Railroad Tycoon is a Sid Meier's game and it's one of those that put this game making genius on the pedestal he is on today. Along with Pirates (the recent addition to the franchise being released just last year) and Civilization (with all of its sequels) Railroad Tycoon has got to be one of his best games. A few years after the original game got released a Deluxe version came out which featured a few changes, and it’s the Deluxe version that just recently got released as FREEWARE.
So what's the game about? You are an industrious and ambitious businessman trying your skill in railroad business. You can play on many different levels, which make the game complex and challenging enough, as well as highly replayable.
First off you chose the map on which you'll play. You can start building in either eastern part of North America, western part of North America, the entire North American continent, South America, continental Europe or in Africa. Depending on which map you choose, you'll start in different years. Among these territories the eastern USA developed the rail network first, so that map will take you to the mid 19th century (although you can select certain time frames). Every map you choose will also influence the choice of engines you’ll be able to use (and the resources available).
Next you choose the difficulty level of AI. And this really does make a difference, because every level will get tougher. You have four to choose from and the toughest one will be almost impossible to beat!
But that's not all. Each difficulty level presumes you'll choose different reality levels, but you can modify those at the beginning or during the game. What's a reality level? You can chose to do your own dispatching (holding the trains on the station, forcing them to wait, so they don't crash), having complex economy (if you don't chose this one, every city will accept all goods you'll deliver to them, if you chose this one, then you'll get a list of goods a certain city or some industry not placed in a city will accept), and last but not least is the cut-throat choice (if ticked then other tycoons will try to get you out of business by taking over your lines).
But what do you do in the game? Well there are many things you can do. The basic income is from the profit your railroad is making, but that's by far not all. You can buy and sell stocks of other companies, speculating with their stock. Running others out of business or taking over their lines. You can expand the stations by building post offices, hotels, restaurants… which can bring in some money and increase the number of passengers and mail (and also freight). You'll see some priority deliveries that will show up random and will demand you to howl freight from one station to another (earning extra money). Basically you must connect as many cities as you can and build as much industry (unless playing without complex economy) as you can. Don't forget to build some maintenance facilities along the way, so trains don't give out on you.
There are also two ways of fighting the opponents. You can either try to take over their business or disrupt their lines. The stock market depends on your wealth. If you have enough money, you'll be able to buy more than 50% of their stocks and take over their company. But disrupting their lines depends on your railroad building skills. If you connect your railroad to a city that is a part of somebody else's net then this city will decide for one of the companies. Their decision will be based on performance. The one who can bring most goods and passengers to the city and deliver most of their supplies to other cities will win. The looser will have to redraw from the city. This can even cut a line in half. On the other hand if you connect to a city owned by a company you took over that will increase the net worth of your company.
There are simply so many things to say about this game, that I could go on for pages and still wouldn't say enough. The game play would score a 10 on a scale from 1 to 5. The game play gives you 200% of everything and other aspects supported the feel of railroad pioneering very well too.
In the end, when you either retire, are kicked out of business or have been in charge of the company so long you'll go into peaceful retreat you'll see how good you've done. Every time you really improve your performance you're offered a better job (meaning if you left the railroad business you would have all the qualifications to do that job). It's a nice way to end a game and enter the hall of fame.
This is undoubtedly a great game, well worth playing and I would also like to mention that Take-Two Interactive Software made this game available for a free download and they were the first who officially asked for permission to use DOSBox to make the game compatible for on the new operating systems, so a big round of applause for the DOSBox developing team – you guys made the best thing an old DOS game fan could ever ask for (great work).
Review by: Sebatianos