All Aboard for Sid Meier's Railroads!

Sid Meier's RAILROADS!
Developed by: Firaxis Games, known for the Civillization series
Published by: 2K games
Designed by: Sid Meier (If you haven't figured that out by now.)
PC only


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In 1990, Sid created Railroad Tycoon, a Isometric 2D turn-based game that simulated running a railroad under your command and it was so successful, Firaxis made 2 sequels. Then in 2004, Sid visited a Toy train exhibition in Germany and his love for trains was rekindled, sparking him to recreate the game that launched the 'tycoon' game.
In October of 2006, Railroads! was released, to a in-unanimous crowd of two factions. There were those who loved the game for it's new simplicity, art style and cut-throat relatively faced pacing compared to it's predecessors, and those who criticized the game for not having as much as the prequels and 'ridiculous cartoony visuals'.
Obviously I'm on the side that likes it. Movingonwardly,

Railroads! is a game that incorporates the stock market, quick thinking and strategy and anyone's love of trains into one little clean package. Let's imagine a new game in Railroads!: you have a station and a bit of track, 10 stocks, five of which you own, and $500,000 in spending cash. The little town you have is near a big city, a grainery and a Lumber yard. Your town has a Cereal factory in it, and the nearby city has a furniture plant.
You have several options: build a track to the grainery, purchase a train and ship grain to your town, build a track to the city and get with the fast beat of passengers/mail, or you could build to the lumber yard to sell some wood to the city's Furniture plant. Once you start making either food or Manufactured goods from the town or city, you can then sell them from one place to another for greater price than the primary industry's goods. From there it goes crazy, because there's not just grain, food, wood and manufactured goods. There's 50 different goods to ship, and as time progresses, 40 different locomotives to haul them.
imageWhat makes the game difficult is that there are robber barons; competing railroad companies that would no less like to run tracks through your cities, ship your goods away from you to sell for themselves, buy your stock and ultimately buy you out in a hostile takeover, just as you can [and should] do to them. To keep the advantage, you can buy the industry you sell your goods to, buy that furniture plant so that you get a delivery bonus. You can buy opponents industries as well. But they're not flat-out purchases, they're auctions. Other railroads can bid on that industry, who want that delivery bonus too. There are also patents you can bid on, giving you advantages like faster trains, lesser maintenance costs, increased goods values and other things.

All of this happens on a fast paced scale where an entire game year can elapse in a minute. Decisions decisions, "should I upgrade that engine to a newer model because of it's high maintenance cost, or decrease it's load? No time, Cornelius Vanderbilt is bidding on a highly profitable Steel mill!"
This gets more awesome with 4-person multiplayer online or on LAN.

Enough of the gameplay, let's talk about technical stuff.
Railroads is a surprisingly demanding game graphics-wise which can lead to issues in framerate unless you have a fairly decent-to-awesome graphics card, at which point the game looks stunning. The colourful and rich fun-looking graphics give an amusing undertone to the fast and sometimes chaotic things that happen running the railroads. The amendment for the faced paced-ed-ness to enjoy the trains is either singleplayer with no opponents, or on turntable mode, which gives you unlimited funds to make the ultimate toy train set that could never be.

The game is incompatible with Vista, which was a downer for me, until I found out how to manually patch it with a Dos-based Executable. Here's a link to the HowTo video I made.
The criticism of the game lies in nostalgia, one could say. Compared toRailroad Tycoon 3, it has significantly smaller maps, about half as many trains, more limited time periods and fewer transportable goods. My say is that the maps are perfect for the game's scale, and that 50 goods for 40 trains is enough between the minimum and maximum years of 1829 to 1985.
Other arguments are drivel concerning the camera or less complexity than predecessors. I like how 2K put it:"Easy to pick up and play, yet challenging to master.". A game that puts you in a comfy seat to learn that eases it's way to the chaotic hardseat of the CEO of Epic Rail Inc. is one I am very satisfied with, as opposed to greater complexity, which could alienate newcomers.
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My verdict is that this is a superb game for anyone who enjoys strategy in United States or Europe as a Up-and-coming entrepreneur as opposed to Battle commander 50,000,000,000 AD.A must-have game for any train enthusiast.

All aboard!!

While I am not a train enthusiast by nature, nor do I particularly enjoy strategy games, your review was well written and informative enough to evoke within me a genuine interest for this game. Now if only I had some spare cash to buy it with.

Thanks for the compliment. It's nice to know that my review is better than I thought it was, according to others.

This is an excellent review, so Kudos. I'm not sure there's much I could add constructively, and I'm sure no one likes a nitpick.

For someone new to the genre, would you recommend this or something else in the Tycoon series?

I heartily recommend this as a starter to get into the series. It's the most simple and user-friendly of the quadrilogy.

 

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