The Golden Age of railroading is back with the next railroad tycoon game: Sid Meier's Railroads!
Game: Sid Meier?s Railroads!
Released: October 2006
Game Type: 3D Simulation
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Requires: Windows / Direct3D
Media: One CD-ROM and a black & white manual
Multiplay: Internet / local network
ESRB Rating: E ? Everyone (Alcohol Reference)
This game was reviewed on the following system:
CPU: Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz with HT
Video Card: ATI Radeon 9800 with 256MB of memory
RAM: 1024MB PC3200 DDR
Screen Resolution: 1024x768
The Golden Age of railroading is back with the next railroad tycoon game: Sid Meier's Railroads! This graphic rich simulator lets you become a tycoon in charge of building a railroad empire, running everything from steam engines to the more modern diesel and electric engines, managing cargo and the budget, all while engaging in economic warfare against rival railroads and tycoons. The cities and industries develop around your railroad as you lay track and route trains to haul raw materials to market and carry manufactured goods throughout the land.
Railroads takes place mostly during the Golden Age, when railroads were king and the tycoons controlled the economy of various nations. It does cover the whole timeline from the infancy of the railroads all the way up the modern times.
The gameplay for Railroads! is for the most part want you would expect from a railroad simulator. It is still similar to the way Railroad Tycoon 3 played, with a few subtle changes.
One of the most noticeable changes is the speed of the game clock. The years just seem to fly by because the time in Railroads! is faster then it was in Railroad Tycoon 3. It is possible to have a train go a whole year and not make any money because of how long it takes to get to its destination. The game speed also makes it seem like the time between new engines and inventions is not long enough. This sped problem can be an inconvenience; about it does not take too much away from the overall gaming experience.
The feature of bidding on railroad inventions in Railroads! gives you a way to get the edge on your opponents. Every so often an invention for something, like a new type of bridge or a low cost tunneling method, comes up for bid. All the players get to try and out bid each other to get the ten year advantage of the new invention before it becomes part of public domain. This allows you to get ahead of your opponents in different areas and made more money, as long as you did not pay more for the invention then you will get out of having it. In some case you may just want to wait the ten years.
The only thing against the game controls is just now simple they are. Compared to the controls in Railroad Tycoon 3, Railroads! usability is a cake walk. With the controls and interface being as simple as they are you almost do not need to bother with reading the manual or doing the tutorial. The only real value of the tutorial in to learn a couple of things that are not immediately obvious, and the manual has some nice parts about the different engines, tycoons, industries, and resources. For the most part, all of the needed functionality that is needed for the game is there, but Railroads! just lacks the complexity and finer detail controls that Railroad Tycoon 3 has. This is not such a bad thing if you are new to railroad simulators, but it can leave more seasoned players wanting more control over the details.
The graphic in Railroads! are fabulous, it will give your graphics card a run for its money. The level of detail in the 3D models is excellent. Most all of the different buildings have animation sequences that depict the operation of the building, or represent the amount of a resource at that location, this just adds to the enjoyment of watching the trains go round in circles. The only disappointment with the graphics was that the steam engines do not have tenders. How could the game developers have over looked one of the most important parts of a steam engine, I do not know, but they did. In Railroad Tycoon 3 the steam engines had tenders just they should. Maybe we will get lucky and this oversight will be fixed in a patch. After all, a game about trains should at least depict them the way any are in reality.
The maps in Railroads! are nice and well detailed, but they are just too small and crowded. The close proximity of the cities and resources to each other and everything else makes it hard to plan track layouts that are efficient. In order to get places connected to your main lines with the limited space between things, you can end up with lots of switches in a fairly short distance.
Things can get even more jumbled if you need to do double or even triple tracks for more through put. With using double tracks, the trains can not switch back and forth between the two lines, just in real life, but this creates the need for you to build crossovers between the lines, adding even more switches to the space available. This is especially true when creating sidings to a resource, because the siding will only connect to one of the two lines. If you want trains from the other line to get to the siding you have to make a cross over to the over line before the siding.
Sid Mieier?s Railroads! is a fresh take and a well established series of railroad simulators. The graphic quality is a real improvement over Railroad Tycoon 3. The lack of steam engine tenders, having too many signaling towers, and the crowding problem take away from an otherwise rich and stunning environment. If you are new to plying railroad simulators, this is a great game with a simple and easy to learn interface for getting started. For more seasoned player the simplified gaming experience could leave you wanting more complexity. Overall Sid Mieier?s Railroads! is an enjoyable simulator that can keep you occupied for several hours at a time. Hopefully they will come out with an expansion pack for it.