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Sid Meier's Railroads! PC CD-ROM

Published by 2K Games
Developed by Firaxis
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Strategy gamers have a lot to thank Sid Meier and his development teams for over the years. Colonization, the Civilization games, Pirates, Alpha Centauri and Gettysburg are just some of great games they have been responsible for. Of course there is also another strategy game that many remember fondly. Railroad Tycoon is still held in high regard by many strategy gamers even though two rather good sequels (developed by PopTop) have since been released. As the name of the game suggests here we have Sid Meier back at the helm for another game based on railroads and in many ways it’s a spiritual successor to Railroad Tycoon.

As with the previous Railroad Tycoon games the goal is to not only build your own railroad empire but also to make sure your opponent doesn’t succeed. The game consists of 15 different scenarios (the landscape and city locations for each of these scenarios can be randomised to add extra replay value and challenge) for you to play either as a single-player game (against AI opposition) or as a multiplayer game over a LAN or the Internet. The maps you can play on in each of these scenarios range from nineteenth century North America to fictional creations. Each of the scenarios has its own set of objectives and can be played against AI opposition of varying difficulty levels. The difficulty levels range from Investor to Robber Barron. You can also play in Train Table Mode which basically gives you unlimited resources and a sandbox mode style of play where you can do exactly what you want.

If you’ve played any of the previous Railroad Tycoon games you’ll know exactly what to do here. You’ll start off with a single depot and a small amount of track. You can lay your own tracks, connecting to your initial track in an attempt to setup your own profitable route. Satisfy a town’s needs and desires and the town will expand to a city and eventually a metropolis. You’ll find yourself providing factories and businesses with the raw materials they require to function. Then of course you’ll have to ship the goods into a town or city and so forth. You can purchase these factories, mills and businesses in order to make extra profit and you can even build new industries in the cities in order to rake in more profit. Then of course there is the stock market. You can buy shares in your company and your rivals company and indeed you can sell them at any time too. Purchasing an opponent’s business outright will remove them from the game. To add extra spice to the game you can also choose to buy patents that will give your train service exclusive rights to technology for a fixed number of years before it enters the public domain. Just when you decide to purchase a business you’ll have to enter an auction to outbid your rivals when purchasing these patents. All of this is pretty straightforward on the easiest of difficulty levels (which is a good place to start by the way) but on the higher difficulty levels it becomes a real challenge with the AI becoming rather cutthroat in nature. You’ll also have to make more effective use of the double track laying function in order to avoid congestion.

Railroads! does a marvelous job of stripping away the complexity that you usually associate with this kind of game. In fact if there was criticism that could be levelled at Railroad Tycoon 3 it would be that the game was more complicated than it needed to be. If you weren’t a hardcore fan of the series it certainly wasn’t the best game to introduce you to it because it was essentially a game created for longstanding fans that wanted a greater level of complexity. Railroads! has no such problems and is immediately accessible from the very beginning. Those who enjoyed the level of complexity found in Railroad Tycoon 3 many feel things have been simplified a little too much, which is a fair argument, but I feel the game strikes a nice balance between accessibility and complexity in order to appeal to anyone who may want to play the game.

There’s no denying the game looks impressive. There are 30+ locomotives in the game and they all look excellent as do certain aspects of the terrain such as the water effects. The game is rather demanding when run at the highest settings though and you’ll need a well equipped PC in order to avoid occasional slowdowns. I would have liked to have been able to zoom in more than is currently possible. In fact you can’t zoom in that close at all really, which does seem rather strange. The game features some lovely animations and you’ll see the various goods being loaded onto the trains. The interface is very easy on the eyes too and is much more user friendly than any of the previous Railroad Tycoon games. It’s much easier to access the wealth of information than it’s been in previous Railroad Tycoon games.

Deaf gamers won’t have any problems with Railroads!. There is very little speech in the game and all of the important information is shown in text. The game’s tutorial is completely in text and gives a short and clear description of what you’ll need to do in the game. All of the game’s objectives and victory conditions are displayed in text and can be recalled at any time. You’re notified in text of any patents or offers of a reward if you’re the first to ship a certain good to a certain city. There are no captions for the trains horns and bells, which is a little unfortunate but this hardly represents a problem. Text chat is also supported for multiplayer gaming.

Sid Meier’s Railroads! is an addictive experience that does away with much of the complications that Railroad Tycoon 3 had. The game feels much more accessible in every way possible and this can only be a good thing. As we mentioned earlier, some may not appreciate this simplification. The track laying is much easier than ever before but some might not appreciate being able to have a say in exactly how their bridges are built for instance. This is a fairly minor complaint however and I personally find Railroads! more enjoyable even though some of the complexity has been cut away. Essentially it’s a very good strategy game that fans of the previous Railroad Tycoon games should pick up and even those who found previous titles a little daunting should have no problem enjoying what Railroads! has to offer.

Overall Game Rating 8.2/10

Deaf Gamers Classification

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Sid Meier's Railroads! may lack some of the complexity of Railroad Tycoon 3 but its accessibility makes it much easier to appreciate and in some ways more enjoyable to play.