by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Mention Transport Tycoon and its fans pay attention. Mention it as your inspiration for your new game and you come under severe scrutiny. Not just from me, but from thousands of other fans who still consider the 1994 transport simulation as the one that set the so far unsurpassed bar in the genre. Train Fever did, and raised expectations it cannot fully deliver upon. At the same time, it is a lone fish in an ocean devoid of competition. This loneliness is its saving grace.
In its defence, it does try. Like any good Tycoon game, players start with a lump sum of cash - seed money for a future empire - that can be spent freely on a variety of options. In Train Fever’s case, you get to buy trains or buses. It took me a while to wrap my head around a horse cart being called a bus, but apparently bus is short for omnibus, which is a horse-drawn vehicle passenger service. There, go tell naysayers that games - are - great for learning.
As in real life, rail and bus go hand-in-hand when it comes to ferrying humans around and it is only fitting that the two are almost impossible to separate in Train Fever. You plop two train stations and a depot, set up a line between them, buy and assign a train with wagons to the line and you’re halfway through the process. Next you plop a bus depot, add some bus stops that runs through various parts of town and create a line between them. Do the same in the town at the other end of the rail line and start raking in the money. While passenger transport depends on both rail and road, you can get away with just rail for raw materials and goods. There are precious few of these and production lines don’t go particularly deep. There’s no tutorial for any of this, but it is simple enough if you’ve played Cities in Motion or pretty much any other transport game.
While much of Train Fever’s gameplay mechanics can be considered standard for the genre, it does innovate in a number of ways. The graphics look a little dated, but considering what transport fans have to work with - Railroad Tycoon 3 and Transport Tycoon - they look positively vibrant. I also love how you can see the maximum expected speed for trains on rail you are drawing, showing you exactly when it is worth creating a small detour. Drawing parallel rails is also easily done.
Another aspect that I love is how cities expand over time in a very natural way. It’s been done before, but not quite like it is done in Train Fever, where curved roads seamlessly connect, houses and business drape themselves around them and cities are divided by work, residential and shopping areas to add that little extra strategy to placement of stations and bus stops.
But perhaps the best feature of all is its extensive modding support. Already creative minds are adding new vehicles and cargo types. They’re even fixing the game’s horrid interface.
Living world, great modding support.
You're all alone, horrid interface.