Offworld Trading Company

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Offworld Trading Company Game Poster Image
Commerce trumps combat in unique strategy game.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about some of the basic fundamentals of business and economics, as well as more science-related topics, such as space exploration, the effects of using limited resources, and what it would take to create a new habitat in a harsh environment. Best of all, kids can learn these things while competing with others, without the use of violence. Players can take all these lessons from the game and apply them in many ways to their real-world experiences. Offworld Trading Company will entertain and educate kids while they explore the environment and competition of the Red Planet.

Positive Messages

While there's an underlying theme of trying to make sure humanity thrives on Mars, real focus shows how to properly manage a business and that providing for people's needs can be mutually beneficial.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No characters are particularly good, evil, but most are driven by profit. Some are technically criminals, due to owing debts for relocating to Mars. Also, some characters (particularly Joji-5 robot) are passive-aggressive and condescending toward human player, humans in general.

Ease of Play

Controls are pretty much point-and-click, so it's simple to pick up basics. Things get more complicated when it comes to constantly monitoring information feeds to find best times to buy, sell resources, analyze what communities, habitats need.

Violence

Very little violence, outside of occasional pirate raid on resources. Even those aren't so much fights as a hazard for production.

Sex

Nothing explicit mentioned; implied through vague description of "Pleasure Domes" players build near habitats to give communities a place to relax, unwind.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Offworld Trading Company is a downloadable real-time strategy-simulation game focusing on commerce instead of combat. The game simulates running manufacturing businesses on Mars, with players competing to outperform each other and eventually buy out their rivals. The basic controls are easy to learn, with most of the complexities of the game being in tracking the market trends and sorting out colonists' needs and desires. Violence is virtually nonexistent, with the exception of the occasional pirate raid on your supply chain. While the base single-player campaign is relatively family-friendly, players can compete in online multiplayer matches, opening up the possibility of offensive language and content from strangers in chat.

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What's it about?

OFFWORLD TRADING COMPANY is set in the future, and the Earth is dying. Simply put, the planet is running out of resources to sustain our way of life. The solution is clear. For humanity to survive, we must make our way beyond our home planet and make a new life elsewhere: Mars. The Red Planet has a vast supply of untapped resources, just waiting for the ambitious and adventurous among us to lay claim to its treasures. That's where you come in. You've just arrived on Mars as its latest entrepreneur, supervising the mining and manufacturing of goods and services for the colonists who want to build a new home. Of course, this is a new frontier and an open market -- and you're not the only one looking to turn a profit. You'll have to keep your finger on the pulse of the burgeoning Martian marketplace and make some shrewd dealings to rake in the money and put your competition out of business once and for all.

Is it any good?

You'd think a real-time strategy (RTS) game where you never raise an army or even fire a shot at an opponent would be a cakewalk at best and downright boring at worst. You'd also be wrong. Instead, you get a frantic, fast-paced experience where the right business deal can do more damage to your enemies than a battalion of tanks. Things start off like most RTS games, with you picking a spot on the map for your main base and then harvesting nearby resources. Build a couple of power plants, manufacturing facilities, maybe even a farm or two, and you're ready to go. That's where the similarities end, though. Instead of using your hard-earned goods to build up a military force, you start trading with nearby colonist communities. These hardworking folks need essentials, such as food, water, and minerals, as well as a few luxuries to help pass the time. By buying, selling, and trading with these communities, you'll affect the marketplace on a global scale. Flood the market with a particular good, and the value drops like a rock. Stockpile a cache of highly desired material, and you could make a mint. The catch is, you're not the only shark in this Martian tank. Others are competing with you, negotiating their own deals and trades in an effort to drive you out of business.

It's hard to find anything not to like about Offworld Trading Company. It's simple to learn but a challenge to master. It's insanely tense to watch the pricing of commodities change on the fly while you also maintain your facilities' production, manage your budget, and monitor the needs of the colonists. What makes it even harder to keep track of all this is the fact that the game looks and sounds gorgeous. You can easily get lost in the Zen-like, calming environment of the Martian landscape as you watch things moving along like some sort of sci-fi ant farm. You can even get more than a few laughs for good measure, thanks to the over-the-top tutorial and some of the campaign missions. If there's one thing you'll learn from the game, it's that everything is about the bottom line. And the bottom line here is that Offworld Trading Company somehow manages to take the most monotonous part of the usual RTS game and transform it into something exciting, engaging, a little educational, and, most of all, fun.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about free market and trade. In what ways does commerce affect our daily lives? How do things like supply and demand affect an item's value and pricing?

  • Talk about business and money management. What are some of the traits of a strong business? How difficult would it be to run a business and manage its budget?

Game details

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