each tavern you can find out what’s worth carrying, and the only real decision to make is which routes to ply.

Once you have found a lucrative sale route, keep at it until you’ve got enough cash to buy another ship, with bigger cannons and more cargo space. It’s hard to see how you can make trading in a game like this more interesting. Perhaps if they carried plutonium in rusty barrels. Or under-sedated wild animals...

The battles are something of a disappointment. Selecting auto-combat is a wise move if you’re left cold by this (and you’ve got a ship that can take care of itself), but it’s touted as an important part of the game and as such could have been done with more excitement and panache.

As it is, you generally just turn to bring your side-mounted cannons to bear on the foe, and blast away until he’s sunk. Or until he sinks you. Boarding is altogether much more fun, though, and you get the chance to grab some booty, too.

Adventure is perhaps the crucial element lacking in High Seas Trader. Sea monsters and serial mutinies would be asking too much, but the way the long ship-board weeks are handled is a bit too simple. Suddenly, you find yourself in the Caribbean, and the selection of ports is much the same as in Europe. Sail around a bit and come home when you’ve got gear to flog in London or Liverpool.

It really is as easy as that, assuming you stay out of serious trouble (or click the on auto-combat button when you get into a skirmish).

High Seas Trader is a brave attempt, and contains much of what it needs to be a good game. But there’s something lifeless about it and the fact that it used the 3D-ish first-person view doesn’t add the exotic spice it should. In fact, not even the exotic spices add the exotic spice.

So, we’ve got a game which is fun for a bit, but ultimately as flat as they thought the world was back then.

Wasser, Wellen & Waren

High Seas Trader logo AGA

Die Briten sind ja eine Seefahrernation, Impressions konnte für diese historische Wirtschaftssimulation also auf einen reichen Erfahrungsschatz zurückgreifen - trotzdem hat man nicht allzu hoch gegriffen...

Zwar kann hier nun ein Seefahrer seinen Amiga zu Wasser lassen, doch darf er sich immerhin aussuchen, ob er Mitte des 17. Jahrhunderts unter englischer, holländischer, spanischer, französischer oder portugiesischer Flagge die Segel setzen will.

Wie bei dem guten alten "Pirates!" hat die Nationalität dabei Einfluß auf das Verhalten anderer Schiffe, und die Häfen eines verfeindeten Landes sollten auch nur Selbstmörder anlaufen.

Zu Beginn erhält der Kapitän eine kleine Fluyte samt Mannschaft sowie 5.000 Goldstücke, um es durch den Handel mit 15 Gütern zu Reichtum zu bringen.

Doch zählt nicht allein der schnöde Mammon, denn wer die Kaufmannsgilde beeindrucken will (was Sinn der Übung ist), muß auch hehre Werte wie Mut und Ehre unter Beweis stellen. Erst mal werden aber Waren eingekauft, wobei die wechselnden Handelspreise aller bekannten Häfen jederzeit abrufbar sind.

Hat man den Basar dann verlassen, sollte das Schiff mit Proviant, Kanonen oder Ersatzteilen bestückt werden. Auch Fregatten aus zweiter Hand sind erhältlich, und wohlhabende Händler dürfen gar den bau eines neuen Kahns in Auftrag geben, wobei unter sechs Typen gewählt werden kann. Mehr als ein Schiff zur selben Zeit ist jedoch nicht erlaubt.

Der nächste Weg führt in die Hafenspelunke, wo der Barkeeper allerlei profitable Neuigkeiten zu berichten weiß und Seeleute oder Soldaten auf Arbeitssuche herumlungern – ihre Heuer schwankt je nach Qualifikation.

Hier finden sich auch zahlungswillige Passagiere; darunter allerlei zwielichtige Gestalten, deren Transport dem Ansehen eines ehrbaren Kaufmanns schaden kann.

Und ehe man dann endgültig in See sticht und Kurs auf eines der insgesamt 62 Ziele nimmt, wäre noch an den Erwerb von Seekarten im Kartenhaus zu denken. In unbekannten Gewässern wird die Mannschaft nämlich unruhig (gilt auch für mangelnde Rum- oder Nahrungs-Rationen sowie zu knapp bemessene Heuer), was im Extremfall sogar zur Meuterei führen kann.

Unterwegs übernimmt man entweder persönlich das Ruder oder läßt seinen ersten Offizier (quasi der Autopilot) ran. Jetzt bedrohen noch verheerende Stürme und feindliche Schiffe das Unternehmen, weshalb vorsichtige Seebären gleich abdrehen, sobald ein fremdes Segel am Horizont auftaucht. Wagemütige dürfen hingegen mit den CPU-Kollegen Informationen, Vorräte oder eben Kanonenskugeln austauschen.

Sollte es zu einem Echtzeit-Gefecht kommen, hat der Spieler wiederum die Wahl, selbst als Schütze zu fungieren oder sich auf die Treffsicherheit des Rechners zu verlassen. Wer den Kampf zum eigenen Vorteil entscheidet, ohne den Feind gleich versenkt zu haben, darf dessen Schiff entern, was zu einer rein vom Computer berechneten Rangelei an Bord führt.

Sollte man auch hier als Sieger hervorgehen, ist man um die Ladung des Gegners reicher. Zurück in der Heimat wird ein Teil des Profits in eine Immobilie investiert, die mit den erworbenen Schätzen zu dekorieren ist – das quittiert die Handelsgilde nämlich zuweilen mit einer Beförderung bis hin zum Rang des Viscounts.

Grafisch ist von übersichtlichen Menüs, ziemlich träge animierten Überfahrten und hübschen Hafenimpressionen zu berichten, wenn auch viele der Liegeplätze gleiche Bildchen aufweisen.

Die Musikuntermalung ist dagegen durchgehend eintönig, und die sparsamen FX tragen ebenfalls wenig zur Stimmung bei. Hinzu kommt eine prinzipiell gelunene Steuerung, aber warum, zum Klabautermann, muß das Schiff beim Hafeneinlauf eigentlich jedesmal von Hand gewendet werden? Außerdem sind die deutschen Screen-Texte erbärmlich schlecht übersetzt.

Auf der Impressions-Fregatte sollte also nur anheuern, wer "Pirates!" oder "1869" bereits auswendig kennt; Neulinge im Seehandel sind nämlich bei diesen offensichtlichen Vorbildern nach wie vor besser und inzwischen auch preiswerter aufgehoben.

High Seas Trader logo AGA

It was on the good ship Venus, by Christ you should have seen us...

I was looking forward to this game. I was looking forward to it because it sounded like Pirates! Gold (AP35, 74%) by Sid Meier, author of nearly all my favourite games such as and Civilisation, except with a first-person viewpoint which sounded more interesting to look at.

I was looking forward to it because I think the Golden Age of Discovery is a fantastic period to set a computer game in with its five relatively evenly balanced protagonists; England, Spain, France, Portugal and Holland and their intriguing shifts of political power as a backdrop, with its opportunities to explore strange new worlds and meet strange, new civilizations and with its emphasis on ship-to-ship warfare and dueling as methods of resolving conflicts.

So, suffused with a pleasant glow of anticipation, I got the game running. I was happily charmed by the quality of the graphics as I explored the port of Liverpool and then set sail, I liked the creaking mast sound that was made whenever I turned the wheel to steer the ship and I started building up a healthy, if immoral, little profit running arms from Liverpool to Madeira.

As I played some more, the ‘plot’ of High Seas Trader became clearer. You choose which of the five major maritime trading powers you want to come from and are assigned a home port in that country. You are made a member of the Merchants’ guild in your home port and have to impress them to rise in status.

Your status is measured by four numbers representing your daring, honour, loyalty and nobility. When your levels reach certain predefined numbers, your level as a captain goes up.

Factors that affect these numbers are: winning sea battles (which improve your daring), helping ships and poor passengers on carrying smuggled goods (which affect your honour), bringing spies home and firing upon enemy ships (for your loyalty) and generally exploring the world, which adds to your nobility.

Unless these numbers increase you don’t advance and so you’re confined in the game to being a noble, honourable, loyal and daring member of your merchants’ guild. The point of all this is that apparently when you reach Viscount level you’ll have returned to the level your father was at before he fell foul of an evil Earl and died of shame or something. Not that the game gives you any chance to revenge yourself on this dastardly noble of course. It’ll just end there.

Now Pirates (the other game) lets you be a low-down, black-hearted, gallant, swashbuckling, devil-may-care adventurer. You gather together a bunch of bloodthirsty cutthroats wo’d mutiny as soon as spit, you rid the seas of notorious pirates, you launch land attacks on enemy towns, you rescue your long-lost sister from slavery, you har-har your way through the life of the dashing sea-dog.

High Seas Trader, on the other hand, forces you to be a tedious, bookwormish, loyal accountant of the high seas. You sail from port to port fastidiously noting the difference in prices of a range of goods and buying the cheaper ones. You occasionally give a passenger a lift. The rare encounters you have with other ships devolve into tedious farces where the only sane option is to use the auto-combat because otherwise you’ll end up tearing your hair out.

High Seas Trader is awful. The control systems are clumsy. It’s one of those games where you have to wave your cursor about the screen to hit upon completely unobvious hot spots’ that act as menu items, so to go to the market you have to locate the market building in the town. Grrrr.

The game cheats, so while your merchant ship is only capable of holding 100 men, an opposition merchantman can have anything up to 200 hiding on it which of course you’ll only find out when you board it.

The people firing the cannons on enemy ships have some form of ESP (or ancient AWACS airborne radar system) that allows them to hit you easily when they’re over the horizon and therefore invisible to you.

There’s no way of telling what damage you’ve done to an opponent’s ship – the graphical representation doesn’t change and nobody gives you a report so you might have hardly touched it or it might be on the point of sinking, you don’t know.

You have to keep your crew healty by giving them a balanced diet which includes fruit, but as the manual points out fruit spoils, so to get round this you just buy more fruit than anythign else so that even if you’ve been sailing for a year there’ll still be some fruit left just because you bought so much of it. Realism to be damned.

The really tragic thing about HST is that after three entire days of play I hadn’t found a better route to riches than my initial plan of running arms from Liverpool to Madeira, so I was forced to visit other less profitable ports solely to increase my nobility rating and increase my level. So I ended up sailing around the world for NO GOOD REASON WHATSOEVER except that I had to get my character to level two because THAT IS WHAT THE GAME DEMANDED. Aaarghh.

There are, however, a few clever ideas in HST. Well, all right, two. One is that you have to buy charts to the world before sailing around it. That in itself isn’t at all clever, stopping you as it does from exploring for yourself. The clever bit is that as time goes by your maps become out of date and you have to buy new ones, and that’s quite good.

The other clever idea is that you can set up a route on your maps and get your first mate to do the sailing from port to port which leaves you free to go and make tea for the rest of AMIGA POWER, except Jonathan.

But the major irritating with HST is the opportunity it misses. Pirates is several years old now and is still a far, far better game. HST manages to have less options, less character and is much less fun than Pirates.

I get the feeling that Impressions sat around and said ‘Hey! Let’s bring Pirates up to date!’ but then failed completely by thinking they had to find an angle of their own to make it different and not having the imagination to come up with a good one.

There are a lot of things they could have done to make HST a fantastic game. They could have let you be a pirate for a start, although that would have meant designing a good combat engine. They could have allowed YOU to discover new continents, rather than having to buy maps. They could have let you ("Develop trade links." - Ed) with new tribes of indigenous people around the world. They could have let you chase infamous pirates around the globe. They could have made it fun.

As it is, Impressions have managed to make High Seas Trader one of the most interminably humdrum games I’ve ever sat down and played. You spend all your time heading towards an abstract goal that you very rapidly stop caring about. It’s dreadful.

Nothing could have been more exciting in that glorious age of adventure than to chase down a fatly-laden merchantman while your rigging swarmed with jeering, dark-hearted men itching to board and loot her.
High Seas Trader
"She'll be ours in a minute boys. Har har har."
High Seas Trader
(After making everybody in the office a cup of tea) (Except Jonathan) "Any minute now me buckos we'll be a-tasting their blood with our naked steel. Har har har."
High Seas Trader
(Ten minutes later) "Zzzzzzzzzzzz."

High Seas Trader logo AGA

█ Price: £34.99 █ Publisher: Impressions 0171 351 2133

Swashbuckling action ahoy as Impressions take to the seas with their latest strategy sim.

Think of Elite, or indeed Frontier, but change the spacecraft to an old wooden boat and all that space to oceans‘ worth of salty sea water and you‘ve got High Seas Trader. It’s a trading sim, set in the 17th century (1651 to be precise), but unusually features a plot in addition to the trading gameplay.

The plot centres around the player’s father who was ruthlessly treated by a vicious earl and ended up dying penniless and miserable. Therefor part of the aim in High Seas Trader is to regain your father’s lost honour and through the accumulation of wealth and stature return yourself to your rightful position in society as a viscount.

Accumulating wealth is a difficult process when the game begins. Starting off at your home port, you begin with a small amount of gold coins but these quickly disappear as soldiers, sailors and apprentices need to be hired to man the different sections of your ship.

Apprentices are cheap but their skill level isn’t high, while soldiers are skilled professionals who demand high wages. Not paying wages will severely dampen the crew’s morale. The crew also require provisions to keep them alive while traveling from port to port and this depletes your cash reserves further. As does the need to purchase weapons, both handheld and cannon shot, in order to warn off the pirate menace.

Thick sailors
Complex sea battles, either against a foreign enemy or pirates are possible, but not that common. It’s best to avoid battle until you have a crew large enough to man the cannons properly and form a boarding crew if necessary.

It also helps if you pack more of a threat by having a larger boat complete with more cannons. Sadly upgrading your boat remains a dream for the first few ‘years’ of game time.

The ports around the world vary in size from outpost to city, with smaller ports generally not having as much to offer in the way of charts, supplies and labour compared to the larger settlements. However all ports feature a tavern, charthouse, bank and dock and it’s in these buildings where you’ll spend most of your time when not at sea.

Unsurprisingly the tavern is a good place to build up the morale of your crew by filling them with alcohol, but you’ll also find plenty of new recruits, often with better skills than those currently employed.

The bartender is a good source of gossip and it’s wise to take note of his information regarding which goods are in demand, as well as current political allegiances. Enemy ports won’t allow you to dock so you don’t want to waste months travelling somewhere only to find they won’t let you in. Beware though, because the bartender’s information may not always be up to date.

Some taverns also harbour people seeking passage. Charity cases are common and helping these people will boost your honour rating. Many of those seeking passage are spies, escaped prisoners or smugglers and while they might pay well up front, there’s a considerable risk in having them aboard after leaving the security of a port.

Once you’ve begun to accumulate some wealth, various dealers will appear in the tavern peddling paintings and jewels among other treasures. These items are expensive but are essential to progress through the higher ranks of the merchant’s guild, as well as increasing your nobility rating.

Building your own estate
When the serious money starts rolling in it’s time to buy an estate. Three sizes are available and each has space for increasing amounts of treasure. Estates are another good way of advancing your status in society. Buying a larger vessel or indeed changing it to a warship also becomes possible at this stage of the game.

Once you have this much money it’s a good idea to pay a visit to bank and invest some of your wealth in a bank account. As journeys can take months a tidy sum will have accrued by the time you return. And should your boat be sunk while out at sea you won’t have lost everything and will hopefully have enough cash invested to start over again.

Before commencing a journey visit the charthouse to purchase trade maps, as well as to hire a helmsman to take charge of the more difficult aspects of sailing. The market also needs to be visited in order to stock up on goods to trade. This is where the main skill in playing High Seas Trader comes in. The trick is to by the goods cheap and sell them for a vast profit.

Sadly it’s not that easy and the ports where you can sell goods for just such a profit tend to be a long way from where you are situated. In turn this requires more food and drink as well as replacement parts as your ship invariably suffers wear and tear on long journeys. All this will severely eat profit so it’s a question of balancing profit with distance.

Keeping an eye out for surges in demand is a sure fire way of making a quick buck but the problem here is getting anywhere fast enough to capitalise on it. This is the 17th century remember and unfortunately ships aren’t exactly the quickest method of transport ever devised. Quite often you reach a destination with a full cargo only to find that the demand has just been satisfied by another trader and consequently the profit margin will be down.

As a rule arms and opium are the most profitable goods but if a port comes under siege or a country is at war, then basic essentials like grin can increase in value tremendously.

High Seas Trader makes you realise the scale of man’s achievements. Having to brave the fierce journey round Cape Horn, where the crew continually come perilously close to mutiny makes you realise how fortunate ships are today to be able to use the Suez Canal for instance.

High Seas Trader is a fine strategy game that relies on its engrossing content and theme rather than audiovisual thrills. And a good job too because the graphics and the sound in particular are very average and purely functional.

The game takes a long while to get into though and I imagine this will put a lot of people off, as will the occasionally unresponsive controls. Watching the boat travel from port to port on the course setting screen also gets boring, particularly on journeys with a lot of waypoints but maybe this is supposed to give an idea of how large the world is. It would have been better if travel between ports was instantaneous.

I don’t want to dwell on the negative points though, because High Seas Trader has plenty to offer. Studying the markets for trends and then making a killing is vastly satisfying as is watching an enemy boat sink beneath the waves.

Although slow moving at times High Seas Trader is surprisingly action packed for a simulation and will probably appeal most to those who like busy simulations such as Dune 2. And that’s no bad thing.