Merchant of the Skies is a trading simulator game with fantastic pixelation art, which we frequently review here on CultureDent. I started playing this when I needed a break from Chivalry 2 and hoped for a Stardew Valley-like experience. The point of the game is to gather, sell, and trade resources to form your trading empire. There are a couple of different options to cater to your playing goals; some are:
- Making money.
- Gathering enough resources to fulfill a fish god’s desire for water.
- A sandbox mode.
This game comes from a smaller studio called Coldwind Games. They’ve created other pixelated 2D games that range from shoot-em-up to strategy turn-based games with well-received feedback on steam from players.
The main issue I have with Merchant of the Skies is the game mechanics, not necessarily the control setup, but the overall problems you run into with getting around. You have a certain amount of battery or fuel for your ship, and to get around, you frequently need to stop recharging your ship. Most of the time, when I wanted to explore the world, I kept getting pulled out of the experience because my ship battery would need constant recharging. If your fuel runs out, you pay your hard-earned coins to get hauled back to the nearest charging station. This price also increases as you upgrade your ship. However, as you upgrade the ship, your battery gets more significant. With upgrades, you can improve how fast your ship goes and reduce battery consumption.
I found that Merchant of the Skies may play better on a PC rather than a console. The game was initially released on PC, and the translation to console may have been partially lost. I constantly faced an issue trying to use the in-game menus and interface, but it often felt like more work to use them than figure it out myself. For instance, once you discover more trade ports and islands, one menu you can use tries to help you conveniently find the area you’re looking for and automatically routs you there. Still, for me, it felt clunky, and in an attempt to organize all the islands, the menu just seemed messy. I think on a PC, this interface could be easier to consume with a mouse rather than a controller.
Money Ain’t Easy
If you are looking for a game that emphasizes strategy instead of an easy-going trading simulator, this would be much more enjoyable to you. You can gather resources for trade guilds and take tourists on board to see the monuments like my favorite, The Majestic Carrot. But, they don’t offer much, especially when gathering the resources is more challenging when you first start. Exploring can drain your battery before you can afford upgrades or a new ship. In my case, when I first started playing the game, I had trouble finding a niche to pay the bills (which could come from my poor money managing skills).
I could tell this is to encourage buying your island to use workers that would gather your resources, like lumber, stone, or apples. However, building the structures to gather resources on your island is expensive. It requires you to wander around to find the resources to create them. I can understand the motives of the game and what it encourages you to do. I just found it tiring and wanted something more relaxing.
Hard Work Makes You Tired
Not only do you constantly worry about how much money you have. After you buy a couple of islands and gather your resources to sell, you also start to feel like you’re working at a 9-5.
I started losing steam because once I started building my empire, I needed to do the same three things to keep enough money. I got bored of going back and forth, island to island, selling my resources. My crew and I weren’t exploring the open skies anymore. We were working. I felt like there wasn’t enough going on to keep building onto my islands fun. Along with finding the resources you don’t have, it just felt like the overall goal was to make this trading empire, not to explore this civilization in the skies, which could have been an excellent addition to the game and keep things exciting.
My last gripe about Merchant in the Skies is there is only so much to the map, where most islands are for you to buy, small cities to trade with, and a select number of silly characters.
When you first start playing, you meet interesting characters like The Majestic Carrot or an octopus that makes you guess his tune. These are fun minigames that help you collect resources or coins but later just become a simple part of the world that you can only replay for so long until you’re ready for something new. The only problem is, there’s not much else. Merchant of the Skies offers a mysterious island on the corner of the world where you can use specific skill points you gain from trading or completing tasks to upgrade your abilities. Still, most of these abilities only cater to your ability to trade more efficiently.
All-in-all I think Merchant of the Skies has something they can really build upon, and I really encourage them to expand their world, the weird mysteries you find, and toning down the emphasis on only trade.
If you’re looking for a game that focuses more on campaign-based strategy, you may really enjoy this game rather than a more exploring rich experience. I understand this game is meant to build a trade empire, but other games with a similar structure have more to offer. This game is beautiful in its design but needs more resources.
Merchant of the Skies is available to purchase on Steam, Playstation 5, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.