"It can take you from New York to South Africa. It can take you from the year 1804 to the year 2000. It can take you from penniless manual laborer to powerful multi-millionaire.

It can take you from a normal, well-adjusted, well-rounded person to an obsessed, singled-minded, one-tracked train head."

Railroad Tycoon II (rrt2) is a strategy/simulation computer game released in 1998, developed by PopTop Software and published by Gathering of Developers.

Concept

The introduction of the steam powered locomotive in the 19th century spawned an economic phenomenon somewhat analogous to the 'dot com' explosion of recent years. Whilst the popularisation of the Internet enabled us to move data across vast distances at previously impossible speeds, the railroad did the same thing for goods and people. This environment was rich with opportunities for aspiring businessmen to make their fortune ... or lose it.

In rrt2, you take on the role of one such entrepeneur and as the chairman of a railroad corporation, your goal is to outsmart and outmaneouvre your competitors.

Game System

rrt2 is a strategy game which focusses on your ability to construct and manage profitable rail trade routes. The game world's resource locations are predefined, and most of the challenge is in finding the best way to exploit the supply and demand situations you encounter. To make that challenge more dynamic, the kinds of goods that are in demand, or available at all, change as the game clock ticks onward. New technologies become available, older ones become obsolete. It means that merely configuring a good trade route isn't sufficient. You need to keep a sharp eye on your old routes to make sure they don't fall behind, as well as expanding your empire and taking advantage of new regions.

In single player mode, you are given scenarios which require you to achieve a certain goal in a limited time period. For example, the tutorial scenario places you in Britain in 1870, and to succeed you must have a personal net worth of at least $1M by the end of 1900. rrt2 has a more complex economic model than many similar simulation style games (see Theme Park, Sim City, etc), distinguishing between your personal finances and those of the company you are controlling. There is even a small simulated stock market which, if you're shrewd, can be used to your advantage.

Creating trade routes involves two main things - building infrastructure, and plotting cargo loads. Your railway stations act as trade hubs, where your trains can drop off and load up specific goods. The rails themselves must be laid carefully, since any incline or bend in the track will adversely affect the speed of a train travelling along it. The time taken for a cargo to arrive at its destination is factored in to how much you are paid for it, so it is always worth spending some time looking for the optimal way to position a track.

Having built stations and connected them with tracks, you purchase steam engines, and assign each to a route. A route can involve any number of (your company's) stations. At each station, the train sells the "consist" (cargo manifest) it is carrying and takes on a new one. The sale price of the goods is determined mainly by how high demand is at the destination, but the speed, distance and type of goods all play a part. If you choose wisely, the high establishment costs will be covered quickly and the route will begin to turn a tidy profit. Your company's stock value will increase and the board of directors will increase your personal salary. Such is the way of the game.

Personal Opinions

If you've enjoyed such games as A-Train, Imperium Galactica II and the Settlers (AKA Serf City) series, you are more than likely to get a kick out of rrt2. It demands a lot of patience and attention to detail from the player, and rewards you with a highly polished game experience. The developers have gone to great lengths to make the background, chronology and geography as realistic as possible, and it really does make the game more fun to play.

I am occasionally annoyed by the fact that you can't specify which parts of the cargo are sold at any given station (the entire consist is sold at each station visited), but you can't model the universe, and every game developer has to draw the line between reality and simulation somewhere.

I think this game has wonderful complexity, solid replayability and is generally a nice way to burn off a few spare hours here and there.


Links
  • Developer: http://www.poptop.com
  • Publisher: http://rt2.godgames.com
  • Linux port: http://www.lokigames.com/products/rt2

Plum Loco!

Dust off your anoraks! Sharpen your pencils! The trains have come to your PC!



Just kidding , folks. Although "Railroad Tycoon II" boasts a historically-accurate line-up and simulation of the workhorses of the Industrial Revolution, the game is to trainspotters pretty much what bicycles are to fish.

The original "Railroad Tycoon was designed by the near-legendary Sid Meier - he of "Civilization" (an empire-building 'god game' (you play god with people)), "Silent Service" (a submarine simulation/strategy game) and "Gettysburg!" (an American Civil War strategy game).

As with the original, "Railroad Tycoon II, designed and programmed by Phil Steinmeyer, plonks you in the hot seat as chairman of a fledgling rail transport company.

Starting with nothing but largely-borrowed money (no trains, no tracks, no stations - no nothing!), you help to connect the burgeoning cities of your choice, keeping them supplied with the finer things in life - food, clothes, mail, that kind of thing.

Through scenarios and campaigns, you can move through wartime London, Europe in the Fifties or America in the not-too-distant future. The primary challenge of the expansion pack, "The Second Century", for example, is to convert your steam-based empire to electrification.

You begin in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Stephenson has designed and built his "Rocket" and this is the only engine available to you for the time being. As the years go by, other, (usually) better locos will come 'online' (pardon the pun ).

Various projects arise requiring sound business acumen and, sometimes, a stomach of steel. In the words of the manual's introduction, "it is your job to be better, faster and just plain smarter than your competitors".

To help you do this, there is the stock market, where canny or downright unscrupulous trading can make your fortune or grind your rivals into the ground.

Or drive you to the wall and out on your ear! As in all businesses, you MUST appease your shareholders.



There are no set 'rules for success and both the scenario and campaign modes reset differently each time you play them afresh, making for almost unlimited replayability. As with most (if not all) of Sid Meier's works, the game is superbly researched and the manual includes an appendix sufficently comprehensive to sate the closet anorak fetishists.

Finally, it is not a game to play on your lunch hour or when boss isn't looking. To me, it's an immersive, addictive game which requires a lot of thought skill, patience and all those other non-Quake-type qualities.

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