Review: Offworld Trading Company

From Civ 4 developer Soren Johnson comes Offworld Trading Company.

The game is described as being a 4X game without units, but that’s not entirely accurate.  The game is closer to an economic simulator along the lines of Port Royale, Rise of Venice, or Anno 2070.

The game is based around a dynamic open market.  You buy and sell goods on it.  After you purchase goods an item increases in value, when you sell goods it decreases in value.  With your profits you can buy infrastructure that in turn produces goods.

To keep things interesting the game requires you to have certain resources.  Consumption will draw away some of the necessities of life for your colonists.  Leveling up will require steel and glass.  Transporting goods will require fuel or energy.

As various elements of the game require more of these resources the value will go up, and as they need less the market will flood and lower the price.

Leveling up is an essential part of the game.  You can build so many buildings per level and then you are forced to invest in leveling up.  After Level 5 you are maxed.  After this the only way to build new buildings is by unlocking a black market perk to get a new zone license.

The game is multiplayer and the Black Market is your way of attacking people.  You can shut down buildings by EMPing them.  Or you can cause a mutiny and have a facility begin sending goods to you.  The underground explosion will shut down one building.  But all of these perks cost money that you need to have in hand.  They will scale up in cost over time and although you may be able to hurt one person, you are also taking a small hit yourself which will give you a disadvantage against the other two players.

The way in which you win is all about the money.  The value of your company is decided by your total assets against your debt.  Debt is earned by not being able to supply yourself with your consumptive goods and will automatically draw to your account.  As well there are often auctions being held to try and get goods from the Black Market or new technologies slightly faster.  This also adds to your debt.

Paying off your debt will increase the value of your company.  But money is needed or expansion.  Money is also needed for buying out shares in enemy companies.  Once a company is bought out you gain control of their whole operation and can develop and trade their resources.

Playing the game means balancing off your progress as a company with making sure your value doesn’t fall so low that your competitors can buy you out.

The game is very good.  It does have the early access tag.  The main issue with the game is the balance of it.  The game is set to spend a year in balancing before it makes its official release.  When the time comes it will be worth having in your gaming collection.  Right now though you will have to deal with wonky AI and cheesie play.