This might be a bit confusing, but I am going to start this review by talking about a completely different game.  It makes sense – trust me.

Patrician is a game where you sail ships around and buy low, sell high, eventually raising your rank and amassing a massive merchant army that rakes in tons of income per trip, making you a magnate of the seas. It is often described by haters as a spreadsheet with graphics, but I apparently really love that sort of game.  I even have a whole “Trade” section in my Steam organization list that is dedicated to merchant style games. Eventually you can buy up land within the towns, corner the market on factories, depose all the mayors, drive all your competitors out of business, and start price fixing once you control 100% of a commodity. It’s slow, but it is oh so very rewarding to get angry messages from NPC mayors as you slowly boot them out of their towns and build your mercantile empire.

Windward is like Patrician, except with all the content removed from it.

I really would like to like Windward – I’ve already sunk 4 hours into it – but I just feel like there’s no point.  You can level up the towns by doing quests for them, or make cash with the typical buy-low-sell-high formula (which it conveniently(?) indicates right where to sell it on the commodity so no thinking will get in your way at all.)  You sail your little ship from place to place (100% procedurally generated which is nice) and buy low sell high, or run quests like deliver passengers from here to there… and then you amass some gold and buy a ship that has more cargo slots.  Cargo slots are the be-all-end-all because no matter what your cargo is, it takes up one slot.  You can’t adjust for the amount of, say, rice you can carry vs big ass bolts of silk or whatever, because they all take 1 slot and 1 slot only, so the bottom line per slot is everything.

It’s also difficult to trade across regions, I found.  These guys are willing to buy stuff at way higher prices than the guys in my starting area, but there is literally nothing for me to take back (yet, anyway).  It’s all the same goods, but more expensive.  I found myself abusing fast travel just to insta-port to a dock, buy goods, then insta-port back to the other zone to sell them all.  But once you’ve sold one or two to them, they don’t want it any more.  So you’re stuck with goods you can’t even sell at a loss.  Unless you create an instanced trading zone to unload it all, which feels kind of like cheating.

I can’t even go to the next region until I’m level 12, and just trading for profit is apparently more lucrative but less exp-generating than running quests all day, so it ends up feeling like a bit of a grind.  I was initially pretty excited about taking over the world in the name of the Exchange, but the level restrictions on areas are so cumbersome that I find myself losing interest.

I am worried that I will be forced into combat soon.  I keep avoiding the pirate-focused quests because I tried a couple fights and it just wasn’t for me.  I didn’t pick a combat faction, and the controls are kind of clunky (must keep a certain side of your ship pointed at the enemy, have to hit certain buttons to make things fire, etc.).  My worst experience came when I tried my hand at a smuggling mission and every single fucking ship in the zone apparently picked up immediately that I was carrying illegal goods, and they all chased me down in a gigantic pack and slaughtered me instantly.  Maybe there is a skill to not display a big blinking “HEY GAIZ I AM CARRYNG ILLEGAL SHIT OVR HERE” sign or something.  It was a little discouraging.  But the next zone is not at all controlled by my faction so I wanted to see how bad it was to capture towns and expand our influence.  I am worried it will be 100% killing pirates and not at all about trading.

I would like to like this game, but so far it feels pretty shallow, and mostly makes me want to play Patrician or Anno again, both of which at least have a “speed up time” button so that trundling from town to town doesn’t become tedious :/