While city-building games have become fairly common on Facebook, their mobile, social counterparts have been comparatively less so. However, games such as City Story or We City have typically been of the modern era, so Juju Play (Amplified Games appears to be the publisher) have created a title for both the iPhone and iPad by the name of Trade Nations.
A medieval city-builder that feels somewhat reminiscent of Ubisoft’s Castle & Co, Trade Nations is a recently updated application that takes basic elements and fashions them into a decently made, mobile, rendition of the popular Facebook genre. With a handful of central elements making it feel different than most of its ilk, it’s a title with minimal complaints. That said, it is a bit of a slow-burn title, so it is certainly not for the impatient.
Since the app is a sort of sandbox title, there is no real objective to be had. Like all virtual space oriented games, the idea is to build up a successful town. However, this time, it revolves more around trade; hence the name. Getting started is simple enough: In order to construct anything players must first start harvesting resources.
Done with buildings, these consist of quarries, logging camps, farms, and so on, and must be constructed where resources are available (though the outskirts of town are filled with more than enough). Additionally, these resources are infinite, so there are no worries about running out. Of course, the structures don’t just, magically, produce goods. People have to work for their keep.
In order to do this, players must construct non-player character houses and assign their denizens to a job. It’s all fairly easy, as players simply tap a citizen and tap the corresponding building they want them to work for. Typically, there will be two jobs available: One will harvest the item, and one will haul it to a building called a stockpile (that must also be built by the player). It is also worth noting that without the stockpile, goods cannot be stored or used. Also, a character is not needed to haul goods, as the player can manually collect it with a tap. Having one just automates everything.
Resources aren’t the only things needed to construct a budding town though. Gold is necessary too, and this is where things become a bit more interesting. While coin is earned periodically through taxes (collected through villager houses), players will eventually be able to construct a market.
This marketplace is actually the first window into social play as it is stated to be directly affected by players. From here, users can sell the various resources of wood, wheat, rock, wool, lumber, cloth, and cut stone. Depending on the actual supply and demand of the player base, these prices will fluctuate, making it prudent to watch the prices of goods daily.
If playing the market is not one’s strong suit, however, users can also build support structures to earn revenue. These are buildings such as a bakery that will produce coin in a more traditional social fashion. Using one of the raw resources collected, players will produce goods over a set period of time and automatically sell them once they are complete. The longer the item takes to make, the more it is worth.
As for social play, Trade Nations does a pretty good job with its integration. For starters, players can register for a network called Juju Play, which can then be linked to one’s Facebook account via Facebook Connect. Once connected, players can participate in a standard achievements system as well as begin adding friends. After some neighbors have been added, users can then zoom out to a world map of all their towns and pay any of them a visit.
This goes beyond just mere visitation to see how their town looks, but rather, users can utilize each other’s support facilities (like the bakery) to make a sort of trade contract that will also earn a little extra coin. Also, even if the player decides against signing up for Juju Play, they can always make posts of their accomplishments to either Facebook or Twitter.
With simple rules, and a cute style, there’s honestly not much to complain about with Trade Nations. It’s nothing terribly amazing, but it is certainly well above average as far as many games goes. That in mind, the only possible issue about the game itself, is that it is a bit slow moving when it comes to making money.
Of course, this is part of the monetization of the title, as it is free-to-play, so in order to speed things up, users need to use a virtual currency called “Magic Beans.” That said, the game gives new players enough to get started, and the implementation compliments the game, rather than hinders it (like when other games make almost everything cost virtual currency).
In the end, Trade Nations is a nice, free, city-builder for both the iPhone and iPad, and with it’s medieval setting, a little less common. It still isn’t ground breaking as far game design goes, but for what it is, it’s well made, clean, and decently entertaining for fans of the genre.