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Those of us brought up in a more Westernized culture may not be aware of Zheng He. Zheng He is the Chinese equivalent of Sir Francis Drake or John Cabot, who lived between 1371 and 1433 in the early Ming Dynasty. This adventurer is most famous for a series of expeditionary voyages he undertook from China to Southeast Asia, South Asia, and West Asia, reaching as far as the horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
He is revered in Chinese history for these voyages; not for their discovery but for the development of trade along them. Now IGT has brought these voyages to life as the inspiration for their 1421 Voyages of Zheng He slot. The game specifically commemorates his sixth voyage where he visited Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Hormuz, Aden, Mogadishu and Bengal, amongst other ports on the year-long trip.
Overview: 1421 Voyages of Zheng He
1421 Voyages of Zheng He is a 5×4-reel slot developed by IGT with 88 selectable paylines. In addition to the number of paylines in play, you can also vary the size of coin wagered from $0.01 per payline up to $30 per payline. This gives you a massive range of bets from $0.88 to a maximum bet of $2,640. High rollers will definitely be interested in playing, as well as the more numerous mid to lower stakes gamers.
The jackpot on the slot isn’t exactly huge at 888 coins, but this is where the slot will appeal to higher rollers. (Calculating 888 times the higher amounts you can wager equates to some very sizeable wins.) Add to this stacked symbols on the reels, which can result in multiple payline wins on any spin, including free spins, and you have the opportunity of winning considerably more than that top prize if multiple paylines are triggered.
Who will the 1421 Voyages of Zheng He slot appeal to?
Given the broad range of wagers you can make, this is a slot that will have universal appeal. Right now there aren’t too many slots that allow wagers of this size per spin. This means that it’s definitely a game that will pique the interest of the higher rollers. (And with many higher rollers living in Asia, the theme of the game will also resonate with them.)
This is a game which offers up its riches by winning on multiple paylines, thanks to using stacked Wilds and Stacked Symbols. There’s also a total of four bonus features. Three of these are based on free spins and a pick-me style game. Fans of slots that offer multiple bonus features will also enjoy what the game has to offer.
Gameplay: 1421 Voyages of Zheng He
The gameplay kicks off by selecting the number of paylines and line bet size. This is crucial, as with 88 paylines even playing for the smallest line bet is cheap if you want to play maximum lines (which is always the wisest option on any slot). Once you have done this you simply click the Spin button to get the reels going. (Fans of Auto Play will be disappointed as that feature is not present here.)
In terms of presentation, the slot looks very nice. There is a foreboding orange sky pitted against a deep blue sea. The reels are somewhat plain, transposed on top of the background. The music is authentically Asian, but only kicks in once you click the reels to spin. All in all, the slot as presented fits in with the theme. However, it does lack a bit of excitement and inventiveness that you find on some other modern slots.
On the reels you have the usual mix of playing card lows (from 10 through to ace). These can be stacked on the reels during any spin. The lowest higher paying symbol pays out the same as the ace. There are five standard higher value symbols. These are all based on Zheng He’s voyages, with the famous explorer being the highest paying symbol at 400 coins per payline.
However, Zheng is not the highest paying symbol on the reels. That honor belongs to the Chinese Gold Coin symbol. When you land these five across the reels, there is a base game jackpot payout of 888 coins per payline. The Gold Coin is a Wild symbol and can substitute for all other high- and low-value symbols to create additional winning paylines. Indeed, it’s from this Wild that some of the biggest wins in the game can be landed, as it too is stacked on the reels.
There is one other feature on the reels and that is the Scroll Map symbol, which is the Scatter symbol. When you land three of these anywhere across the reels, you get to launch the Bonus round. It is in this Bonus round that you get to pick which of the four available bonus features you want to play.
- 10 Free Spins with a random multiplier of 1x, 2x or 8x
- 15 Free Spins with a random multiplier of 1x, 2x or 5x
- 20 Free Spins with a random multiplier of 1x, 2x or 3x
- Cup Feature – A pick-me game where you pick one of three cups to try and locate the golden ball and win the available bonus of 102x your usual stake.
All these bonus games can be retriggered from within and there is no limit on the number of free spins you can potentially earn during the bonus round.
Special features: 1421 Voyages of Zheng He
The first feature you will come across—in the base game and during any of the bonus rounds—is that all the symbols can appear stacked on the reels, including the Wild symbol, which does increase the chances of multiple payline wins.
Land three of the Scatter symbols to unlock the Bonus features of the slot. Here you can pick from four different types of games to try, including three retriggerable and potentially unlimited free spins, as well as a pick-me bonus game.
The Gold Coin Wild symbol can substitute for any low or high value symbol to create winning paylines and in addition offers the highest base game win for five wilds on a payline. Wilds can also be stacked on the reels, allowing for multiple payline wins.
Multiple payline wins
There’s no doubt that with the stacked symbols, and in particular the stacked wild symbols, that the best way to get decent wins on this slot is not by one payline, but by multiple paylines triggered on a single spin. Indeed, that is exactly the way most of the biggest wins on this slot occur.
Medium to high variance
This is one of those medium to high variance slot games that works very well. Yes there aren’t as many regular wins, but there are a good number of higher value wins that you can hit more often and that does ensure better play value than most medium to high variance games.
The Stacked Wilds really do add a huge amount to the slot, not just as a substitution symbol for others, but in the way they can trigger multiple paylines. And if you land more than one set across the reels, you can trigger some huge wins in the base game.
The presentation of the slot is somewhat basic and isn’t the most eye-catching or exciting that you’ll play. They’re passable and the slot does do the trick for what it is intended, but there’s none of the nice touches that you come to expect when playing a more modern slot.
Free Spins can take a while to trigger
If you want to trigger the Bonus games and a chance to play one of the four options, then you do require patience. Triggering the bonuses can often take a very long time and patience and good bankroll management is required to trigger the bonus.
Not ideal for smaller stakes players
The way the 1421 Voyages of Zheng He slot is set up means that the rewards for smaller stakes players are not as appealing as they are for higher stakes gamers. Indeed, I’d go so far to say that this slot has been designed more with the medium to higher roller slot gamer in mind, more so than the lower stakes gamer.
Graphics & soundtrack 2/5
The graphics and sounds on the 1421 Voyages of Zheng He slot are passable and do the job, but they are hardly spectacular. There are far better examples of how to use sounds and graphics on a slot to enhance the experience. However, if you just want a basic slot, then this does the trick.
Originality & creativity 3/5
At first glance this doesn’t appear to be a hugely creative slot. Looking deeper, you see the four selectable bonus games plus the use of stacked symbols, and particularly stacked Wilds. These elements do lift this slot above the average and give it a little originality and additional excitement.
Play value 3/5
Unlike most medium to high variance slots, which tend to play very tight and offer poor play value, in reviewing this slot we’ve found 1421 Voyages of Zheng He offers regular higher value rewards. This translates to better play value than the majority of high volatility slots I’ve tried.
Jackpot potential 3/5
The base game jackpot of 888 coins isn’t huge but that’s on a single payline. By combining paylines on a spin, you can win considerably more than this, especially if you can stack the reels with Wild symbols. this combination offers a decent return on your spin, especially if you are a higher stakes player.
Repeat play 3/5
There’s no doubt that the 1421 Voyages of Zheng He slot has a few niggles, but there is enough to keep you coming back to give it another try.
Total score: 14/25
1421 Voyages of Zheng He does look a little dated and is aimed more at the higher stakes player in my view, but despite this and a lack of presentation, it is a solid slot and offers a generally favorable experience for all players. It isn’t going to blow you away, but by the same token, it does offer you a fair crack at a decent-sized win.