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    Offworld Trading Company: Business and brains over battle and brawn.

    It was back in November 2013 that Soren Johnson the lead designer of Civilization IV set up indie outfit Mohawk Games, and announced his studio’s debut project, codenamed ‘Mar’. At the time, he told “bored with what was out there,” and that he wanted to see real-time strategy games “stretch and expand.”

    A year or so on, Offworld Trading Company marks Mohawk Game’s inaugural RTS, now available on Early Access. True to the suggestion that he was fed up with the genre beforehand, Johnson and his team have swapped strategy staples such as army units and military conflict for more sophisticated traits such as keen business acumen and economic warfare.


    Development on Mars is big business. Competing head-to-head against rival advancing colonies for water, iron, silicon and carbon to name but a few of the myriad resources that furnish the Red Planet’s landscape is key to financial survival. Only by manipulating a highly fluctuating market economy can you hope to turn a profit, and only then can you hope to afford the acquisition of competitor shares, in turn sinking their businesses.

    What may sound bland in theory is hugely entertaining in practice. Although a combat-less RTS might conjure up images of spreadsheets and number-crunching something OTC has in spades a well- utilised black market keeps those in search of physical confrontation more than satisfied. Even if you consider yourself a pacifist, having your resource-rich, prime-location water pump sabotaged by a begrudging foe will likely force you into the murky depths of the underground economy eventually. 

    My one concern for OTC at this stage is just how much it relies on the numbers. At times, I felt glued to the left-hand bar that houses the figures but occupies just a fraction of the playing area. I wouldn’t say the courier and construction animations become totally redundant in the process, but I was reminded of early Championship Manager games that eschewed real-time footage for cold, hard stats. Part of me feels OTC needs to make the sprawling playing field feel more absolute and justified. 

    That said, it is Early Access and even at this stage, Offworld Trading Company feels decidedly complete. There’s plenty of time to get things right a fact driven home by Mohawk’s tentative 2016 release date.

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