Offworld Trading Company review - merciless capitalism on Mars
Taking into account the fact that the project is supervised by Soren Johnson, it was reasonable to assume that we would get a product at least good, and certainly original. And it really is. The game can be described as an economic RTS, in which we have to sweep the opponent off the surface of ... Mars, but we do it only with money. It is the work of the Mohawk Games team, founded by Soren Johnson - one of the main designers of the third and fourth installments of Civilization , who also participated in the creation of Spore . On the one hand, we have a solid strategy, even legendary, and on the other, an extraordinary and one-of-a-kind game. Will Offworld Trading Company become both?
Ingenuity and humor
I must admit that the background of the story seems very interesting and too inventive for the requirements of a strategy game. In an undefined future, our species begins colonizing the planet Mars. Colonists have needs that must be met by producing electricity or electronics, or by providing basic goods such as water, food, and oxygen. And here is the opportunity to earn money for our company, the activities of which we direct. We are not dealing with some governmental space program aimed at developing a new human settlement. Instead, four corporations dash like hungry wolves into a fresh, unfamiliar market in hopes of scooping up a mountain of cash. The perceptible greed of each of them leads to a local conflict that will only end the monopoly of one of these factions. And each one is unique - both in terms of the character of the leader and the benefits it brings to the company. Expansionists get greater land rights through negotiation skills. Robotics do not have to meet the biological needs of their employees. Processors have better contacts with the underworld, and scientists have special buildings. Although it all sounds very serious, the game is characterized by a large dose of humor, which is sometimes a bit intrusive, but generally makes a positive impression. Moreover, each company has its own set of jokes.
The aforementioned humor is best visible in the tutorial, which is a well-arranged set of several lessons leading us from complete ignorance of the mechanics of skirmishes to fully understanding them. It also builds the initial atmosphere to a large extent and presents the entire story, as unfortunately there are no purely fictional elements in the campaign. It focuses on seven missions, six of which are very different from the standard skirmishes, the ultimate goal of which is to buy the competitors' shares and take over their colony activities. Instead, the campaign activities rely heavily on habitat acquisition and sponsorship of jobs for settled people, which spoils the competitive element so perceptible in other modes. Between missions, we decide which power we want to cooperate with (e.g. the US or China), which gives bonuses depending on the choice, and we hire people for future tasks.
Economy in full swing
Skirmish and multiplayer modes present the main idea of the game with a strong emphasis on fighting the competition. Winning or losing determines whether we will be able to buy someone else's company or whether we will be taken over on the stock market. The share price is influenced by practically everything we do, and the possibilities are extremely large. This makes the game extremely complex, but by no means does the player feel overwhelmed. Both the pleasing and clear interface as well as the sequence of actions imposed by the concession system prevent any loss during the skirmishes. This system is one of the most important elements that should be taken care of. We cannot build on Mars as much as we want. Each facility requires a place for development, and its approval, in turn, requires the consent of the colony. In practice, we get a set of permits each time we expand our headquarters on the planet. However, such an expansion requires a lot of raw materials (such as aluminum, steel and glass), and although initially these amounts are still acceptable, subsequent improvements are already starting to consume astronomical stocks of materials. We are forced to do so, as it is impossible to conquer the Red Planet without a large tract of land under control.
In the next stages of the skirmishes, we get access to buildings that can significantly outweigh the scales of victory for our or the rival's side. They are expensive but worth the money. The patent office allows you to develop technologies often straight from science fiction movies, e.g. teleporting raw materials or supplying everything with water. Hackers can manipulate prices in the markets, and although they charge a lot for such a service, with the effective production of a given good, it can still be profitable. You can also earn money on the colonists themselves. Poor people, living under constant stress and working in the sweat of their brow, will pay serious money for the possibility of entertainment in specially prepared domes. However, the greatest profits should be expected from the trade with the orbit. It often sets its own much higher prices for some goods (most often oxygen, it's easy to see why) and meeting its expectations is particularly lucrative. Such a large number of ways of earning money allows for a lot of creativity and makes the battles very different, especially in multiplayer gameplay, where the styles of two players can be diametrically different, and the strategy for winning must take into account how the opponent works.