Railroad Tycoon 3

Review

posted 11/24/2003 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
One Page Platforms: PC
“More powerful than a locomotive” is a phrase that, for some, only evokes nostalgia for old Superman adages. For others, it harvests childhood recollections of model-railroads spanning entire living rooms. Another classic image is of a train encircling the base of a Christmas tree. Combine such boyhood wonders with my ruthless aspiration to become a corporate mogul and—voila—Railroad Tycoon 3 (RT3)my cup of tea.

RT3 rewinds to the Golden Age of railroading, circa early-1800s, and extends beyond the year 2015. You are the chairman of a fledgling railroad company, although “you” will be playing from a pantheon of historically relevant characters in railroading history, like: William Wheelwright, J.P. Morgan, General Gentaro….If you’re like me, then you probably only recognize one of those names. Never fear; each character is accompanied by a few unobtrusive lines of biographical info. While your chairman obviously adheres to your own playing style, these biographies are more relevant while gauging your competition’s strategy. For example, Cecil Rhodes is a ruthless expansionist, while Jay Ghould spends most of his time assessing the stock market. You aren’t here to make friends and neither are they.

The features that made the Railroad Tycoon series a success are still intact. New and improved features take player requests and graphical advancements solidly into account. The new 3D engine unbinds the stoic building development of the previous Railroad Tycoon installment. A reasonable level of detail is stretched over clean terrain; expansive forests grow relevant to their climate; and even abbreviated day and night cycles keep the world turning. Tunnels and bridges ensure that mountains high and valleys low are no match against money and progress. An automatic consist manager (your cargo manifest) keeps the administration of transporting people and goods at a painless level. With over 60 industries, over 180 buildings and over 40 cargo types to whet any micro-manager’s appetite, the movement of cargo is thankfully simplified. The interface (although somewhat blocky and unattractive) has been streamlined to minimize the degrees of separation between you and the important info. RT3 also boasts an enhanced multiplayer mode and a better map editor.


The tutorial is broken into two major sections: Operations, and Money Matters. The Operations segment lays a foundation for getting your trains up and running: familiarizing yourself with the interface, starting a company, choosing suitable starting points, laying track, and placing stations. The Operations tutorial is sufficient for tackling the easy and medium difficulty levels.

Attempting the hard level should have you at least entertain the Money Matters portion. I experimented with money matters on my own before taking the tutorial—but this only reinforced why I’m getting a “D” in my Accounting class this term. Thankfully, the designers got that memo and made a system easy enough to put E*Trade out of business. Issuing stocks and bonds, measuring profits, adjusting annual dividend payments, and even declaring bankruptcy are accomplished with point-and-click efficiency. This segment is a bit dry, so if all that bookkeeping hoopla doesn’t float your boat then you’ll get along just fine without it.
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