by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Earlier I said it was simple enough to create new transport routes, but there are some quirks. Well, there are many. It took me the longest time to figure out that train depots will only ever sit at the end of a line. Plopping a bus depot will intuitively connect it automatically to a road, but rail depots are a drag. For most players, it will be the first of many struggles with the game’s interface which is about as forthcoming as a mule, and equally appealing to look at. Buttons don’t look like buttons but text, tooltips availability varies more than Dutch weather, overview screens are crowded and the text is so small I borrowed my wife’s glasses to check if that would improve legibility.
Creating railroad crossovers where trains can go from one lane to another can be a real hassle. The amount of times the game complains about incompatible terrain or trains in the way for no apparent reason is astounding. Setting up signals can become a hair-pulling experience when trains end up stuck on opposite sides. More than once I had to sell large parts of rail to get trains moving again.
And while trains last for some time, chances are you will need far more buses, which need replacing so often that once your transport empire reaches a certain size, you feel like all you are ever doing is renewing your fleet. Realistic, but the developers could at least have made the process a little less painful. How about simply sending old vehicles to the depot and offering a "replace vehicle" button after which you select its replacement from a list which then goes its merry way? And don’t even get me started on upgrading stations, what a pain in the bum!
Train Fever is a sandbox game in which you build your empire completely unopposed - there’s no multiplayer and no AI - and the only challenge is keeping track of the age of your fleet of vehicles and your bottom line. You leave inefficient lines intact because no one challenges you to do better, no one threatens to undermine your reign on materials, goods or passengers.
There is so little variation in gameplay that Train Fever feels shallow and unfinished. Someone has laid the groundwork for a great game, put up all the wooden beams for a framework with tremendous potential and even set up the scaffolding for the brickwork. But when it was time to fill in the details and make it great, well... I don’t know exactly what happened. Did they run out of money?
The game does a lot of things right, but the primary of those things is that it releases at a time when no one is making anything like it. If you are into transport simulations and can put up with the fiddly interface, I have no doubt you will find Train Fever enjoyable, but there’s not enough to recommend the game beyond that right now. It’s worth checking back 6 months from now to see if the devs have held back some surprises for us, or if the modding community filled in the blanks.
Living world, great modding support.
You're all alone, horrid interface.