Thursday, April 28, 2016

Offworld Trading Company Gameplay Review

I'm playing Offworld Trading Company, an economic real-time strategy game by Mohawk Games and Stardock Entertainment.

The game features a campaign mode that is slightly more than a series of scripted scenarios or skirmish games: over seven matches, staff are hired to upgrade building production and the corporation with the lowest stock value is eliminated until a final showdown. In addition, there are skirmish games on maps where the resources are randomized, online multiplayer, daily challenges, and a set of tutorials. The interface does a good job showing prices for the different goods and tiles that are tied to each resource. The goal is to buy out the stock of the competitors using cash earned by selling produced commodities. There are four corporations with slightly different strategies: expansion when resources are far apart, purchase from the black market, bypass basic resource gathering, or ignore life support resources. There is a limited number of claims (hexes to place buildings on), so choices must be made; structures that are further away from headquarters require more fuel and produce more slowly (as transport vessels must automatically shuttle back and forth). Upgrading the HQ opens up more claims but requires more food and water to support. The basic resources (power, water, iron, aluminum, silicon, carbon) are used to produce more advanced items (food, fuel, oxygen, steel, chemicals, glass, electronics); buildings of the same type placed next to each other earn an adjacency bonus. The price of each resource changes based on how much players are buying and selling, so producing expensive resources or monopolizing rare resources are good strategies to maximize profit. Additional options include the ability to research patents, increase production, create artificial shortages or surpluses of resources, export goods offworld (for huge profits), convert excess power to cash, and access the black market to play actions against other players. The AI players are very good, regularly producing a profit and habitually using black market abilities to continually annoy. Although the end-game can be a bit of a grind when all of the claims are exhausted, the typically quick game lengths are refreshing. Offworld Trading Company is a real-time strategy game that actually focuses on strategy instead of the ability to perform more actions per second, creating an accessible and challenging game of economics.