Offworld Trading Company (PC) Review

By Eric Ace 10.04.2020

Review for Offworld Trading Company on PC

With a unique take on the RTS genre where players do not build units to attack the competition, Offworld Trading Company is half city sim, and half economic sim. Published by Stardock (of Galactic Civilizations fame) and developed by Mohawk Games with the help of the lead designer from Civilization IV, it has a good pedigree for strategy titles in general. Players take the role of a megacorporation that tags along to various colonization efforts on planets to sell the budding colonies' much needed resources, in a self-admitted hyper-capitalist price gouge across the solar system.

One has to wonder if it is an innate cynicism in man that is reflected in games about space colonization. Instead of cooperating against a completely hostile planet, unknown dangers, and unforeseen consequences, most titles instead focus on people who try to smash out the competition, so that they might be the only survivors. This was of course reflected in the classic Alpha Centauri, and in a multitude leading to this point, where Offworld Trading Company is about destroying the fellow men and women who are supplying distant human colonies with resources.

This has a lot going on to it, which on some extent is part of its undoing. At its base, players found a small HQ and are given a small number of plots of land they can build on. They must carefully weigh which of the thirteen resources to go for - yes thirteen different resources need attention. As these slowly start to come in, the headquarters can be upgraded, giving a few more plots of land to claim. This general loop continues as one makes more and more money, as other options open up, eventually allowing you to outright buy out the competition - effectively the way to defeat them on the map.

Screenshot for Offworld Trading Company on PC

One thing that deserves praise is the tutorials. In what seems like an industry trend of getting away from tutorials (after arguably over-explaining everything in many last-gen games), it is actually nice to have simple instructions to get the basics explained. As seen in screenshots, there are tons of things happening, and that is not an exaggeration. One very nice thing here is that the GUI is slowly modified to include all the elements instead of just killing the player with 100 buttons right off the bat.

Beyond the general expansion and increasing of materials coming in, which admittedly is a lot already, there are other options which represent one of the primary ways of "fighting" the other players. First, there are two types of upgrading one can do. The first are simple efficiency upgrades which give static boosts like +50% to the income of a resource. The second allows special abilities like cargo ships to teleport, rather than slowly fly across the map. Prices slowly fluctuate based on the colony the players are supplying, as well as if you are buying or selling various resources. A well-timed manipulation of the market can give a huge edge over an opponent who needs a certain resource.

Screenshot for Offworld Trading Company on PC

A major concept is the 'black market,' which represents the primary attack vector. There are various options, such as defending your locations to attack or freezing enemy buildings. One example is causing a riot in the building that siphons its resources to the player instead. On top of all of this are stock prices of each player, represented by how much debt they have and how good they are doing. Ultimately they must be bought out completely to win.

This is interesting as the initial stages of building up the headquarters and buildings are actually enjoyable. It is actually kind of cool mining minerals, then starting to build some farms and water, transitioning over to making fuel and materials. This aspect feels a little like a small survival game; in reality though it is not a true part of the experience. Instead, it is a brutal economic simulator of grabbing the highest mineral locations first, blowing up your competitions buildings, tanking their stocks, and finishing them off.

Screenshot for Offworld Trading Company on PC

For what it is, it is good. It suffers from some problems, such as being more fun building up your colony than engaging in economic warfare, and one of the most popular mods for it is simply a sandbox mode where players can build the colony in peace. Furthermore, with so much happening it is very tough to enjoy it on a low skill level. Compared to something like StarCraft, where even bad players can build marines and smash them into each other, there is just far too much to keep track of to enjoy without a severe learning curve.

The collection of resources and expansions across the hostile planet is a pretty cool feeling. This is somewhat of a missed opportunity, as this element could have been expanded on hugely. Sure, you are getting oxygen or water, but none of it feels like it really matters other than another resource to sell. When you get down to it, the fact it's on another planet is more of just a dressing than actual content, which is unfortunate. Those looking for something to scratch a space itch will likely be disappointed, but for those looking for a high-speed economic competition title will find it here.

Screenshot for Offworld Trading Company on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

For a RTS where you do not attack the other player with units, there is a lot going on here. The raw amount of things to keep track of and options available, are in some ways overwhelming. The core of it all is great fun, and it is completely novel for a RTS to avoid just massing units and rolling out. The amount of stuff happening takes away some of the enjoyment, as playthroughs quickly get away from players if they are not using every option available to them. Finally, the pace is so fast that there is no enjoyment about surviving on these hostile planets.

Developer

Mohawk Games

Publisher

Stardock Entertainment

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

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