Merchant of the Skies Review - Profits Sky High
Updated: Jul 7
Merchants of the Skies
Merchant of the Skies is primarily a trading game of the sort often seen in space games. You'll sail from port to port buying what's cheap in one place and selling it where it's more expensive. As the game progresses, you can take quests to supplement your income and eventually even buy islands to build your own production chains. Instead of a space setting, though, it all takes place in a fantastical sky archipelago with strange characters like a giant singing carrot and an octopus who plays a Mastermind-esque game.
It sounds like a lot, but the game's feature list makes it sound like much more than it really is. I don't know if the map and trading ports are randomly generated, but they may as well be. None of the ports have any particular rhyme or reason to them, let alone anything to make them stand out in your memory, and nearly all of the quests are just about fetching specific resources. Some of the special islands and story quests have a bit more character, but moments in Merchant of the Skies are by and large interchangeable. It's a bit like Sunless Sea if that game were far more forgiving and had hardly any text.
That just leaves the production chain building, which could've been the game's defining feature with a bit more work. You can see the contours of a fun system where you're planning out automated routes that feed high-value factories from groups of raw resource producing islands, but the convoy interface is both too basic and too tedious to make spending time with it very worthwhile. It's also largely pointless, because selling the most valuable goods is bizarrely difficult (it can only be done at a handful of bazaars) and there are only a couple of expensive things to spend your money on anyway. In the time it would take to set up a cool production chain, you could easily have bought everything worth buying through manual trading.
Merchant of the Skies is a bunch of cool ideas that don't really pan out. All of them work at a basic level, but none is developed enough to carry the game. It's a bucket of supporting systems that need something to support. It just about manages to not get too boring over an 8-10 hour runtime, but I'd have liked to see a little more for $15.
Time to beat: 9 hours.