Offworld Trading Company Review
Offworld Trading Company is a brilliant economic, business strategy game
Earth is destroyed – Mars is the last chance for humanity to start anew with their Offworld Trading Company. For those who haven’t heard of Offworld Trading Company, it’s a real-time strategy game focussed on starting and growing a business on Mars. The lead designer of Civilisation IV, Soren Johnson, has come back to create yet another great game. Mohawk Games and Soren Johnson have truly created an addictive, fun and complex game.
There’s a great deal of games that are mindless and have a easy algorithm you can learn to win. Offworld Trading Company is not one of these games, but the circumstances are constantly changing and if you grow complacent, you’ll lose. There are several different map types and each one will influence how you chose to play. If you play in a dried-up riverbed, there’s plenty of water to access, which means you can afford to not build a water pump because the price of water will be low.
Keep an eye on your economy, or you’ll end up being bought out
This brings me on to the best part of the game: there is an active, responsive, simulated economy. Supply and demand raises and lowers the price of resources. More complex resources/products, say, steel or glass, require you to either build production plants or buy resources off the market. A lack of supply may lead to your company running a debt. Debt in itself isn’t a bad thing, and is rather a vital part of creating a successful company. But keep an eye on your economy, or you’ll end up being bought out. As your debt rises, your company’s stock prices decrease. This means rival companies can buy you out for a cheap deal – not what you want.
Building your company up and increasing its stock prices all revolves around claims. You start off with a set of claims, which you use to claim land on Mars, preferably land with resources. It’s extremely important to stop and think about your landscape, the available resources, and how close they are to you. If you invest in the wrong resources, you’ll find yourself bought out. If you place your factories and mines too far from your HQ, you’ll leave them open to piracy. Every decision you make has to be thought through, or some other company will take advantage of your mistake. Companies have access to the black market, which makes sabotage and bribery possible. You can spend your money on buying dynamite or bribing the UN to allow you to have another claim. The other ways to spend your money are auctions, which offer a random selection from the black market of a free building or plot of land, or on hacking and stocks.
Now that you’ve built up your company, it comes down to consolidating the 100% ownership of your company, buying stocks from other companies and eventually buying them out, obtaining complete ownership. The in-depth and complicated business mechanism makes this a difficult task and there’s not one moment where you’ll breeze through the game. As you progress, you’ll be able to build patent labs and optimisation centres but you’ve got to be careful, because this will paint a target on your head for sabotage – the business world is cruel and unforgiving.
The business world is cruel and unforgiving
The variety within the game is not just limited to the type of map, but also the type of corporation you choose. There are 4 company types and each has its own strengths – thus its own weaknesses. You have to mould your playing style to fit well with your company. This means specialising and choosing carefully what resources you’ll mine according to how it fits with your company. You’ll have to work both with and against rival companies so as to build a budding and viable business. Manipulating resource prices is a clever trick, but raise the price too high, and another company will sell theirs causing the price to plummet and your resources will lose valuable worth. The game has singleplayer, multiplayer and campaign mode, all as difficult as each other. It’s a mind game, a tactical game and a strategic game – and a good one at that!
Offworld Trading Company is up there with some of my favourite strategy games – Planetbase, Europa Universalis IV, Civilisation IV. The complexity of the game mechanics makes its so much more than a mindless ‘build defences, mine resources’ strategy game. The titillating intrigue, the nerve-wrecking plotting and the incessant difficulties make this a game that is extremely rewarding. You have to truly and utterly strive to grasp victory. The variation of map type, resource availability and company type guarantees an engaging and replayable game. Complacency, lack of attention and poor decisions will bring your company down in ashes. Good planning, attentiveness and a wily character will raise your company to the stars. The entire game is accompanied by an outstanding soundtrack composed by Christopher Tin. I highly recommend Offworld Trading Company to those of you who’d dare take on such a task and to those of you who are bored of the same old repetitive strategy games. Offworld Trading Company is now available on Steam for £29.99 (25% off until 16th May).