Roblox – Tradelands Initial Impressions

Having kids means you look for alternatives to your favorite adult games so you can share in your experience.  Over the past two years I’ve come to appreciate the versatility of Roblox as a platform that achieves this goal.  Many of the games are smaller versions of some of my favorites such as Skyrim and GTA.  Because they are independently developed, they are smaller versions of the adult games which works well for kids who have shorter attention spans.

Today, I will provide my initial reaction to one of the games in Roblox called Tradelands.  In this game you select one of four factions and become either a sea trader or a pirate.  You start as a commoner within your chosen faction and work your way up the ranks to become of the wealthiest merchants or one of the most feared pirate.

Tradelands has a detailed tutorial which walked me through the basics of the game.  I recommend taking 5 minutes and going through this, as it made getting used to mechanics a lot easier than some other counterparts like Jailbreak where you have to learn it all as you go.

The Good

The games has views like this strewn throughout. It’s beautiful when lots of players are on, but also dangerous.

My favorite part of this game is the steering.  Most ship games expect you to drive a ship the way you would a car, but due to the wind mechanic it’s more difficult at first glance.  Within the first hour of playing I found myself tacking, a method of going up wind, which is something I’ve not seen another sailing game mimic outside of simulators.

The game also has a grinding aspect to it which is decent.  I spent some time figuring out the mechanics here and I’m glad it did.  I’ve learned that the game has a complex market, one which I’m not even sure the player base has discovered.  I spent about half of my playing time on land crafting, mining, and logging as it seemed like the easiest thing to do.  It’s repetitive and felt like mining copper in World of Warcraft so it won’t be something everyone likes.  This mechanic is one that I think is going to be underappreciated, and something that could be interesting if the mechanics are understood.

The Bad

The game’s camera and mouse controls are awkward and difficult.  I kept having issues with my mouse the entire game.  At several points my ship sailed off without me doing anything, just because I was in the proximity of some other interactable object. I also found the combat uninspiring which is sure to be a problem when attracting other players.

If you play on VR, the black squares that indicate where you sit are game breaking.  They make it hard to move around as you randomly climb ropes or sit on the black squares (see picture). Playing on an iPAD is a lot easier and I had no issues with scrolling and moving.  It was just a PC/VR issue.

The black squares next to objects are seats. The ones next to cannons are hard to get in some modes.

The pre-set camera angles and item modes made switching between views a bit jaunting as well.  This game was definitely not made to be played on these platforms. You also cannot interact with anything if you have a weapon or tool out, and there is no indicator or explanation for this, so figuring this out requires some trial and error.

The other issue is the lack of up-to-date Roblox features like terrain.  There are effectively three objects across the game – trees, rocks, houses.  Trees and rocks are for crafting and houses are for purchase.  Everything else takes place on the sea so the visuals get boring after a while.  In fact, if you see something on the sea it’s likely another ship.

The biggest issue of all is the boredom.  If you enjoy the serenity of long voyages over sea, you will appreciate the downtime between islands.  The long journeys are great for multitasking, but the threat of being attacked means you can’t fully concentrate on something else.

Also, there are only a handful of ports you can visit which makes your choices hard and monotonous.  Some of the more experienced players explain that there are only two or three profitable trading paths which cuts down on the choices even further.  However, the destinations are far enough apart that you can’t see them except past the horizon, which means you will spend a while sailing between spots.  This can quickly lead to boredom if you are not into this kind of thing.  The game creator expects you to spend time looking at the graphics which, as Roblox are concerned great, but don’t compare to a full fledged naval game of the same type.

The Ugly

The black squares next to objects are seats. The ones next to cannons are hard to get in some modes.

This screenshot shows one of the more dramatic views in the game.  Most of the time it’s just blue paper oceans.  The graphics in this game are sparse.  The land models are houses, trees, rocks, and nothing else.  The ships are at least unique enough to encourage leveling up but otherwise don’t  expect much.  At night, the un-moving sea looks like wrinkled paper and can be disorienting.  I found myself occupying time by reviewing my map or scanning the horizon to make sure I was headed in the right direction.

Another issue is the wind.  Too many players (remember this is a kids game) aren’t familiar enough with tacking and sit still as they make a direct course for their target.  This makes them easy targets for pirates, or allows you to easily outmaneuver pirates.  I also never saw the wind change direction which makes some destinations hard to obtain.

The Verdict

This game is too complex for a young kid to understand.  It’s too slow for them to appreciate, and they will likely quit out of frustration when a more experienced player takes advantage of them.  However, as a former sailor in my high school days, I am happy that the mechanics are done decently.  It’s still a kids game so set expectations accordingly.  The long days between locations will put you to sleep if the server population decreases as well.  But as a casual game with leveled expectations it does an okay job.  However, if you know enough to appreciate this game you might want to play Naval Action or Black Flag instead.

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