Manage a mining company in space. Dig for precious resources, upgrade your facility, bid at auctions to further improve your workflow, sell your resources to make a profit, purchase stocks, and greatly undercut your competitors. This all sounds like a complete waste of time for a video game, however, spend a few minutes playing Offworld Trading Company and you’ll instantly be hooked and wanting more.
Offworld Trading Company was developed by Soren Johnson, the lead designer of Civilization IV. Wanting to develop this video game for some time, Soren Johnson jumped right into production after starting up his own studio, Mohawk Games. The results are spectacular, and the game is by far one of the most addicting titles I’ve played this year.
A Mining We Will Go
Offworld Trading Company is set in the distant future where Earth’s resources have been running dangerously low. This has sparked an economic arms race with giant corporations to small contractors seeking to exploit the resources of the red planet, Mars. As one of these agents, the sole purpose of your expedition is to export (and sell) as many resources as possible to feed Earth, but you’ll soon realize the battle for these materials is cutthroat.
There are various factions, all of which have their pros and cons. For instance, I went with a small mining corporation that focuses their production through the use of robotics. With mindless robots, I didn’t have to worry about using resources to gather food or entertainment while families were not working. Although, I would suffer in other areas–I was vulnerable to electrical sabotage that would crush my robots’ workflow.
It’s A Cutthroat Business
As mentioned, there are various factions that you can start your match off with and depending on the campaign or skirmish, you may be facing against several close by neighboring companies who are also looking to bring a healthy profit at any cost to the local competition.
This is where the meat of the game comes into play–strategy. Not only are you tasked with mining as many resources as possible, but there are several other aspects that fuse together that may make or break your company as everything must have an equal flow. Producing one resource (e.g. electronics) may require the use of another (e.g. silicon), thus it becomes a strategic puzzle as to what resources you’ll need in order to bring a healthy profit and further your advancement within the game. There are many options to victory, and you have to figure out what resource works best with the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen faction.
Diverting your resources to gather another seems easy enough, but at the start of the game, players are only given a set amount of tiles that they can claim within the hexagon-based map. More tiles become available after you upgrade your headquarters, though there will become a point in which you’re unable to upgrade any further, forcing players to use a set amount of tiles at their disposal. This adds a challenge late game when players may be forced to destroy certain buildings to reclaim tiles, bid an outrageous amount of money for a new tile location within a random auction, or buy resources from competitors. Likewise, your opponents may find themselves short on select supplies causing prices to fluctuate granting a quick and easy payday.
Getting Your Hands Dirty
Sometimes you may need to toss a wrench into the competition’s works. Through the use of the black market, players can easily use various tools against their competitors. From destroying one of their production units, causing worker strikes, to raising the prices for supplies, there’s plenty of ways to strategically increase the value of your resources and company while diminishing the economy of the competition.
Furthermore, players will find opportunities to protect themselves from potential attacks by purchasing protection for a particular tile. It’s a costly investment, but it can easily save your hide if you have a particularly important industry to protect. Ultimately, you’ll have to figure out which of your opponents’ tiles are being protected and which of your own tiles may be vulnerable, as hitting a protected title will have a negative impact on your own business and may even provide your opponent with the very attack you attempted to use on them.
For the most part, matches within Offworld Trading Company are relatively short, lasting under an hour. Essentially, players win by buying out the other competing companies. Each business will have stocks available for purchase, though depending on how well the company is doing will result in just how much their stock is worth.
You can purchase their stocks over time to bring down the overall cost of a buyout or save up and perform a hostile takeover of an opponent’s company all at once. That said, you’ll want to be careful as your own company can be bought out by competitors as well. While you can purchase your own stocks in order to increase the overall buyout price for any competitors, this is simply a short-term fix. The goal is to win, and the best way to do that is to be the last one standing.
If you enjoyed the past Civilization games or happen to be a fan of strategy games, then you can’t go wrong with Offworld Trading Company. This is fast-paced, cutthroat, capitalism distilled into a video game, and one that will keep you entertained for a long time to come.
A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.