Offworld Trading Company takes a very unique jab at the RTS genre, focusing almost entirely on financial control, and ignoring combat altogether.
Offworld Trading Company is an Economic RTS based on corporate expansion on Mars. With thirteen resources to keep track of, a comprehensive tutorial, varying playstyle choices, a different and diverse campaign, and a heart-thumping multiplayer where $10 could make the difference between a win and a resounding loss, you really won’t get bored with this game any time soon.
(Quick note – all the $ figures we speak of are about the actual currency within the game, and don’t involve any form of in-game purchase or freemium service.)
The game takes place within the first stages of a colonization on Mars, and you play a corporation which has only one goal in sight: profit! There are four varying starting corporations, each with its own unique gameplay mechanics and small differences that make a big impact on your game. You also have thirteen different resources, either primary or secondary, all of which you can sell in one way or another. The resource prices also dynamically change based on production and demand, making every single game unique.
The goal of most game types is to buy-out the competition by purchasing their shares. There is also a very limited number of resource claims, which makes your early game choices matter until the very end. You also get to “cheat” by making use of a Blackmarket system that features mutinies, pirates, protection squads, and even resource nukes! While Offworld Trading Company is designed for four-player games, you can have up to eight players in a game, which makes for some interesting dynamic financial warfare!
The storyline within the game, while not integral to your actual gameplay, adds a great deal of depth to it. Each of the four corporations have a different reason for their expansion on Mars, and this is reflected directly on the unique features that they offer. For instance, the Reclamation Industries consists of ex-convicts who’ve come to Mars for a better future, whereas the New Meridians is a science based corporation with the goal of helping humanity, by making a profit.
The voice-overs however, are certainly poor at best, and the slew of grammatical errors in the text will definitely annoy the more nit-picky of gamers.
Tutorial and Walkthrough (+1)
Certainly quite a necessity in such a diverse game, the in-game tutorial gets you started very easily, and teaches you about each resource and corporation one step at a time. The resources are introduced steadily to avoid overwhelming the player. The varying differences in each corporation are also simplified, by taking the player on a step by step play through of a normal game. Overall, a perfect introduction to the game.
Combat Style (+2)
While technically not an actual combat system, the economic warfare within the game is very much real. Whether through the aggressive acquisition of your opposition, or by flooding the market right before your opponent can sell their products, and especially through the use of the Black Market, there is certainly a great deal of financial warfare methods at your disposal in Offworld Trading Company.
The Black Market offers some cool features that you can buy, ranging anywhere from an extra claim or resources, to a mutiny on another player’s unit, some dynamite to blow things up, and even an underground nuke that destroys resources! The dynamic pricing is also very much a part of the combat system; a resource could be going for a high price, but as soon as you make another production unit for it, the prices start going down. This makes both active planning, and an awareness of your competition, a big part of the game.
Game Mechanics (+1)
One of the most interesting things within the game is the fact that, not only are you limited to one unit per tile, but you also have a very finite number of overall claims, something that will be especially noticeable to Civilization fans.
The large variety of resources and how they are used by each Corporation adds its very own level of fun to the game. If played correctly, you could at times forego all manner of growth, and simply aim to monopolize a rare, and important, resource. This fact in turn makes the random spawn of resources on each map all the more interesting.
The campaign makes use of an interesting variation to the basic gameplay by allowing you to build up parts of a colony instead of shares in your opponents and allowing your progress in each match to carry over to the next, to some extent. You can also hire staff in the campaign map with the revenue you’ve accrued from successful matches. Be warned however, because after a couple of warm up rounds, the lowest ranked player is eliminated, making for an especially absorbing gameplay in the later stages of your campaign.
For the avid RTS fan, the game will not be too difficult to get into at all. However, as you progress and start going past the Manager difficulty, you’ll find the game getting much more challenging with the type and location of your HQ becoming a very difficult decision to make on the fly. The game features nine difficulties for the single player mode, and an interesting multiplayer which we will discuss just below.
Debt also plays a great part in the difficulty of the game; if you incur too much of it early on, you may not be able to keep up with the increasing interest rates, a fate you’ll definitely find yourself in during some of the multiplayer quick matches.
The multiplayer mode features both ranked and unranked gameplay. The unranked games simply require you to create a game lobby and wait for others to join you, or simply join a lobby that has already been created. The ranked gameplay on the other hand, makes use of a matching system of its own and also features a leader-board which showcases the top players in the game. While the volume of games is quite low, and the wait time is somewhat long, considering the game is still very new, this should not be an issue in the long run.
In a somewhat strange twist however, you can only play the four-player free-for-all ranked games from Monday to Friday, and the 1v1 quick match ranked games from Friday to Monday. This is likely due to server volume issues, although it might be simply to add a different edge to the game. Either way, I hope this is not a permanent setting. A big bonus on the other hand, is the ability to play Skirmish games whilst you wait for a multiplayer game, which is pretty fantastic!
Outside of this however, the only real difference between the single-player and multiplayer modes is the fact that you can only scan the map once every 2-3 seconds during the pre-match, and you are obviously unable to pause the game. This makes the decision making process for the founding of the HQ doubly important; you don’t want to panic and start in a position that lacks an important primary resource, but you also don’t want to wait until your opponent has upgraded their HQ before founding yours.
Bonus Features (+1)
- 8 player combat
- A lot of variety between different game modes
- Every game is unique.
- Daily Challenges
What’s it Missing? (-1)
- Decent voice-overs (both for announcements and tutorials)
- Over the top graphics settings
- 2v2 or co-op multiplayer
- Multiplayer Campaign (This would be just fantastic if implemented)
- Fast queues
Offworld Trading Company offers far more variety than you’d expect from a game of its size. Considering its not so cheap price of $39, this shouldn’t be especially surprising. The game’s use of Economic Warfare, varied resources and headquarters, and the sheer level of randomness you can come to expect from each game, certainly makes it worth hours upon hours of good fun. That being said however, it also leaves much to be desired, almost making it feel like the game is yet to be finished. Of course, considering the developer’s commitment to the game, there will certainly be a variety of functional DLCs that fix this issue.