An Original Frontieer Game: A Review of Caravaneer
; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 5/25/2012
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Minecraft is certainly the king of indie games this year, but what about playing a game completely free? Caravaneer scratches several of the same itches as Minecraft, but with the added benefit of never having to pay a dime.
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Gameplay - Caravaneer Review
The gameplay of Caravaneer is quite diverse. You load up on supplies, stock, and weapons, and venture out looking to sell your goods while defending yourself from robbers. The map provides a compass-based system where you must draw a line from the city you are in to where you wish to go. From that you find the distance and correct heading you must face to stay on target. Stray off course by avoiding a pack of robbers and risk getting stuck in the middle of the desert with no city in sight, and no food or water to keep everyone alive. You'll have to cut your wares and wagons free in such a situation, so careful planning is key before you embark on your trade route.
Trade routes are another matter entirely. The first one the game gives you, for example, is to buy leather from the starting town and sell it to another town that uses the leather to make shoes. Buy those shoes and sell them at a third town where you buy clothes and medicine, which you take back to the starting village and sell those goods to buy leather with the profits earned and start the whole process over again; this time adding more horses and storage to exponentially increase your profits.
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As Minecraft has shown us all; graphics are not everything. Simple graphics work in Caravaneer as everything has a gritty, sand-swept dust upon it. Most of the time will be spent venturing from town to town which shows other rival caravans or robbers as they pass by, and this view is clean and gets the job done. In a large desert, you won't expect to see much but desert, and that's all you get here.
The other large portion of time will be spent in battle (until you get a fast enough gas-guzzling car, that is) and here sand will be a common sight as well. During the turn-based battles you will see if enemies are wielding guns or melee weapons, quickly helping you decide who is the most important target. Slaying enemies is satisfying, and the display of how far your character can move is a welcome sight to see on the battlefield.
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The music is excellent when traversing the desert, but I feel some may find it repetitive. The sound effects in battle are generally good, but not quite great, and in some cases just off the mark. A Desert Eagle, a .50 caliber handgun should not sound like a blow dart crossed with a laser rifle from the future. It should resemble a cannon, just smaller in scale and no less deadly.
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Controls and Interface
This is a tricky section to rate as the controls are pretty spot on, but the interface in Caravaneer leaves information out that is good for the player to know. While not being able to see yourself on the map provides realism and an emphasis on planning, the lack of detail in other aspects leads to more frustration than anything. Everything you carry has weight attached, and you can only carry so much before you run out of room. If you want your trips to be successful you need to trade a large amount of items but save enough space for water, food, and forage for oxen, horses, etc., that drag your wagons around. Some players find the ability to jot out information in a notebook to be exciting, as it can be, but sometimes the tedium of knowing exactly what weight of water is more annoying than immersive. Also, not really having a set way to find out what city needs what goods until you arrive is off-putting for exploratory trips, and I wish there was a better system in place than random facts about cities popping up from time to time in the in-game paper.
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One of the best flash-based games around, Caravaneer shows what depth can be placed in any gaming medium if the creator would just put their full efforts into it. If you have not played Caravaneer before, or only touched on it briefly in the past, give it a try today and see where your trail leads. (And don't worry, you do not have to ford any rivers here.)