by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Sequel or reboot?
‘Tycoon’ games have lost some of their appeal over the years, mostly because there are very few worth playing. In their time, gems such as Rollercoaster Tycoon and Transport Tycoon offered a virtual glimpse at running a business and have served to satisfy the inner megalomaniac inside of many a gamer. Today, it seems that most Tycoon games are shameless money grabs: shells, dressed up to look nice but empty upon closer inspection. So with every Tycoon game I start, I wonder what the game will prove to be this time, empty shell or deep business simulation.
Airline Tycoon 2 is very much a remake of its predecessor. A sequel is expected to have new gameplay elements, but here the focus seems to have been on applying a new coat of paint rather than introducing anything new. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The original was released over a decade ago and thus Airline Tycoon 2 can be considered to be something of a reboot rather than a sequel.
A day in the life
Running an airline empire isn’t difficult but it does require your full attention. The best way to describe Airline Tycoon 2’s gameplay is to describe an in-game day. Your day starts at the airport manager’s office who will give you a quick rundown of your status, comparing statistics on passenger satisfaction, fleet maintenance and money on hand. He’ll draw the incorrect conclusion that the person with the most money on hand is leading, after which it’s time to check out your flight schedules to see if your airplanes are running on time, bringing home the proverbial bacon. Looking at your cash reserves, you might decide it is time to buy another plane.
Designing one in the hangar is a little too pricey, though, so you’ll head over to the garage to see what second hand planes are available. Kazan looks a bit battered but looks to be a good fit for the Los Angeles to Paris route for which you have just recently acquired the rights. While the plane is being fixed up, you discuss the paint job and select a number of features to give the interior a business-type feel for maximum satisfaction. Of course, a business interior is not cheap and you notice you’re overdrawn. A quick stop at the bank before visiting the HRM department then. The HRM manager hands you the resumes of two good pilots but you are forced to hire three morons for in-flight service. Oh well, maybe there will be some better staff available tomorrow. For now these will have to do, the plane needs to be up in the air and making money!
Back in your office you look at the flight schedule, send the plane on a short trip from your home airport in Vancouver to LAX where you schedule it for a short maintenance session and then the roundtrip to Paris.
A deeper look
The above is an accurate description of your workday as an airline manager but without much detail. It leaves out a number of things, such as the fact that it is possible to build airplanes to your specifications. If you have the cash, your airplanes will run more efficiently, require less maintenance and will fly further. Larger planes are incredibly expensive and it is not only rarely that you can afford them but also that you can put them to good use. If your plane can seat 385 people and the route only has that many available at one specific moment during the day, a roundtrip may not yield enough income to make it worth your while. It is easier to make a smaller plane with maybe 96 seats profitable than it is a bigger plane, but if you can fill the bigger plane on a roundtrip, you hit the jackpot.
Competing with other airlines on a particular route is not an easy task, especially if you arrive after they do. You’ll have to provide better service, offer more luxury, lower your fares and use smear campaigns to entice passengers to switch allegiance. You can sabotage other flights and protect yourself from being sabotaged but both are expensive and both may fail, nullifying your investment.
Configuring your own planes is fun, great animations.
Information screens are clunky, filters inadequate. Running a large airline is a chore.