Railroads! is the latest incarnation of what was formerly known as Railroad Tycoon. Essentially, it follows in the vein of sim games, such as Sim City, only in this case you are interested in stringing together your railways to meet the demands of the various populations and industries - oh, and make oodles of cash.
As with all these simulation games, it is fiendishly addictive and you can see yourself sucked in for hours. Certainly, this is not a game where you can sit down and play for 20 minutes – you wouldn’t achieve much and without putting in the hours, you soon forget exactly what it was you were aiming to achieve.
Graphically, it won’t blow your socks off by any means, but it’s not too shabby either. It is sufficient, although some might find the level of available zoom to be slightly limiting. Without needed too much power, this is a sim that laptop users can happily play. On the sound front, the music can get a trifle irritating, but that is easily rectified – otherwise, it is your normal run of the mill sim soundtrack.
The gameplay is slowish, nothing happens too quickly, but too much dilly-dallying within a game will see you missing objectives along the way. Within any given scenario there are a number of aims – it might be as simple as connect Phoenix to Las Vegas, or more complicated, such as put all your competitors out of business. (Isn't this always an aim? - Ed.)
You can play multiplayer online or via LAN – so you might all be striving for the same objectives. This is also where the economic strategies come in – you have stock in your company and you can buy stock in other companies – if they leave themselves open to it. You can also invest in other businesses to reach to overall aim of making money. Other quirks include the auctioning of patents – as new products become available, you can bid for exclusive rights, thereby denying your opponents for a short period of time.
On the downside, sometimes things just won’t do what you want, and it isn’t overtly obvious why – for example, you build yourself a nice railway, buy your rolling stock and then it won’t go where you want it to. Sometimes, of course, if you have too many trains running on the same sets of tracks, you can get a number of jams occurring - the option to double track is explained to you at the outset and this is part of the skill of the game. Sometimes, however, the problems just aren’t clear – normally laying new track or changing some of the corners helps.
Other complaints include unexplained bugs, like trains running over the top of each other – some will do this, some won’t. The maps also seem to be fairly small, and you can soon find yourself filling up the place with masses of track, which takes on an ungodly appearance. Also, you have to follow on from existing track, so you are dumped in one place, then have to build from there, rather than starting from scratch where you fancy it.
Railroads! is an endearing little jaunt into the world of trains and fans of railways and sim games will enjoy this. As a newcomer to the series, I found Railroads! to be surprisingly playable – my last fiddle with Railroad Tycoon was probably 10 years ago – however, some fans of the series might not find this as fulfilling as Railroad Tycoon III.