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Offworld Trading Company / 10th of May 2016

I have something of a confession to make; I’m not really one for strategy games, and when I do do strategy, I tend to prefer the smaller scale of Relic’s Dawn of War II to Ubisoft/Related Design’s Anno 2070. Naturally then, I was initially a tad dismayed with Offworld Trading Company as it is camped firmly within the Anno 2070 school of trading, sorting supply lines and making sure that things flow correctly, as opposed to the small-scale, almost-RPG fun of ploughing through a horde of Orks of Dawn of War II and its expansions. It was perhaps surprising then that I found myself actually enjoying its micro-management and combat-free gameplay, why you ask? Well, read on and find out…

Now, to take it from the top from the technical side of things; Offworld Trading Company runs great, and it looks fantastic as Mohawk have undoubtedly done a great job of balancing their technical budget with their assets. It runs fine in 4K and whilst it may have limited graphics configuration options - but then it’s not like this is a triple A console port where we were either expecting a million options or for it to run stuck in 720p - what’s here is perfectly acceptable quite frankly. On the whole then, Mohawk have done a superb job of making the game look great without making their game require a £2000 super-computer, the texture work in particular is exceedingly well done, and even zooming right into the ground still pleases the eye.

My one complaint with OTC’s presentation is the sound design. While the music is nice and fitting, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the helpful computer voices that remind you things are happening, each event seems to have but one dialogue line and sometimes the same event can happen several times every minute. The inability to mute just these dialogue lines means the game often feels best played muted, which is a shame because the sound is of an all-around of pleasing quality. Evidently this is something that the team should take on board if they’re looking to create a sequel at some point.

As it turns out, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of Anno, and there’s a hell of a lot that OTC does that makes it a bit more appealing if you’re not into slow, purposeful, combat-light real-time strategy. In fact, I should point out that Mohawk games was founded by strategy game veterans, but then this becomes pretty obvious after spending only a few hours with the game. Swimming in the hearty broth of trading, planning and carefully balancing debts versus income, Mohawk have carefully dropped in little morsels from a variety of strategy games until the whole experience feels more like a thick, stodgy stew. The requirement of careful positioning and land planning feels as though it has been inspired by more explorative strategy games and the rampant pace that forces you to gamble with your resources to get ahead brings an occasional sense of urgency that you normally don’t expect when someone says “it’s a game about generating and selling resources”.

But OTC is a rather tightly designed piece of work, it’s a game that feeds you very few rules and depending on your faction, there’ll be some changes to those rules, but despite it’s apparent simplicity, there’s a great deal of depth in play that’s hiding below the surface, ready to burst out and eat your face. For that reason, I’m more than thankful for the generous array of difficulty settings, not to mention the high quality tutorial that the developer included here. You definitely can come into this as a strategy greenhorn and it will tell you its rules, and even how to win (and keep on winning).

You’ll learn to manage your income from resources versus outgoing expenditures, you’ll learn that debt is just a temporary thing, and you’ll learn how to lie, cheat, steal and sabotage your way to victory. Now what more could one possibly ask for? Ultimately, Offworld Trading Company will simply take you by the hand and show you its ways, and then it’s very much up to you to tell it how hard you want it to trounce you, and yes, it probably will.

Offworld Trading Company is a surprisingly good looking, smart thinking game which can either give you a nice cuddle, or a rough ride (depending on your own preference). It’s immensely deep, and despite its subject matter, it still manages to play out at a relatively high pace, injecting a sense of urgency into a genre typically lacking in it, just to get the old blood pumping. In spite of my initial apprehensions, I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with even a slight interest in getting into some quick paced, but deep and fulfilling strategy based gameplay. 
Paddy Maxson
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