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    Offworld Trading Company: A strategy legend returns with economic ambitions

    Game designer Soren Johnson has left his imprint on some of the highest profile strategy games of all time from Civilization III and IV to Spore. After a brief foray at Zynga, he has returned to his PC roots with a new studio. Johnson’s first project with Mohawk Games is a fast-paced economic war game packed with more excitement than a frenzy of trading on the Wall Street floor.

    Offworld Trading Company is a real-time strategy game, but you won’t be cranking out units and flexing your micromanagement skills in combat. This game focuses on the economic war raging on the planet Mars as differing groups compete for natural resources. Players must rush to collect a wide variety of resources on randomly generated maps with the goal of eventually buying out all that oppose them for domination of the red planet. Far outside the standard concept of a RTS that conjures up notions of StarCraft, Age of Empires II, or Command & Conquer, Offworld Trading Company plays more like a simulation or tycoon game, a sort of modern day approach to the now-ancient game M.U.L.E.

    Planning is crucial to being a successful marketeer. If every player is selling off his or her water surplus, the price is going to tank hard and fast. It’s up to you to determine what the hot resource is going to be down the line, rather than what’s selling now. Resources come in 13 different varieties of unprocessed and processed goods, leaving plenty of room for crafty strategists to corner the market on essentials that aren’t being collected.

    Although there are no hoplites or tanks to send at your opponents, you still interact with them constantly. The real-time fluctuating market prices and stock value of each player are constantly shifting, and there are plenty of tools to employ to take down the market leader, including espionage, sabotage, and EMP blasts to shut down critical production.

    The concept of an auction/buy/sell trading game might seem like a slow, dull experience, but in practice the gameplay is fast-paced and engaging. Time flies by as you scramble to upgrade your headquarters, find the choice claims on the map, and keep an eye on  shortages in the market whether you are tackling the campaign or competing online.

    Games generally take around 30-40 minutes and end when one player buys out the stock of all other players. It’s a power struggle that doesn’t revolve around crushing military might or the unleashing of a superweapon, and an interesting way to take the waning RTS genre in a new direction.

    Offworld Trading Company is currently available as an Early Access offering on Steam.

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