Ancient Trader

Ancient Trader

Ancient Trader

Breaking the waves.

The average title on Xbox Live's Indie Games service stays on the 15-strong New Arrivals list for all of 10 days - if it's lucky - before it's forced to give way to a clutch of new releases, commonly involving Avatars, with most of a fairly low quality. It's an extremely short shelf-life, only ever extended should it sell enough copies to make the Top Downloads list, or be scored highly enough by its players to earn a spot among the coveted Top Rated selection. Why Ancient Trader should sit on an identical star rating to, say, The Impossible Avatar Getaway 2 is hard to fathom, because this terrific turn-based strategy certainly doesn't deserve to float among the flotsam in the Browse All section.

Its distinctive visual style is, naturally, the first thing that impresses. Artist Petr Vcelka, one of just six names listed in the credits, has taken inspiration from 16th- and 17th-century cartography - most obviously, Abraham Ortelius and his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (the first modern atlas) - and crafted some beautiful, imaginative and exceptionally detailed art across the game's ageing, weathered maps.

The creatures that you'll battle as you flit from port to port are all hugely characterful creations, ranging from oversized crustaceans to bizarre leviathans of the deep. Subtle animations bring them all to life and as you cross the oceans, you'll see dolphins leaping out of the water, whales briefly surfacing for air and clouds gently circling over unexplored areas. Upgrade your ship and it gradually transforms from a single-sail skiff to an almighty galleon with golden leonine figurehead.

Read more