App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating:
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Guess the game: players use limited resources and money to construct things in order to gather more resources and money. Then they build other things to give them more minions/villagers to allow for more more harvesting. This in turn grants experience, and even more (and better) options are available for purchase and construction as levels are gained. Which, of course, starts the cycle all over again. Ready to make a guess?
All kidding aside, this is indeed what Trade Nations offers. It's a classic freemium model, complete with special "magic beans" to speed up real-time actions (i.e. construction, harvesting, etc...) or to buy special items and building outright. And in-app purchases for said magic beans if one can't wait to earn more the natural way. A tap-tap here and a tap-tap there will result in a fairly busy little village in short order. Once the tutorial is over, however, things adjust to a more realistic (and much slower) pace.
The beautiful thing about games such as Trade Nations is that I can be played for a few minutes at a time once or twice a day and progress will still be made. Villagers continue to harvest wheat and chop wood (among other land-reaping tasks) while the game is turned off, but each building has a pre-set production limit and will completely cease functioning if it's full. Thankfully, villagers can be assigned both production and hauling roles at each station, so while one cuts wood another can carry it to the stockpile and prevent the backlog from ever happening. Until the stockpile fills up, anyway.
Trade Nations also has that Pavlovian draw of needing to gather more. To build more. Then gather more again. And so on. Of course, it wouldn't feature the word "Trade" in the title if it weren't a focus, and indeed it is. Goods both refined and gathered can be traded with friends by visiting their villages and setting up trade requests. It's not something that completely Changes the Game, but it's a cool feature to include. Even better for people who have more Game Center friends who actually play the same games they do, unlike me. *sigh*
The downside to adhering to this fairly common but robust model is that Trade Nations can get incredibly dull when played for extended periods. I can't think of any real incentive to sit there and wait for those villagers to chop down trees, and I doubt others can either. Using the beans to expedite the process helps, but they're rather limited. Fortunately there's a work-around: get everything set up, then go play something else and check back in a couple of hours.
The real question in all of this is, would I recommend Trade Nations? Absolutely. It's free, fairly addicting and is a great way to kill those occasional 3 minutes of nothing to do.