Sometimes a product is launched as a "sequel" that only serves to remind you how brilliant the original was. Train Fever is obviously inspired by Transport Tycoon (Deluxe) and/or its opensource version, OpenTTD.
Both games use a simple grid system with sprites and to put it midly, the graphics look dated. Train Fever obviously ups the stakes in the graphics department and when it runs, it looks pretty decent. But nobody played openTTD for years for the graphics, it was/is the gameplay, refined through years of development, that kept people coming back.
Does Train Fever compare well to an ancient game, the most common player version available for free? No.
First off, this game is closer to TT then OpenTTD, it is a common problem for a new game that is based on an existing game, it tends to lack the refinement, content and bug squashing its pre-decessor went through. When Locomotion came out, the official sequel, people liked the improved graphics but were less enthused by essentially taking a step back in time with regards to features.
To put it in a nutshell, Train Fever feels like a lightweight TT when I have gotten used to the heavyweight OpenTTD.
But why does this game remind me how brilliant Chris Sawyer is. Error messages. You will see a lot of them in Train Fever and they will drive you up the wall. Some are to due with the terain and it shows how brilliant Sawyers decission was to go for a simple grid. Sure it looks ugly but you always know what you are doing and building tunnels and bridges is a breeze. Not so in train fever.
Another is bridge building, Sawyer simply saw pillars are graphical niceties, who cares if they are to far apart, it is gameplay that matters. Train fever insists every bridge pillar is in the right place and therefor building a bridge over anything at all is extremely error prone.
Realistic I hear you say? Not really, if in the real world a rail bridge has to cross another track at an angle, engineers simply place two pillars on each side of the track, put a crossbeam on top and the bridge on top of that. Job done. The Dutch rail network has plenty of examples of these fly-overs (way to cross a track without blocking the other track).
That is Train Fevers biggest failure, the desinger thinks error messages beat gameplay. No you can't cross this road at a right angle, BECAUSE! No, we can't space the pillars differently, BECAUSE!
In OpenTTD if you run into trouble with lost trains, you can build track in front of the train to lead them back. In train fever, you can't build track close to a train, can't change or delete signals close to a train, the stop/reverse buttons are on a seperate tab from the route assign and find depot depot, Once ytou do manage to place a depot close to a train, it can't find it.
I have had to cancel several games by now because of trains completely stuck and overlapping each other. Routes you define get changed randomly, the slightest hickup sees trains going off in all directions, try to manage it with signals and trains get stuck. You can't force a train to move or ignore a red light, nor do signals show a red light. Trains do occasionally drive through each other.
Missing features that really should be in the game and bug that shouldn't:
- Industry is far to simplistic with just 2 chains (ore/cole -> goods) (wood->goods) goods can be deliverd to a city.
- Industry seeder is to random, one map with one forest, four sawmills.
- Industry often produces no raw material, only way to build a semi reliable network is to watch the flow of existing cargo and move goods faster. Simply building a route yourself will not startup production.
- Stations, even if grouped do not share cargo, so your truck dock is overflowing but your train runs empty.
- It takes two click to select track layer, if you are destroying track,it is just an extra hassle that doesn't need to exist.
- Building road bridges is near impossible, you can't simply build a road, force it to go up and create a bridge, it creates a hell of a mess, if you even manage to get the "collision" type error messages to go away.
- Building shortt tunnels to dive under a track is a similar mess.
- Despite claims of wanting to fix the economy, which in TT is broken in that passenger traffic pays of most of all, this game again makes passenger traffic the most rewarding. The better you connect the cities, the more pasengers, the same does not go for cargo. You can have full trains with a simple route, cargo trains take decades in game years to build up to few wagons.
- Signals are very basic.
- No visual indication for signals as to their state, signals are to small to see and their icon does not show what direction they are pointing in.
- Despite the game using routes (the game shows a ribbon for your train routes over the track, they SHOULD only follow thar route, you can't easily change it, there is for instance no way to force a train to a certain platform or to take a certain route) trains easily get lost and end in all the wrong places, often staring each other down nose to nose each refusing to move.
- Route finding is extremely iffy and trains can't pick their own individual routes, no mixing fast and slow trains and having them overtake each other. Or another train arriving on one platform as another on the same route is leaving.
In OpenTTD, I scoff at players that only create simple routes, a train station at each end, each route on their own seperate track. I love making big complex networks getting enjoyment out of creating stations with half a dozen trains entering and leaving at once.
Forget about that in Train Fever.
The game as it is now is an interesting project but the developer needs to hire someone who is less anal retentive about perceived reality and introduces some much need "game" into the engine.
Maybe if the game gets picked up by the openttd developers or this developer plays that game and learns something, it will improve but right now, only buy this game if you got a very high frustration tolerance.