Sid Meier’s Railroads!

14For anyone new, think Railroads! as a modern remake of Railroad Tycoon 2, but with 3D graphics, a more user friendly interface, and a simplified stock market. You’re once again tasked with creating a railroad empire in various parts of the world, often competing against rival companies, in Europe and North America. The robust single-player campaign features fifteen distinct scenarios, each with several increasingly difficult objectives, as well as a free form Train Table mode. Multiplayer support up to four players both via LAN and online matches.

As chairman of a large company, your goal is to map out profitable routes, lay down tracks, buy engines and create trains loaded with either passengers or valuable cargo. To do this you’ll need to set up supply lines between key resources and the people who need them. You’ll construct supply depots and connect them to cities by laying down track. Much of your time playing Railroads! will be building a rail network. While this may seem awfully basic, it provides for an enormous amount of fun. Creating an intricate network of tracks connecting cities and buying rolling stock to transport cargo gave me flashbacks to Railroad Tycoon 2.

Anyone should be able to jump right into the game, but an interactive tutorial is also provided for those who are absolutely new to strategy games. The interface is remarkably sleek all the same, as are the controls. Laying track is as easy as clicking on a starting point, dragging the mouse along the desired line, and the clicking at the end point. Turns are automatically factored into the track as you lay it, as are bridges and tunnels; however, you’ll spend more for these special structures, as well as building on difficult terrain. Information regarding resource demands, population, etc. is shown above each city, making it effortless to survey the map.

3Railroads! is less a simulation of the rail industry and more a simple interactive model of supply and demand. While some of the easier scenarios will task you with objectives such as connecting two cities by means of a passenger line, the bulk of the game rests in delivering goods to meet consumer demand. Doing this enables your company to grow. As you gain capital, you can purchase patents to new technologies that will further your corporate expansion; even more, you can buy shares of your competitors in the hopes of eventually buying them out.

While it isn’t any surprising that yet another Sid Meier game offers up great gameplay, it is a little unexpected that Railroads! doesn’t possess the level of polish of Railrad Tycoon 2. The shift to 3D is a hit and miss at times, with somewhat awkward camera angles and flickering texture bugs experienced on some video cards. Minor glitches aside, Sid Meier’s Railroads! is a highly enjoyable game that overcomes its shortcomings with pure imaginative fun.

System Requirements: Pentium III 750 MHz, 512 MB RAM, 1.5 GB HDD, WinXP

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