Oddball Game of the Month – Offworld Trading Company

Another month draws to a close, and with it comes another oddball game experience.

March’s Oddball Game of the Month is Offworld Trading Company.

Developed by Mohawk Games and published by Stardock Corporation (gurus in the world of strategy games on a grand scale), Offworld Trading Company is a bit of a different animal. While it’s using a hex-based system similar to games such as Civilization, it operates in real-time. The biggest change from normal RTS games is that it centers around  corporate strategy rather than military. You won’t be commanding battalions of tanks to destroy your enemies with reckless abandon, but rather carefully use corporate espionage and hostile takeovers.

The setting is a futuristic Mars where humanity has begun forging colonies. You, as a massive corporate entity, are charged with building resource gathering and manufacturing infrastructure on the new planet.

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The game’s matches revolve around quick expansion and earning enough money through various means to buy out your competitors. You are given a number of “claims” to use on individual tiles on the map to be able to build mines, greenhouses, or whatever you’d like there. You can stake these claims anywhere on the map, but be warned – the further your claim is from your base, the slower and more expensive it is to make use of.

Resources are listed on your heads up display, complete with incoming and spending numbers. Resources that you are using but not producing enough of will drain your economy pretty fast, so it’s important to become as self-sufficient as possible pretty early. If you create more of a resource than you spend, you can stockpile it and sell it for cash or ship it off world to create additional income.

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The main thing to keep an eye on is the stock price of all players. This increases and falls as one might expect, and will determine the cost to eliminate opponents via buyouts or how close your opponents are to doing the same to you.

One of the key components of the game is the black market, which gives you the ability to purchase devious items or abilities to be used to undermine your opponents – from inciting labour strikes all the way up to underground nukes to destroy resources.

Another feature is the patent system. Once you build a patent office, you can research helpful technologies that only you can use. For example, you can buy the patent for teleportation which allows you (and only you) to forego shipping costs from your mines and manufacturing plants and simply teleport goods to your base.

There is also an auction mechanic that occurs every once in a while which pauses the game as players bid on whatever is up for sale, be it a claim or a black market item. This mechanic can get tiresome if you have little interest in the item, but fortunately the game allows you to skip over it when playing against AI opponents.

The game has a skirmish mode and a campaign, but you cannot play the campaign until you’ve one at least one skirmish. The campaign mode is really more of a series of specially restricted skirmishes with the overall goal of becoming a financial superpower on red planet.

Overall, I really enjoyed Offworld Trading Company for its rather unique take on a hex-based strategy game, but I will say my interested waned more quickly than I expected. There isn’t a ton of variation in what you do from match to match. While I don’t really have a complaint there, I found the lack of an interesting storyline to follow in addition to the fairly repetitive nature of the matches meant I wasn’t as invested as I could have been.

Therefore, I must conclude that the normal price of this game at ~$40-$45 is too rich for my blood. However, on sale, I recommend picking this up if you’re into strategy games and want to try something totally different.

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