Durome Software
1986
Strategy: Management
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Undetermined

82,83
Sean Masterson
Chris Bourne

Sapphire Software's first product, Ourworld is intended for the budget end of the market. It's a science fiction strategy game involving mining and trading on a planet called Outworld, hence the title. I can't comment on the packaging, as the review copy sent to me had nothing beyond a few, limited instructions and the cassette. So, to the game.

First of all, it is necessary to buy land before mining may commence and at the beginning of the game you have to stake a claim on one of three mining zones by purchasing a patch of land. They range from dangerous areas with massive ore reserves to relatively safe areas with few good mining prospects. Their price also varies naturally the more expensive the mining rights, the better the ore deposits. Once a choice has been made, play progresses to the next screen.

At this point, a workforce needs to be recruited and a motley bunch they seem to be, too! A workforce consists of a couple of hundred weird looking aliens who possess even weirder names. No mention is made of their abilities but each belongs to a different union and union rules affect you later in the game. The workers demand different levels of pay as well, so economists should bear this in mind. Neither the union rules which individual workers follow nor their abilities are mentioned at the start, so it's hard to make a good decision first time around. Hopefully, when this game appears on the market, better instructions will be included that rectify this matter.

Equipment needs to be bought next. Again, there was no mention as to whether certain equipment is actually necessary for ore retrieval or whether it simply aids retrieval. In fact, the latter seems to be the case and the options cover heavy duty pickaxes, which are almost worthless, to mining machines, which I could never really afford as they are more expensive than opening up a new mine. This screen also allows old equipment to be sold, but beware, you're only likely to recoup a tiny proportion of the original price when selling equipment. After a couple of offers have been made, you will not have the opportunity to sell again until the next month's turn.

During the game, mining reports come in to tell you how things are going and opportunities arise to spend money with advertising companies or even mercenaries, who are prepared to harass your competitors for a fee. Little else of use happens until the end of the month when the offers for your ore arrive and the banking reports are published. During the mining it's possible to alter the safety level at the workface, which is governed by a variable between one and ten. As might be expected, safer conditions cost more to implement.

No matter how safe you make the workface, it appears that one major disaster befalls the workforce every month! Normally a disaster results in the death of a couple of hundred workers owing to the collapse of a shaft and although these losses do not show on your workforce reports, compensation has to be paid out.

Inevitably, some of your workers misbehave. Every month a few of them decide to steal some ore and they always get caught! Doing nothing is likely to make the situation even worse next month, so two other choices are possible. Firing the culprits and reclaiming the ore is one choice, but taking the culprits to courts is perhaps a better financial gamble as workers who are found guilty are fined 5,000 credits, which does wonders for your profitability.

If cash flow is a problem, you can ask for a loan. Going overdrawn is allowed and if you think the money will come in soon, then an overdraft may be the best course. Otherwise, a loan will cost you a small amount extra and can allow better investment in the mines (you could use the money to open up a new mine but this would almost always entail adding to your workforce). The last way of saving money is by fiddling the taxman. Care has to be taken here. At the end of each month, the taxman declares how much you owe (calculated as a percentage of monthly turnover) but leaves you the option of deciding how much to pay. Too little, and he will simply take more than was originally asked for. Careful consideration of the problem can lead to significant savings.

Outworld flows nicely as a game and is far more flexible than many other trading games in terms of expenditure and company control but it is not without its faults. Mining may be dangerous but I feel there are far too many major disasters. The workforces are too predictable and do not vary enough in behaviour or ability. Fiddling the taxman is probably the best feature of the game. Unfortunately, I still felt stifled by the game's limitations in the same way as with many others of this type. Having said that, if you're into trading games then this can only be considered as one of the better ones

CRITICISM

55%
Plenty of options but sometimes a bad choice of colours makes them difficult to read.
30%
Those received with the game we definitely below par - perhaps this will not be the case with the release version?
70%
Despite other flaws, the game is still playable.
48%
Some amusing graphics in an otherwise text dominated game.
47%
As trading games go, not bad really. Still too stifling to have a true authentic feel, however.
72%
Considering the low cost of the game and the fact it is quite playable (for a while, at least) it should be worth it for those who like this kind of game.
58%
Nearly hit the mark. Not for me but still better than many others of this type.

Screenshot Text

A good choice of land for your mining operation? Remember - sales men are con men!