Merchant: trade empires require a lot of clicking

I’ve been playing Merchant so much and for so long that I’m in a bit of shock as I realize I’ve not yet written about it.

I’m on my third go round with this game. I’ve had it for a few years and keep coming back, so that’s a good sign, especially considering my usual life cycle with mobile games: download, enjoy for two days, delete. In some part this love affair is thanks to the presentation: there is lovely pixel art, big chonky buttons, fun music. I love the theme, I love leveling up and training new heroes. The feel of running some business or other in a realm of what we tend to think of as medieval fantasy is quite nice.

Merchant is an idle game, and yet not quite an idle game. In truth it’s rather involved and this involvement is mainly by way of clicking on buttons by the bushel. Oftentimes it is the same button, that being the “repeat” arrow that presents itself when one of your heroes has completed their quest. You will repeat quests often and with feeling because that’s just how the grind works: we must send our heroes to do get the thing so we can turn the thing into another thing and then sell the thing to get the money. We’re merchants after all.

The level of involvement deepens as we send more heroes out to get the things for they will need special gear to the things and the gear have numbers on them. 

At this point my previous experiences with Merchant ground to a halt, because my expectations of the game were not met. My training or nature, my instinct with a mobile “idle” game is to click buttons and see numbers increase without much thought. So when a games asks me to sit and think about which fancy piece of snake-steel best mitigates the defenses of a kraken it doesn’t compute.

However, that’s ultimately what makes this game a game rather than just an idle clicker. One must consider carefully how to equip their heroes to achieve murder. Stats must be mulled over and equations run. One must put thumb to chin, count their money, and figure which item grants them the best return on gold for their time. There are guides to help you do this.

And so this go finds me doing just that. Rather than feeling rushed (because your average idle game expects you to have timed projects running round the clock) and subsequently overwhelmed (because this game expects you to think about what you’re doing before you do it), I mean to take my time and read the numbers; to think about what needs to happen next and how.

And it’s great fun.

This sneaky game is far more than grindy mobile trash. It’s fully fledged tycoon/RPG hybrid, with notes of classic party-based RPGs and MMO crafting. If you check it please let me know so we can compare notes! And, as one Redditor said, “think while you play, it will safe you.”

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