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On Mars, it’s buy or be bought. If you lose all your shares, it’s a hostile takeover, and you’re done. This time, it’s down to me and another player who has been swearing at me in Russian the whole game. We’re both fairly wealthy, so our shares are worth a lot, and it’s been a grueling 25 minutes. We’ve already eliminated the other two players — they’ve been out of the game for over half of the engagement — and we each control roughly half of the resources on the map. We’re both too afraid to make a move through the Black Market, a neutral “shop” of sorts which allows purchase of various tools of sabotage, for fear that the other will retaliate with an equally (or perhaps more severely) devastating act of espionage. Then, I make a move — I use my hackers to initiate a water shortage. I move quickly. I buy electrical short from the black market, which renders target building and all adjacent buildings inoperable for a short time, and aim it at his water pumps. I have a lot of water — roughly 3,000 units of it — and I begin selling it en masse. I scrape up enough money to buy his remaining shares, and I win.

Жопа,or “piss off,” he says.

Sorry, pal. This is Offworld Trading Company, the new real-time trading strategy title from Mohawk Games. Mohawk was started by a handful of people, most notable being Soren Johnson, lead designer of Civilization IV. It’s a truly unique game — rarely do real-time strategy games exist without the objective “destroy your enemy’s base” — and one that is certainly worthy of time and attention.

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Offworld Trading Company’s premise is simple: Take your conglomerate to Mars, gather resources, and send them back to Earth for colossal profits. This session-based realtime tradewar is less about directly destroying your opponents, and more about accruing more wealth than they can and buying out their corporation so you can have a Martian mining monopoly. A singular goal, sure, but it can be accomplished in myriad ways. For instance, you could choose to be a total dirtbag and play the market by recruiting hackers to incite artificial surpluses or shortages of specific goods. Alternatively, you could build an Offworld Launch Pad and send your resources directly to Earth, for massively increased profits. You could even expand, make a huge land grab, take as many crucial resources as possible, and then sell them all early on.

It’s certainly a charming game, though voice acting is almost non-existent: Launching from your Offworld Launch Pad triggers a text-to-speech voice-over which blandly states “Offworld Shipment Launched. Look at all the money!” By virtue of being Early Access, Offworld Trading Company doesn’t have a ton of content: there’s a campaign, and there’s multiplayer, but at the moment it isn’t that fleshed out, and I found myself growing bored of what there was after several hours. I’m sure, like most other Early Access titles, that I’ll come back to Offworld Trading Company at some point. I can definitely see myself losing hundreds of hours to it, perhaps when the menus work a little better, or when victory conditions consist of more than just “buy out your opponents’ shares.”

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It’s a weird thing, Early Access: It affords us the opportunity to play games and have stark impact on their development, but the people who bought it tend to play a ton of it when it first shows up on the service, and then get bored and fail to show up for later iterations. It happened to me last year with a zombie survival game called 7 Days to Die. I played it when terrain destruction wasn’t even implemented yet, and now it has working, drivable vehicles, but I played so much of it that I don’t think I ever will again. It’s unfortunate, because games often go through such massive sea changes that the end product is nearly nothing like the game that originally showed up on Steam.

Offworld Trading Company is on Early Access now for $40.

 

Adam has a penchant for strong, minority opinions, and loves Mass Effect, JRPGs, and the Warriors games -- sometimes perhaps a bit too much. He will defend Final Fantasy XIII to his grave, and honestly believes people give Dragon Age II too much flak.

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