Railroad Tycoon 2
The original version of Railroad Tycoon, with its Teletext interface and unsightly graphics, was altogether pretty hideous In fact it was so darn ugly that farmers used to leave it tunning in the middle of fields to scare off the pigeons and stop gypsies stealing their tractors. Most of the games static images looked as though they been culled straight from Mugsyon the Spectrum (where jagged lines and Day-Glo colours were all part of the charm); other elements, such as mail cars and coal wagons, were so indistinct that they required a long squint at the screen before you could figure out which was which. Nevertheless, the game still managed to pull in the sales.
Why? Because appearance aside, it was unique, absorbing, and had the longevity of a Californian Redwood. And with the release of Railroad tycoon Deluxe, the whole concept won its developer, programming supremo Sid Meier, several major awards, including Game of the Year and Best Simulation at the prestigious European Computer Trade Show (commonly referred to as ECTS).
The key for any sequel was to create an entirely fresh graphics engine, yet keep the Class A addictive nature of the game intact. Pop Top Software, the team of developers who own the rights to the Railroad Tycoon name, have clearly done their utmost The whole world is now rendered at 1024x768 in 16-bit colour by something called S3D, a new software engine capable of flinging 300,000 polygons around your monitor without having to stop for a rest. But S3D extends to more than just scrumptious visuals. You can rotate the map and zoom in close to get a better look at all the different choo-choos, watch boxes moving along conveyor belts in factories, and see the waves nodding up and down on the ocean. You can also zoom right out to an effective height of about 35 miles - enough to look down and see entire continents.
Expanding on the original game. Railroad Tycoon II now encompasses more than 200 years of rail travel between 1804 and 2020, features more than 60 historically accurate engines, and has more than 30 different types of cargo to shunt around. This means that not only can you spend a lot of time picking, browsing and comparing the different trains, but there is also so much more scope for a complex economic infrastructure.
For example, instead of just transporting apples and pears from orchards to the nearest city centre, supply a local fertiliser plant with chemicals from a chemical factory (you can even pay to use another players existing rail network) and youre able to provide the orchard with bags of Grow More. Your production subsequently increases accordingly, and you can then move the produce to a cannery where it's processed into tinned fruit. If your system worfcs. the orchard, cannery, fertiliser plant and chemical factory flourish and, should you decide to buy up the four sites, you can ladle their profits into your own bank account.
Playing With Money
As with most strategy management games, your objective in Railroad Tycoon ll is to squash the competition and make lots of money. So the best routes to pursue are the most lucrative ones; there's no point shifting a dozen crates of coffee beans into town if instead you can move uranium to a nuclear power plant and then get paid again for pushing its waste products into a landfill site.
But there's more than one way to generate cash. Railroad Tycoon 2 encompasses its own financial arena, enabling you to dabble in everything from stocks, shares and bonds, to forming takeovers and mergers. Many of the 18 supplied scenarios set targets for your personal wealth, meaning you need to stay tuned to the company portfolio screens and invest your money wisely in order to progress. Screw up and your broker is straight on to you; make a killing and you're able to force rival firms out of the market.
See The World, My Boy
Railroad Tycoon II encompasses much of the industrialised world, from Britain through to central Europe, the Mediterranean, China, Korea, Scandinavia, the United States and South America. To be honest, all that really happens here is that the place names change and the map borders change shape.
Disappointingly, industries are not related to real-life locations and are seemingly placed at random, which means it's possible to find a rubber farm in Boston, or a sugar plantation just to the west of Stockholm. In simpler terms, the maps aren't actually that relevant. Only mountains and hills are of any real concern, as they slow your trains considerably. This is especially true in the early years, when you find yourself wheezing around the countryside in Stephenson's Rocket, unable to go anywhere that isn't as flat as a billiard table. As time moves on, so technological advancements become available, enabling faster, more reliable trains, and a far wider spread of industry.
The one nagging doubt about all this is its striking similarity - both in name and function - to Chris Sawyer's landmark Transport Tycoon. If you ignore financial management and an abundance of cute graphics, pretty much every aspect of Railroad Tycoon II is a modern-day re-enactment of the 1994 classic. Crucially, Transport Tycoon still feels the more 'complete' game, adding road, air and water-based transport systems, as well as important aspects like the ability to raise/lower the land and build tunnels. In Railroad Tycoon 2, you have to knot your tracks into demented loops around every geographical obstacle you encounter, which is plain crazy and not the least bit true to life.
What's more, the old timer has other neat features like signals, disasters, collisions, level crossings and service depots. Graphically it lags behind, but it's still as engaging as it ever was, is now available on MicroProse's budget label, runs like a dream in Windows 98, and takes up less than 3Mb of your hard drive.
So if you think you might like this kind of game, try Transport Tycoon. If you already have a copy sitting on your shelf, Railroad Tycoon II won't provide any new thrills - even if it did win Best Non-Combat Strategy Game at E3. Trust us.
Download Railroad Tycoon 2
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
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2018-12-26 Railroad Tycoon 2 game added.