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Mark Marrow
11 Nov, 2006

Sid Meier's Railroads! Review

PC Review | All aboard!
Yep, it’s time to don your overalls and wear those silly railroad hats, as you conduct your trains to towns over great landscapes and watch as they go ‘Choo-Choo!’ Sid Miere's venture into the railroad simulation genre is a welcomed one, if not a little disappointing - but it’s still a hell of a fun ride.

Sid Meier is sort of like Gold Finger (No, trust me. I’m going somewhere with this), whatever he touches generally turns into something golden. He has the tendency to rub-off his brilliance onto typically depleted genres and turns an unexpected crowd towards them. While this isn’t entirely true with his latest title, the man’s brilliance is still present and the game shines with a few innovative and addictive features, despite some obvious flaws.

As you’d expect with a game called Railroads!, you’ll be managing trains and watching as they deliver goods on the tracks that you lay out for them. While it may sound a little boring, Railroads! manages to include a number of incentives such as resources and missions to keep you occupied throughout the game. Once you’ve wrapped your mind around connecting each city with tracks, you’ll need to understand that each town that occupies the map will require certain resources to grow into much larger ones. Scattered throughout each map are several resource locations such as ore mines, pig farms, and even fishing ports. Things are a little more complex than just setting up a track from a resource location to a town though, since you’ll more often-than-not need to simplify these resources into other items prior to sending them off. For instance, one town may be seeking food supplies. Obviously, fish equals food, however it isn’t quite that simple. You must transport that fish to another smaller town that processes it into food, and then send it to your main town. Running around with resources becomes a bit more complex the further you dive into the game, as you’ll be required to send resources to towns miles away, but to only ship them back to a nearby town for the final product – but that’s all part of the fun. Feeding the needs of your towns, and cleverly laying out routes for your trains eventually becomes quite enjoyable.

Excitement! Trains!

Excitement! Trains!
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As previously mentioned, you can decide to play a game that includes some side objectives. The main focus of Railroads! is to maintain a steady flow of income, as well as providing constant resources to your towns. In addition though, you’ll be prompted throughout the game with several different missions that increases the appeal of the game significantly. There are certain map-based missions that require you to buy a percentage of shares from your opponent's business or connect several towns together, however there are smaller missions that pop-up throughout the game. As you progress further through matches, towns will give out a cash incentive to the first person to deliver a certain amount of resources to them. So, if you’re playing against friends or AI opponents, the urgency to connect towns together and send resources out increases dramatically.

You can play games by yourself, which lowers the difficultly of the game quite a bit, but you also have the option of playing against several computer-controlled opponents or other players over online matches. Their tracks will interfere with yours, which will ultimately prevent you from building certain routes; they’ll also race to sap all of the resources from areas just to increase their wallets with money. The enjoyment is mainly drawn from playing against other opponents, since you’ll constantly be outbidding each other on buying new technology for your trains, rushing to set-up the quickest routes to towns and being the first to fulfil the cash incentive missions that pop-up. Overall, this is where Railroads! truly shines.

Railroads! is a game that is so inviting and easy to pick-up, regardless of prior knowledge of train-sims. The interface is fairly user-friendly, with nice big icons describing what’s-what on the screen. It’s fairly easy to manipulate your trains, as to what they’re delivering, and of course, altering their routes isn’t too hard either. What is questionable is the lack of some key features such as an undo button and some obvious tracks that would’ve made the game much deeper. An undo button is a relatively subtle exclusion, but it’s interesting that the game lacks depth in creating tracks. You’ll make your basic straight tracks, and they’ll turn into bridges and tunnels if they run over hills or water. However, creating double tracks is a little awkward and there is a lack of a turn-track (the ones that wheel your train around) and other innovative tracks that could’ve made building your railroads much more enjoyable – at the moment it’s just a case of repeatedly placing tracks on top of each other, with not much depth at all.

Building your towns up is highly enjoyable.

Building your towns up is highly enjoyable.
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In addition, Railroads! features a fairly iffy AI structure. Your trains have trouble choosing the most efficient paths, which ends up costing you more money. It’s quite difficult too since you’ll lay out the quickest and most perfect track for them, but the trains will end up using a longer path. You’ll also lay out double tracks (that allows you to have two trains move down the same path) but one train will more than likely sit idle rather than using the second path that is perfectly set out for them. Managing your trains and providing accessible tracks for them becomes very difficult the further you get in the game, since you’ll have several dozen trains spiraling around on tracks that becomes quite difficult to manage.

Other minor issues occur the more you play the game and realise the game’s marring issues. First off is the game is an absolute system hog, regardless of your system. We have a fairly up-to-date system and we still had issues, at times, running the game smoothly. When more trains are running around, the framerate will drop and the game will slowly begin to chug a little as you move around the map (not to mention the game would sometimes crash). These problems also reflect onto the multiplayer mode, where you’ll be competing with the game’s system hogging and having your internet communicate with your opponents. Maps are relatively small too, unfortunately. The game feels a tad restricted and squished together as your tracks will eventually overlap one another and there’s a lack of freedom of creating long tracks that stretch across the land; it unnecessarily complicates things. Finally, the game isn't that challenging, at all in fact. Once adding in opponents it picks up a little, but it's very easy to sit down, go and get a drink and come back to realise that you're still making a ton of money. Trains never crash, break-down or any other subtle unnecessaries that'll unleash a can of unexpectedness onto gamers.

Enriched with lovely graphics, an inviting gameplay structure and that special Meier something, Railroads! could’ve been a real gem for train simulation fans. However, with a few flaws such as simple and repetitive goals, and a game that is an absolute system hog, Sid Meier’s Railroads! isn’t as great as we expected.
The Score
Our complaints, while small, drain the overall last ability and fun factor of what could’ve been a much better game. Regardless, Sid Meier’s Railroads! is still an enjoyable game, and one worth checking out for train fanatics.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
7 years ago
"It’s quite difficultly too
the game isn't that challenge"
And a spell check woudlnt go astray either. But other than that a great review. Pity the game hasnt turned out that great, was hoping this would bring back to life this genre, because it used to be, and still is, fun.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  2K Games
Developer:
  Firaxis Games

Extra:
Minimum spes:
Windows 2000/XP
Pentium 4 1.4 GHz or AMD Athlon equivalent
512 MB RAM
2 GB
DirectX 9.0c-compatible 64 MB video card

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