Sid Meier's Railroads! Review
publisher: 2K Games
developer: Firaxis Games
PIV 1400, 512MB RAM, 2GB HDD, 64MB video card
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Oct 17, 06 (released)
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The summer of 2006 will go down in gaming history as a relatively dreary period for PC owners. Luckily, there's no need to panic, cause autumn always brings a few decent games our way. Clearly enough, developers are jumping on the bandwagon and gearing up for the highly potential console market. As you all know, the spotlight is currently aimed at Microsoft's Xbox 360 and, of course, the industry is bracing itself for Sony's upcoming PS3 console. Well, after seeing what the Xbox 360 is capable of, I must admit it's hard not to get caught up in the frenzy. Still, I cannot deny my deep-rooted need for straightforward and traditional home-PC entertainment. Lately, I seem to find refuge in sim-based classics such as SimCity 4: Rush Hour and the Tycoon series. Hm, either I'm growing old way too fast, or I simply might be craving a different kind of incentive to carry out my assignments... I therefore urge our Editor-in-Chief to pre-order me a PS3 or one of those snazzy new Wii things (purely for business purposes, of course).
What a funny way to place a bridge...
Make way for my little choo-choo!
Unfortunately, 2lions didn't fall for that one.
He has struck a chord though, after offering me a chance to review a retail build of Sid Meier's Railroads. In light of my abovementioned fondness for sim games, I happily accepted this task.
Before I begin, I must stress that I'm not one of those eccentric types that likes to hang around the basement and spend countless hours fiddling around with his absurdly expensive train set. Then again, I've always kind of liked trains and I am partial to train-travel, so I thought this could be an interesting ride altogether.
Anyhow, upon installing Sid Meier's Railroads, I was immediately taken by the game's intuitive design and the straightforward interface. This way, players are given a chance to enjoy the game and its numerous traits, regardless of their previous experiences with train sims. So, all it takes is going through the simplified 5-minute tutorial, and you should be ready for the challenges that come with the game's single-player and multiplayer modes.
Like I said, Sid Meier's Railroads boasts a unique way of allowing the player to get into the game as quickly and easily as possible. In addition, several single-player scenarios are on offer as well as a range of well-designed multiplayer maps. After playing the game for quite some time, I managed to master the difficulties of the train business. Your aim is to dominate the entire region by constructing and maintaining a fully functional and up-to-the-minute railroad system. The game also stretches beyond handling mere everyday chores, like placing tracks on the map, purchasing the latest locomotive and picking out the best routes for trains. Each city on the map represents a potential foundation for particular industries. Appropriate resources are required, of course, to increase local businesses and production. For instance, establishing a booming newspaper corporation in, say, Philadelphia, quite naturally denotes a regular supply of paper. Consequently, you'll also need to think about connecting certain cities with timber companies to boost the fabrication of paper.
Once a certain industry launches, you will be able to take part in auctions for patents and other businesses. After winning an auction, the player receives a percentage and can enjoy profits in accordance with the success of the business in question. This always makes for a good investment. Bear in mind that each train involves considerable maintenance costs, so you won't get very far without investing wisely into upcoming industries. If that doesn't quell your thirst for financial challenges, you can always buy and sell stock and bid for potential production facilities.
The bad news is that after playing the game for a while, it might get a bit tedious. At first, I couldn't figure out why exactly, but it soon became clear that the development team might have taken things a tad too far when simplifying the design as well as the gameplay. As a result, players who were hoping to find a complex gameplay concept, with more detailed economics, additional train customization, could easily be disappointed to a certain degree.
There are many good points though. Namely, that Firaxis managed to disregard any aspects of the gameplay that could burden the player or create unwanted micromanagement issues. Also, there's a choice of over 30 different industries to purchase and organize, 20 resources to manage and over 30 unique train models to produce and utilize. Each scenario revolves around completing a wide range of tasks, after which you can look forward to many cool bonuses - thus improving your cash balance and instituting a more stable economy for future endeavors.
The trains... it's all about the damn trains!
This situation probably does wonders for the inner-city traffic.
Let's not forget the multiplayer mode, which allows you to edit maps and create your personal locomotive empire, while competing against other players. Things can heat up when you start bidding for businesses that just started out on the market. All in all, it was great fun.
Looking at the graphics, Sid Meier's Railroads includes just about everything you can hope to find in a train-sim. Realistic and colorful surroundings and detailed locomotive models manage to capture the player's eye almost straight away. As your very own mass transit system begins to take shape, you'll be able to acknowledge the developer's admirable attention to detail. The designers have done a fabulous job obviously, while the animation team clearly made a great effort to bring all of those cute little trains to life. By the same token, the audio is solid and blends perfectly with the in-game ambiance. While forming your ideal train domain, you will be treated to a pleasing variety of cheerful sounding country-flavored tunes.
On the technical side of things, we weren't all that happy with the game, especially in view of the fact that it managed to cause severe frame-rate issues on modest rigs (Athlon 64 3000+, Radeon 9800 XT and 1 GB of RAM).
In closing, this game is catchy and has a little something for everyone. But we sure as hell hope that Firaxis plans to fix the aforementioned technical slip ups with a patch of some sort. Looking back on games like SimCity 4, this isn't the first time they leave such issues unresolved. Even though SC4 was excellent, it ended up crammed with bugs, on top of having exceedingly steep hardware requirements.
All things considered, all train devotees mustn't pass on this one. In all honesty, I believe that a choo-choo addict dwells somewhere within all of us, so everyone should give the game a try or rent it at the very least. You won't be disappointed with the content and gameplay it has to offer.
8.2 Very Good
Compelling and intuitive design, very easy to get into, solid multiplayer, great visuals, comes highly recommended for train buffs;
Technical glitches, can be repetitive at times.
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