Railroad Tycoon 3

Review

posted 11/24/2003 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
One Page Platforms: PC
Because it’s all about the trains, right? The RT3 game box comes with an attractive pullout that details every locomotive that will appear in the game. While you engage in campaigns that span the centuries, the locomotives that are available will stay true to their time reference. Starting with the steam “Planet 2-2-0” making its entrance in 1829, to the introduction of the electric engine as early as 1904, then the diesels that begin to intersperse in the 1940s. Top speeds will climb from around 30 mph all the way up to 300 mph with the E-88 electric engine making its conceptual debut in 2012. The E-88 will apparently have ‘instant’ acceleration. I bet that will make you pay attention to a ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign, eh? You’ll definitely notice as newer engines get your trains whipping from station to station at impressive speeds. Every locomotive has a grade climbing ability from ‘atrocious’ to ‘mountain king’; initial costs (the train cars are free—you only pay for the engine); annual maintenance fees, and even passenger appeal that rates from ‘ugly’ to ‘ultra cool.’ Don’t discount that last feature: passengers will pay a premium to ride on more attractive trains.

Placing track in RT3 is a handsomely laid-out process…in the flatlands and around waterways. However, negotiating more mountainous regions is going to test your patience—as it should. Cargo was already moving along the world’s rivers and oceans with reasonable efficiency. The railroad’s most impressive feats were measured by crossing previously impassable barriers; and doing it more effectively and efficiently than anything else.

The game technicalities, however, will likely have your finger on the ‘undo’ button until you gain a solid grasp of the mechanics. There is a ‘turning radius’ that will have to be adhered to when bending around obstacles, and there is also a buffer zone on each side of the track that makes negotiating through dense cities particularly trying. Learning these nuances comes cheaply (thanks to the addition of the ‘undo’ feature) and soon you’ll stop reaching for that damnable ‘bulldoze’ button.

RT3 is not for the simulation purist. The developers’ last intention was for gameplay to get bogged down with ultra-realism to leave you vacillating over technicalities. A train may crash, but not into another train. If two locomotives are steaming toward one another on the same route, ‘Train A’ will simply fade momentarily and come to a complete stop, then allow ‘Train B’ to proceed on its way. ‘Train A’ then accelerates toward its own destination. This train fading also automatically happens when pulling into a station to load and unload. No worries, no mess. This, thankfully, keeps your focus on the transportation of goods rather than on exhaustive layout and design problem-solving.

Unfortunately, some of the track renderings don’t pan out properly in mountainous terrain. Especially when creating bridges over valleys, the track will frequently disappear into the side of a hill and spontaneously emerge a few track lengths away. Visually, it’s disgusting. But the trains don’t seem to mind so much and will continue on their merry way moving goods and making money.
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