Video, Slides, Demo, & Patch
Gathering of Developers, $49. Requirements: PowerPC (132 MHz or Greater), 16MB RAM, System 7.5.3 or higher, 4x CD-ROM. For more information, visit Gathering of Developers at
http://www.godgames.com.

Review by Rafi Guroian, Editor in Chief

What is it about trains that makes some of us (especially the guys) go wild? No matter how macho we may try to be; no matter how much we may try to impress the girlfriend or wife, there’s always something that brings a man back to being a ten year old; for me (and millions of others), it’s trains.

Now, I try to keep a low profile around these parts. As the Editor in Chief, I’ve got a ton of work to do behind the scenes. It’s hard for me to take the time to write reviews and columns as much as I would like to. Nevertheless, every so once in a while, something comes along that I simply can’t pass on to one of the fine MacReactor writers. This time, it’s G.O.D.’s Railroad Tycoon II.

I never was a strategy game nut. Sure, I found Warcraft and Starcraft enjoyable, entertaining, and somewhat addictive. But I’ve always been an adventure/trivia game kind of guy…until Gathering of Developers shipped us the Gold Master of Railroad Tycoon II. I hadn’t spent twelve hours playing a game since Prince of Persia on my old Mac Plus, something that I’ve been proud to boast. Less than two days after receiving RRTII in the mail, that streak had been broken.

The basic premise of the game is rather simple: build a railroad empire and crush all competition. In a way, the game shares a great deal of strategic elements that we enjoyed so much in Sim City, or A-Train for that matter. Placing structers strategically is the key to success, as is the notion of trying to predict how your railroad will grow, what aspects will be popular, and what kinds of cargo will be the most beneficial. If you become stagnant in your upkeep of the railroad, if you neglect what is in demand, people will not use your trains to transport goods, and your business will fail.

The game also shares strategy with games like Warcraft, in that certain structures enable you to produce certain goods that other towns may want to buy (you make money by shipping cargo from town to town). If you don't run your business on the cutting edge of technology (faster trains, new goods, improved refinery options), competitors will take advantage of where you fall short. The game even goes so far as to involve market trading. In order to run a successful company, you will more than likely have to dabble in the stock market as well (watch out, because other players are liable to buy your company out from under you).

Railroad Tycoon II comes with a Multi-Player feature as well, supporting play on both local networks (via Appletalk) and the Internet (via TCP/IP). Sadly, there is no option to search for multiplayer games. Gameplay with others is truly an experience, and has been integrated into the game extremely well. Railroads converge, people buy eachother out, and tempers are known to flare.

Railroad nuts will be pleased to see an extremely detailed history of railroading unfold throughout the course of the game. My jaw quite literally dropped when I saw that a small town very close to where I grew up was integrated into game play simply because it was part of the history of therailroad. As time goes by, new engines will become available, new buildings will be invented (to create and refine certain goods), and new products will become in demand. By the time you finish with a particular game, you’re playing with a completely different set of tools at your disposal. Where you may have started out in 1856 with food, milk, and mail as your major cargo, you may finish in 1938 with passengers flocking to your trains.

Interestingly enough, try as I might, I can’t find any glaring drawbacks to this game. Mark Adams and the crew at Westlake Interactive have done a bang-up job of porting the game to the Mac (Note: Westlake isn’t credited on the box, nor anywhere in the game. It’s a shame, and it’s the least I can do to at least credit them here). Installation is a breeze (although it does gobble up 130MB of your HD), and the game ran smoothly on all PowerMacs that we tested with. The only complaint that I may have is that the game does run somewhat slowly on older PowerMacs (below a 603e processor).

What makes Railroad Tycoon II really stand out from other strategy games is the meld between administrative strategy (Sim City) and the practice of making your town (or in this case, railroad) grow (WarCraft). Sure, there have been some other games that have tried to tackle this combination, but few have succeeded in really setting themselves apart. What is the key? The game's premise is unique. It has been all too often that we've seen strategy games built on the notion of combining certain elements of games like Warcraft and Sim City, yet the player is thrown once again into a medieval setting with knights, a blacksmith, and wizards.

Railroad Tycoon's approach is fresh and innovative. It tackles a timeframe in history that most of us are fairly familiar with, and to which we are able to relate. Being able to say, "Hey, I know this story" is what makes so many games actually "fun" to play. You can dazzle us with futuristic storylines, paint beautiful pictures of medieval knights fighting, but after the premise has been copied a countless number of times, the game's appeal wears off. Railroad Tycoon II is truly a gem for Mac gaming this year. I look forward to the add-on pack, Second Century, and strongly recommend this deserving sequel to the gaming classic, Railroad Tycoon.

 
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