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.