The transport tycoon genre isn't the most popular genre, and in the last years we've not seen many new ones pop out. There's been some, but most of them haven't cut it. The last still good transport tycoon is OpenTTD, which is well over 15 years old, so that says a lot. Is Train Fever the true next succedor or just another failed attempt to recreate the true glory of the classic transport tycoon?
First of all, Train Fever looks gorgeous. It is by far the best looking transport tycoon that exists. Every part of the graphics is very well done, and the world looks beautiful (albeit a bit empty at times). Everything from the rail tracks to trains and buses to cities, they are all carefully crafted and you can truly enjoy the result. The game is almost hypnotizing, and I find myself spending a lot of time just following the small trains around, moving through the landscape and the result of my hard work as a rail entrepenour.
Now, graphics is only one thing, more importantly is the gameplay. To coorelate to the graphic part, the game is very dynamic. Cities will over time grow and change visual appearance. Building style will change to fit the current era, and the pedestrians in the streets. Vehicles get new replacements, and the stations and bus stops change appearance as well. Cities will grow when you supply it with passenger services and goods, or simply create a local bus route in the city. When the city grows it's also an indicator of you most likely earning money as well. The cities grow dynamically, adjusting to the terrain, so no two cities grow in the same way, resulting in relatively diverse cities spreading across the map.
A key thing in the game is that every person is a simulated entity, with a home, workplace and destination. Unlike older games, simply attaching a station to a city won't do anything in itself, you need to connect the cities people actually want to travel to. This means that a station with for example a 100 passengers, a train approaching won't necessarily take all of them despite having space. You can luckily easily see where they're heading by simply clicking the station, and it gives you an overview over what lines the passengers are waiting for. Of those 100 passengers, 50 of them could be for one train line, 40 for another, and 10 for the local bus.
Passengers are despite this relatively easy to manage. It's recommended to start with internal bus/tram routes, then connect cities with buses. After time, the demand will be high enough for you to use trains, effectively being able to connect several cities in one route. Now, cargo is something else however. Cargo in Train Fever is very tricky to wrap your head around. It's heavily based around demand. If a city has demand for goods, the factories will produce exactly as much as is demanded, if they have the resources supplied for it. It never produces more. A single factory can have a production up to 400 (which is quite a lot), supplied with only one of each sub resource source (a steel mill for example requires iron ore and coal, but only one factory of each), as production scales with it. The most efficient way to deal with cargo is by using trucks, as they are frequent and cost efficient, easily allowing you to see if a route is profitable or not.
Now, a key element in Train Fever is the upkeep. Unlike other transport tycoons, laying roads and tracks is cheap. Very cheap. Trucks and buses have moderate upkeep (it's pretty reasonable, and will usually end up in profit), while trains have HUGE upkeep. The upkeep scales over time, an old train has signficiantly higher upkeep, forcing you to replace engines often. This however is quite easy, as you can allocate automatic replacement of a line in your route planner.
As time passes, new, more powerful engines will be able, but they will also be more expensive. This approach forces you to have efficient and profitable train routes. A train route can either have million losses or million profits, depending on how well managed it is. I've found that a good approach is to have double track passenger lines with 3-5 stops, with two running trains. As long as you don't overextend your passenger trains, they will be fine (you don't need too many wagons or the fanciest engines).
Cargo trains are a whole different story, and something I struggle with heavily. If I start early on building one, I can get a line with 3 stops to profit, with roughly 150-200 cargo being transported. Establishing a new route in modern times turns out to be harder. If you can managge it right, it will give a decent profit, but in the end it just isn't worth the hazzle. With passenger trains you can easily set up a route with 5+ million in profit, and you can make several of them.
Another thing in Train Fever is transport time. A person or cargo will in total time spend no more than 20 in-game minutes, including walking to the station and switching lines. This means that long cargo lines have limited efficiency, and that passenger routes cannot be too long. Roughly 10 minutes for trains is decent, and a minute for buses. Trucks can go down to 10 seconds on busy routes. This system works hand in hand with the passenger entity system. If a route takes longer than 20 minutes in total, the person will use their car or simply not go (as far as I know).
I believe that's most of the game's elements that's worth mentioning.
The game has a good modding community, and I recommend picking up some mods as it can extend the fun of the game heavily.
- Gorgeous looking
- Realistic and satisfying simulation
- Fun to play
- Easy to manage with a good UI
- Easy to mod
- Cargo system is simply annoying
- The economy isn't satisfactory for some
- No planes or ships
- Steep learning curve (this can be seen as both good and bad, but I feel many will feel it's on the bad side)
- Can feel repetitive after a while
Train Fever is definitely worth playing if you like transport tycoons. It looks beautiful, and it feels a bit like managing a model railway. It's fun, and gives for many, many hours of gameplay. It takes time to learn, but as you eventually get to know your ways around it you'll feel a sense of achievement. It's challenging, but in a fun way. The stock selection is a bit sparse, but a few mods will change that. The cargo system is ridiculously hard to manage.
In overall, a very good game, but I'm usure as to whether people will accept it as a "true" succedor to previous installments. Personally I won't ever touch any of the old games again.
"like skyrim but with trains"