[Review] Merchant of the Skies – Nintendo Switch

Written by Thomas Haroldsen
  • Developer: Coldwild Games
  • Publisher: AbsoDev
  • Release Date: 30/07/2020
  • Price: £13.49 / $14.99
  • Review code provided by Coldwild Games

Introducing Merchant of the Skies Nintendo Switch Review

Cast off and hoist the mainsail! We have the wind at our backs and the skies are calm. It will be smooth flying from here. There are only a handful of trading games on the Nintendo Switch and the few I’ve tried in the past seem to capsize due to a lack of depth, which is ironic considering the metaphor I’ve chosen. So, is Merchant of the Skies buoyed up by engaging gameplay or should you give this one a wide berth? Sail on to find out in my review.

All Hands on Deck

Merchant of the Skies starts out with your Uncle Boe greeting you as you dock your small vessel at a floating island. Though he seems happy to see you, he seems even more happy to put you to work. Since he heads the local post office, he needs an urgent letter delivered to another floating island. Uncle Boe offers some advice and suggests putting your cargo hold to use by purchasing some cheap goods to offload them for a profit at the next location. In addition to the modicum reward, the local guild agrees to employ you. And thus your journey to fame and fortune begins.

I’ll be honest, the story is rather barebones, but it doesn’t need a beefy plot to keep things moving. Occasionally, you’ll be given tasks to alter the sky-world you call home. The brief narrative only serves to set the sails and get you in the air. What you do from there is entirely up to you. I spent hours on the basic trade mechanic, hopping from port to port to double my profits before dropping anchor on deeper gameplay.

Land Ho!

Merchant of the Skies, at its core, is a trading game. You navigate your airship across a fog-of-war shrouded map looking for floating islands. Buy low on one island to sell high elsewhere. The map is randomly generated and you won’t know what resources are on an island until you dock. This uncertainty adds a mild layer of challenge as you can run out of energy trying to find a suitable place to recharge your ship. Many of the islands have a trade guild and recharging station, but occasionally you’ll find a barren land with a single resource. These play an important role later but initially were hardly worth exploring.

Merchant of the Skies is a rather relaxing experience. Especially if you’re looking for a lethargic title for a relaxing stay. You don’t have to worry about enemies and you play at your pace. I put over a dozen hours on the rinse-and-repeat trading before expanding my operation. There are several ships you can upgrade to with various perks and you’ll eventually start buying those solitary islands with a single resource. Once you embark on that endeavor, you can construct various facilities to include mining operations and produce rare goods. It’s not “town-building” per se, but that definition paints a close picture of what you can expect. Of course, if you really want to show off your good fortune you can buy a private island. On your own personal paradise you can design, brick by brick, a mansion for an extravagant price.

Merchant of the Skies is easily one of my favorite games this year. It takes a few genres and blends them into a relaxing sandbox to play in. The stakes are low and it’s hard to fail. This simplistic approach may not be for everyone, but for a small 358 MB of space on your memory card, it’s worth having this tiny island world installed so you can getting lost in the clouds.

Run a Tight Ship

Merchant of the Skies is a beautifully rendered game. Resource icons are easy to discern and UI is clear and presentable. The overworld map comes to life with storms, lost resources and gusts of wind. All of these can either aid or hinder your journey. You can pilot your ship and uncover the map, searching for isles to visit or use autopilot to fly to desired destinations. I enjoyed the relaxing nature of the game, right down to the charming graphics and pleasant music. The added fog-of-war stylized after old maps with artistic compasses was inspired.

During my travels, I only encountered one technical storm of note. After particularly long play sessions, the game stuttered slightly and would slow. I’m talking three to four hour sojourns in one sitting. It wasn’t a huge issue and was easily remedied by restarting the game. Well, and it was a good reminder that I need to take a break.

Final Wrap

Merchant of the Skies is a calming adventure all about exploring and filling your coffers. As far as trading games go, this one is worth setting sail for the long haul with. Despite some slow downs after prolonged play times, Merchant of the Skies looks and performs adequately. The story readies the ship but the relaxed gameplay and freedom keep it on a straight course. For a game all about finding the best deal, it’s a great value in and of itself, worth the money and memory required to embark.

Pros

  • Play at your own pace
  • Intuitive gameplay mechanics
  • Low risk, high reward
  • Relaxing in nature

Cons

  • Slight slowdowns

Verdict
Few trading games stand out but Merchant of the Skies blends a few styles to create a rewarding adventure.

Leave a Reply