Tradewinds Caravans is like a breath of fresh air amid the staleness of casual game clones. While it might not appeal to as broad an audience as a match-three or hidden object game, this is one you don’t want to miss.

In case you haven’t played any of its predecessors, Tradewinds Caravans is like two games in one: On one hand it’s a business simulation that challenges players to buy and sell products for profit, make decisions on borrowing cash versus the interest they’ll face on the loan and negotiate with traders on goods you might need on your journey across the Middle East. On the other hand, it’s not unlike a role-playing game (RPG) where you get to experience epic journeys, meet memorable characters, choose “party” members based on their skills and engage in combat along with way.

Tradewinds Caravans introduces players to the dangerous Silk Road, an ancient trade route stretching from China to the Mediterranean Sea, including cities such as Constantinople, Baghdad, Damascus, Herat, Bactra, Kashgar, and so on. You can choose to play as one of six unique characters (two of which need to be unlocked), each with their own story, before heading out to accomplish quests for townsfolk, trade exotic goods and battle bandits along the way.

For example, Jinpa is an Indian widow with three ill children, and she must use whatever money she has left to hire bodyguards from a Guild, make her way across the desert to meet with men her husband had dealings with and get on her feet by making money through trade with merchants.

In the city view, players will be able to put their mouse over buildings which tell you if it’s a Marketplace (to buy items such as perfume, rice, dyes and dry fruit) or a Healer’s Inn to make your damaged fighters better or Stables to pick up animals to carry goods (including donkeys, camels, horses or elephants). An exclamation point will be seen on the map when it’s directly tied to your quest, meaning you like need to meet a person there and engage in conversation.

When buying items to resell in another city you can select how many of each item you want, such as 20 bags of nuts, for a specific price such as 120 units of currency (in Taels). In the next city, if you’ll make a profit by selling those nuts for, say, 173 Taels, the item will be in blue, while red means you’re losing money. It can be a bit tricky figuring out the “+” and “-” interface when buying and selling items at first, but patient players will get it fairly quickly. You can also visit a Trader to buy items like teapots, mirrors, saddles, and so on. If you don’t have enough cash on hand you can borrow from a Lender – but the debt must be repaid with interest.

In the map view, you’ll see the city you just left, and various trade routes you can take to go to another city. Players click the mouse to move the caravan across the map, plus you’ll have to visit each city in between the one you left and the one you’re traveling to.

If you are approached by an enemy on a map, it opens up to a battle screen, where your fighters are on one side and the enemies are on the other. Hopefully you purchased some swordsmen, archers and cavalry to knock out the gang of bandits who want your goods. You don’t actually do the fighting, though, since you simply click the sword icon and watch how the action unfolds (though later on in the game you’ll have some extra options). Rather than this “real-time” combat, I would have preferred a more strategic “turn-based” battle (found in many RPGs), where you take turns picking which fighter to use, who to attack and which weapon or item to use (such as a healing potion).

Not only are the graphics cute and the Middle Eastern music phenomenal, but the dialogue and stories are well written. Sure, there’s plenty of humor, too (example: “I’m only a part-time Lender as I’m waiting for my sitar band to get more gigs!”) but it’s one of those rare casual games where you’re actually interested to see what happens to your character as they take on many quests to achieve their goals.

But don’t take our word for it – download the free playable demo of Tradewinds Caravans for an enjoyable and memorable ride.