Almost-Release Version Review of Offworld Trading Company

Economic strategy at its best

The obvious incredible: nowadays some games manage to survive several sales even before version 1.0 is released. I remember the first time Offworld Trading Company caught my eye during the Steam Summer Sale. The strategy game about Martian commercial colonies looked enticing, but back then, “another tycoon” and Early Access, amidst wholesale purchases of everything in the world, turned out to be uncompetitive.

Then, somehow, in the fall, OTC was finally purchased with another themed discount and a batch of beta patches included. But in the fall, you know, a lot of AAA caliber games were released; I only had time to spend a couple of hours panning the camera over poorly understood deserts.

I only remembered about the game again around New Year’s, due to the usual discounts. Strangely enough, the release version on Steam still hasn’t arrived. It’s at version 0.9981. Almost, that means, ready. It’ll do.

Mars colonization and trade

Understanding what exactly needs to be done in Offworld Trading Company is decisively impossible. In the screenshots, it looks like Civilization. Turn-based strategy? In the real-time promotional video, developers and space barges are buzzing back and forth. A tycoon about long-haul truckers?

It turned out to be neither the first nor the second. It is indeed a real-time economic strategy, but not about cargo transportation, but about zerg-rushing.

OTC matches are short competitions between several colonizers for individual Martian sectors. The battles take place in two stages, the first of which is the construction of our own infrastructure. We choose where our office will be located, start supplying electricity, begin extracting resources, and develop industry. Each base has its own infrastructure ceiling, which ideally is reached in five to ten minutes. The second major task on the map is, if we are playing a campaign, fulfilling a government order for transportation, or, in the case of “sandbox” mode, eliminating competitors from the map. Both of these tasks are achieved by draining the accumulated money and resources to the Victory Altar. If you really want to, you can also simultaneously spam competitors with saboteurs.

Compared to most other tycoon games, OTC’s economy is not very deep, but it suddenly becomes engaging when you realize that the game requires fast and skillful actions, executed with the precision more typical of combat strategies. The habit of leisurely placing buildings, organizing profitable production at the same pace, and meditating on the spreading anthill in anticipation of success is broken in the very first mission. Then you estimate and execute “builds,” move the camera around the map, and squeeze all the juice out of the bonuses of the chosen faction. And under this guise, Offworld Trading Company is already working!

Competition for off-world wealth

Such a cheerful gameplay tempo works great in the campaign, where all missions (except the last one) on one hand require colonizers to have a highly profitable economy, and on the other hand, don’t allow them to stay on one map for too long. But once you reach the final task or simply dive into the local sandbox, the aforementioned fast-paced development of Mars has the opposite effect. After ten to fifteen (or even less) minutes of an economic blitzkrieg, a calm sets in and there is nothing left to do on the location. Well, except for clicking on the plus and minus signs in the buy-sell menu.

In fact, trading in OTC from all sides is primitive. Accumulate surplus resources, sell goods on the market, and buy a bunch of other people’s stocks with the proceeds. Small witty inserts like hacker attacks on the general exchange, various ordered pirate raids on competitors, and auctions for various bonuses again diversify the stage of aggressive expansion and hardly affect the already divided map among players.

However, understanding the way of the Martian commercial rush takes time, and the boredom of the endgame doesn’t come right away. The hybrid economic strategy turned out to be not very long-playing, but still interesting, and the hours spent and discounted dollars spent on Offworld Trading Company were definitely not regretted in hindsight.

Offworld Trading Company
Multiplayer, Strategy
Stardock Entertainment
Mohawk Games
Release Date:
Editor's rating:
Is it worth playing? (If the score is more than 70%)



More Reviews