Trains. Those huge, metal beasts that transport us around London through dirty tunnels and crowded platforms. That’s how most of us will know them anyway, but obviously there are so many more from overground to steam trains. Actually, thats about as far as my knowledge goes, but thankfully this lack of knowledge in no way affected my joy at playing Train Fever!
After a successful run on Kickstarter, Swiss studio Urban Games have crafted an experience that lets you take on the job of Fat Controller at a much larger scale and through the ages, beginning in the 1850s with simple steam trains, cruising through one horse towns, its up to you to expand your transportation empire. Building tracks, stations, roads and everything else you’d need to turn the town into a hub of constant motion.
The world around you is procedurally generated and plays host to a handful of small towns, each with their own important industry to make it important. Linking these important resources is a tricky task, but one that could lead to huge profits if you can pull it off. you’ll need to understand how your eco system will work best as mines and forests will keep factories running, while said factories allow towns to grow and communities to flourish.
In this instance, Train Fever starts to feel more like a scaled down Sim City in many ways, putting you in control of one cog that’s part of the wider machine, something which I actually felt quite at home with, as Sim City quickly got out of control for my small mind to keep track of.
The beauty with train Fever is its open world sensibility that, while vast, allows you to start anywhere you want meaning your chances of success are much greater as there really isn’t a wrong answer, just a different style.
With each settlement you can create a bus or tram route to get started, which is a simple process and easy pickings for profit, with the larger towns desperate for links to different towns. At a fair cheap cost, you simply place bus stops where you feel necessary and buy your cartridges to follow said routes. Simples.
Were not here to talk buses or trams though are we. You want to play Train God as much as I do, but this unfortunately isn’t as easy a task as any of the extra vehicles. Tracks can be laid fairly easily with a simple click and drag system, but the world around you needs to be taken into consideration. Hills wont allow for tracks, meaning you’ll need to build tunnels but this will cost a lot more of those big bucks you’ve been sweating your top hat off to earn.
As you expand, joining train networks together gets somewhat glitchy in some sense, occasionally throwing obtuse errors your way that essentially translate to ‘computer says no!’
Train Fevers lack of hand holding, which I personally enjoyed as it allowed me to play like a kid exploring and experimenting, also manages to make the signal systems of your train network a tad too hard to understand, but if you’re happy to keep experimenting, you’ll get the hang of it.
Because the game spans decades, you’ll need to get used to furrowing your brow and thinking hard about the choices you make, simply because while your best laid plans haven’t gone awry just yet, in 20 to 30 years time, this could be a different story and in fact be a thorn in the side of your next big idea.
Profit is the key goal here so while upgrading from carriages to lorries in one go may seem like a fantastic idea and great way of future proofing your company, once the vehicles reach the end of their life span, maintenance cost will explode meaning the whole fleet will be better if replaced. Can you afford that kind of outgoing though?
While this sounds like a headache, in some strange way, that’s the fun of Train Fever. Now, I’ll admit I never imagined I’d be saying to you that playing a game about essentially being a government administrator was a whole heap of fun, but it actually has such strange charm. From its visuals to its concept and delivery.
It’s not a perfect experience however, with some niggles and bugs here and there, perhaps a symptom of an early release, that can make Train Fever frustrating! (Damn you and your ‘No Space’!) With no tutorial some people may be put off but overall, if you enter into the game with an open mind, Train Fever has a lot to offer if you just give it a chance!
MLG Rating: 7/10 Format: PC Release Date: 04/09/2014
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Train Fever by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 1 week on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.