Good music
Dynamic character development
Impartial historical info
Somewhat buggy
Inconvenient menus

Spice Trade is a trading adventure game set in the Islamic world during the 14 century CE.  You play as Abu Mansur 'abd ar-Rahman al-Qazzaz, a young Shi'a Muslim who lives in Baghdad during the time of the Baghdad Caliphate.  Your parents died recently during the conflict in which the Baghdad Caliphate (which was controlled by a puppet Caliph), tried to assert its independence from the Persian Shi'a-Buwayhids.  You are nearly broke and have a small piece of farmland with which you must try to gain status and wealth.  During your life, you will be assigned various quests to accomplish by many people you meet, but your ultimate goal is to colonize Europe for Islam.

In order to make money, you must start out by farming.  You cannot leave Baghdad until you get permission from the sultan, which requires both time and money; once you get a travel permit, you still can't sell anything outside of Baghdad until you also acquire an export permit.  In the meantime, you can continue to amass your wealth by farming and expanding your fields.  One seed produces a number of units of spices or drugs equal to the number of fields you own; Abu himself can hold three units, and can buy warehouses to store more units, though in the game itself, it may be better to just own one or two fields and try to focus on Abu's initial quests.  Whenever Abu does something, his health meter will rise and fall depending on what he has done; resting at home or in a tavern or praying in a mosque or holy place raises his health, while working lowers it.  Abu's status can be determined by his current expression on his portrait at the bottom of the screen.

Spice Trade contains a lot of impartial historical information on the cities and places you visit, and emphasizes instructing its players on Muslim culture and history.  Spice Trade also explains about various Muslim saints and holy men Abu may encounter throughout his travels.  The screens in Spice Trade are dynamic pieces of Muslim artwork that change slightly depending on Abu's status; you also use the pictures to navigate through the game.

Spice Trade has two big problems, however.  There is no way to tell how much time has passed except in situations where you are specifically told; Abu ages, so you do have some idea about that.  Also, when trading, you have to buy and sell individual items one at a time.  This is problematic when you have to sell large quantities of one item.  Of note, too, is that there are a number of bugs that still need to be worked out, places you need to visit to complete quests aren't always obvious (for example, a character tells you that you need to visit a certain place, but doesn't say where it is), and there are times when the rest of Abu's life is laid out for him if you make a mistake; making the wrong choices can be fatal or may cause you to miss out on something that would have allowed you to accomplish your goals.

Review by: Triton

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(9 posts)
190 MB
Multiplayer modes:
Age rating:
Safe for all ages
Windows 98/2000/ME/XP
190 MB hard drive space
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