Game Reviews

Sid Meier’s Railroads review - “Train Tycoon Paradise, same fun at pocket-size”

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Sid Meier’s Railroads review - “Train Tycoon Paradise, same fun at pocket-size”

Those from the Golden Era of gaming, as well as highly dedicated virtuosos of the simulation genre, will know Sid Meier, a household name associated with many hits such as Civilization, their genius in crafting tycoon games has blessed train enthusiasts with a detailed (albeit sometimes convoluted) train tycoon game.

First released in 2006, this release follows the trend of porting PC classics to mobile, either as nostalgia fuel or to rekindle the life of a beloved title. Any developer worth their salt will no doubt strive to disintegrate the barriers that confine classics to Windows. Despite being on a smaller screen in exchange for portability, and a hefty price tag of a whopping $14.99, Sid Meier doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to offering a bona fide stimulation experience. Expect to enjoy unrestricted freedom as a baron crafting wickedly creative ways to exert your dominance and flex your financial muscles.

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Network of rails
Railroads are the main course, the appetiser, and the dessert that delivers a satisfying tour back in the halcyon days of the Industrial Revolution. As a baron, the title sees many hats bundled into one and the outcome of your empire's profitability will be an arduous responsibility. The only metric that matters in scoring a triumphant victory is how deeply stuffed your pockets are with the lush green moolah.

All the while taking into account a torrent of calculations and micromanagement to maximise your profits. At the financial forefront of the locomotion industry, you choose and play as one of the 20+ investors in a variety of locations as you meticulously allocate your finite resources and amass a fortune in return, behind the scenes you go head-to-toe and duke it out with other barons. However, you will soon find that your opponents are none other than your unfriendly neighbourhood AI, with customisable difficulty settings that can either make them a pushover or jacked AlphaGo of finance.

As a standout trademark of Sid Meier’s simulation games, the competitive economic system aspect of Railroads doesn't miss the mark. The stakes are always high as you are bombarded with constant market fluctuations: from solicitation, industry advantage, bidding for patents, material market and so much more. In which one leap of faith can result in making bank or going bust.

One minute you are on a bankroll with, let’s say, the refinery industry, and lo and behold, the next minute sees the demand plummet due to lady luck’s mood swing. With that said, you cannot deny this is the charm of Railroads and in some way reflects the reality of the bear and bull market. There are also a set of objectives to meet within a time frame to keep you on your toes.

Diverse scenarios, diverse paths

Different scenarios in Sid Meier's Railroads!

For starters, we can all unanimously agree that games are best enjoyed at your own pace. Railroads supports this with plenty of choices in this wacky wild world of monopoly. Upon booting up a new timeline, you can pick which country/continent to start your legacy, ranging from antiquated European countries awaiting the onset of the paradigm shift brought by the Industrial Revolution to more primitive places such as Mesa or the Plains. However, the degree of freedom for customisation is endless: you can customise your train with a gaudy colour or insignia should you prefer, for instance.

Train locomotive in Sid Meier's Railroads!

On the corporate side of things, the option of amassing wealth through patenting cutthroat research and development or capitalising on the market demands by establishing golden goose industries that involve a bidding process. If you feel the gusto of a relentless conqueror, money can be swindled by encroaching on your foe’s territories and showing them who’s boss. The possibilities are endless!

The Webs of rails: lightspeed or lumbering logistics

The thought-provoking foundation of the game involves laying efficient railroads and maintaining profitable operations. Mastery of both rail-making and terrain is intuition with a very steep learning curve. At your disposal is the capability of building just a single track or parallel track. Many considerations from track angle and interlinking are not to be taken lightly, especially since the latter can eat into your revenue as you will want to avoid idling trains that can pump up an unnecessary surplus on maintenance costs.

Terrain layout can be a big thorn; the uneven surface can hamper your routes and eat up expenses for a potentially profitable trade. Doing so is less a peace of mind but a piece of work as you have to zoom in and out tirelessly to lay tracks. While on an iPad it certainly is less egregious. On tiny pipsqueak screens, it can be quite a hassle. For casual play, all of these can be moot with the difficulty setting for tracks. However, aesthetics be damned as it will not be the most pleasant of sights watching trains overlap each other. Though, one part you can appreciate is a sandbox option for you to go nuts on building railways.

Sid Meier’s Railroads review - “Train Tycoon Paradise, same fun at pocket-size”

As the game places a strong focus on progress, you can grow cities under your jurisdiction into major terminals and gradually unlock new trains. Following the wave of industrialisation, you can also see many innovative industries springing up, their potential lying in wait to be tapped into.