by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Not Railroad Tycoon 4
Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon is still one of the most revered games in the history of the industry. This is hardly surprising considering the large number of other legendary games that came from Sid Meier's hand. Back then, he helped shape the gaming industry, creating genres seemingly on the fly. In the case of Railroad Tycoon, others tried to follow his example with mixed success. Perhaps only Chris Sawyer's Transport Tycoon matched Sid's creation in quality, ingenuity and creativity but many have been waiting for a worthy sequel to Sid's original.
You might argue that Railroad Tycoon already had two sequels, which is technically true, but Sid was not involved with these games. And while Sid was very much involved in Sid Meier's Railroads!, this is no sequel either. I thought that would catch your attention. This very topic has caused heated discussions on many Sid Meier's Railroads! related forums so I felt that the above had to be said, and I will explain why.
Railroad Tycoon was a (for that time) deep 'train simulation' while Railoads! is too arcade-ish to be called a simulation. People who were hoping for a true Railroad Tycoon sequel have been disappointed and (if you carry such hope as well) unless you can set aside this hope, you will be too. The game deserves to be judged on its own merit and that is what I will attempt to do in this review.
In Railroads!, you play a railway pioneer that has been given some startup money, a train station and a small piece of track. Up to three other pioneers will start at the same time and it is your task to establish a full-blown railway empire that ends up bigger than theirs.
There are several ways to make money but delivering passengers, mail and goods to their destinations is of course what the game is all about. In most of the available scenarios, you start with only one available train type, usually so slow that you start to wonder how train and railway technology ever got to where it is today. You will barely be able to add two cars at the back of an early Grasshopper or Patentee. Luckily, new engines become available at regular intervals and these will be faster and able to pull more weight. These are two very solid reasons for upgrading your trains as new engines arrive on the market, but there is another reason that is equally important. As your train grows older, it will require more maintenance, cutting deep into your profits.
While the game has no campaign mode, it does come with 15 basic scenarios. Each of these scenarios is set in a different part of the United States or Europe and comes with a number of missions. Missions range from trying to set a speed record to delivering a certain number of goods or passengers to a particular city. Successful missions will count towards your overall score at the end of the game.
Laying the actual track for your trains is a breeze. As long as you have cash and know where your track should start and end, laying it is a question of two mouse clicks. If you are like me and want it to look good as well as function properly, you have a few options available to help you with that wish, but you don't have total control. The cost of laying tracks depends strongly on the type of terrain. Flat land is the most cost effective while tunnels and bridges can break the bank and perhaps make earning your investment back next to impossible.
Share the shares
But I mentioned that there are other ways to make money. The second way to make money is to buy factories or businesses. You can't buy every business on the map however - you are restricted by those that are located in towns and cities. Farms, mines and other such places cannot be bought but they -can- be used to increase the profitability of your other businesses. The more base goods you supply your own businesses with, the more profit they will make in addition to the cash you receive for transporting the goods in the first place.
The last way to make money is through the stock market, though I doubt many people will actually use this option. It is possible to buy shares in competing companies and if you are patient enough, you can sell them at profits of up to (or over) ten times the original investment. The reason why I don't see a lot of people doing this, is because at some point you will want to take over your rival and it gives you a head start on the purchase price if you already own some of their stock. Adding someone else's trains, tracks and stations to your own is one of the more satisfying accomplishments that one can experience in this game.
No Pros and Cons at this time