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Should I be excited about… Offworld Trading Company (PC)

Should I be excited about… Offworld Trading Company (PC)

How many of you have ever wanted to run your own company? Be The Boss? Tell other people they’re fired while looking sternly at them and pointing the finger of questionable justice/power?

Well here’s your chance to do just that. But there’s a catch.

You’ll be on Mars.

My time with Offworld Trading Company began when one of the editors offered it to me. No clue what it was. No preamble of “you’ll love this game I’m sure” or “it’s just your type of thing”. I hadn’t heard anything about it, seen a trailer or even been told what genre of game it was. And I, being the adventurous type of chap that I am, thought why not? What could possibly go wrong? Well, here goes nothing I suppose…

Offworld Trading (5)First bit of information I garnered from the store page on Steam was that the game is in Early Access. This started all the usual alarm bells ringing. Unfortunately it seems that for each good early access games on steam, there are a bazillion [yes that’s a real number Tom I promise] bloody terrible attempts. Not off to a good start are we?

The next thing I learned from the wonders of the internets was that Mohawk Games was founded and is run by none other than Soren Johnson. Never heard of him? How about Civ 4? He was lead designer. How about Dorian Newcomb? Civ 5 Art Director? Right. Now my gaming senses are starting to tingle a little. This team quite clearly has some experience in the big leagues. That Early Access alarms are starting to die down a little.

Then, while I waited for the game to finish downloading I watched the aforementioned Mr Johnson play the first tutorial level on the Mohawk Games YouTube Channel. I like what I see. Download finished? Off we go to Mars then.

The tutorials are naturally where I start. Strangely enough I seem to get the hang of the first few right away. It’s all nicely explained without making you feel like your hand is being held too much. Something that a lot of tutorials miss the mark on. So how does the game work?

Offworld Trading (4)The game’s resource system works rather well. There are some raw resources that you collect by placing structures on top of them (water, silicon,aluminium, iron, carbon and power) and others that you need to create from those you have collected (food, fuel, oxygen, electronics, chemicals, glass and steel) however, should you find yourself running out of any of them you can buy them from the market. Need more electronics to build that shiny new lab? No problem, but it’ll cost you money. How much it will cost will depend on how much of the resource the players/AI have been selling on the market during the course of the game. There for it is possible to scupper your opponents plans to make a load of money on glass by selling a load of it and swamping the market, thus bringing the price down. However, if another opponent needs to buy glass for something, it will make their job easier. The balancing act of selling enough resources to get money but not making them worthless by the end of it can cause some rather unfortunate accidents if, like me, you tend to work in the ‘I need this money now and I’ll deal with what comes later, later’ school of RTS gameplay

So how do we actually collect these resources? You are given a finite amount of claims with which to build structures on Mars. You are allocated more every time you upgrade your company HQ and the Black market is a whole other thing that we’ll talk about in a minute. Some of the resources you are going to be using right from the get go. Power, oxygen and food are the obvious ones but if you manage to stake a claim on resource rich tile of the map that’s not next to your HQ then you’re also going to have to spend fuel to transport that resource back home. These resources will continue to be used even if your not making them, as your people buy them from the market. However, this is where Mohawk did something really smart with the money system in OTC. They brought in a debt system. If you’re having to buy materials from the market in order to keep your people alive, then rather than just coming out of your wallet, it is added to your debt.

Offworld Trading (3)This debt can be paid off simply by automatically selling resources such as power when you don’t need them or directly from your wallet at the click of a button. High debt will lower your stock price which will make it easier for your opponents to buy you out (how you actually win/lose a match) so it’s usually a good idea to try and keep it as low as possible by making sure that you’re not buying too many resources to keep everything up and running.

Back to the black market then. Imagine there’s one tile that is making your opponent a veritable poop-ton of money. Want to cause him/her some trouble. Then the black market is where you wanna go. It contains interesting things such as extra claims, EMP strikes, power surges, dynamite and one of my personal favourites Mutiny. This one lets you collect resources from the tile you target instead of your opponent. Better watch out though cause a goon squad could have been placed there and if it has, not only does it announce to all the players that you’re using dirty tactics but it also gives the weapon you used to it’s intended target. And guess who he’s gonna try using it on instead? In order to balance this ability to cause chaos, once you buy something from the black market you are locked out for about a minute or so. Preventing you from completely decimating an opponent’s structures within a few seconds. Which is nice… (whispers “I want more dynamite”)

Offworld Trading (2)That about covers the basic mechanics of the game but there is one last thing to mention. In campaign mode you don’t have access to all of the structures that will eventually be available. You have to hire engineers that can use them.

Each level you complete in the campaign gets you a certain amount of income. You can then spend this on new buildings to use in the next level. All the way up to the offworld trading market, which allows you to ship things back to earth for massive profit.

All in all, this game is pretty complete right now. When it comes to Early access I have a benchmark that I work with. If the developer went bust right now… would this game be worth the price? Not that I wish any harm to come to Mohawk. (preps EMP charge) but in this world of fluctuating markets etc. we have already seen big studios vanish with no warning (No your honour, I had nothing to do with that underground nuke blast) and projects abandoned due to lack of funding. (mutiny? What mutiny?) and so if this were to befall OTC, would I still be happy with the game?

Yes.

Buy it… buy it now…. (or I’ll dynamite your water tile so hard you’ll think Aliens arrived and stole it!)

MOAR FROM CALMDOWNTOM!

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