Written by  :  Cadorna (223)
Written on  :  Nov 06, 2003
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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Another proof that better graphics don't always equal a better game

The Good

Well, one thing is for certain, this is the best looking Railroad Tycoon ever. The semi-3D engine used in the previous game, Railroad Tycoon 2, and also in Tropico and it's sequel Tropico 2: Pirate Cove, has been replaced by a real-3D engine that's fully zoom- and rotatable, and everything, from the trains themselves over the various buildings to the terrain and it's features look more detailed and most often more beautiful than in the predecessors. And with all that, the engine is still running very fluently, it runs like a charm as long as your CPU is anywhere close to recent, say faster than 1 GHz, with a graphics card from the time that CPU speed was about the best you could get.

The core gameplay is still the one you'd expect to see here if you've played any game of the series: managing a railroad company. Instead of a "real" campaign, you get to play in a semi-campaign that allows you to try and look how you would've fared in the shoes of a historical railroad tycoon, in numerous scenarios on various continents.

Oh, tunnels make a comeback in this episode of the series, too, and in general, you can say track-building is more simple than ever ... not that it was really difficult at any time, but still ... ;-)

The Bad

So, run-of-the-mill Railroad Tycoon gameplay with better graphics ... that doesn't sound too bad, does it?

Unfortunately, it is. Well, at least it's worse than RRT2, in my opinion. One of the worst weaknesses of this game is closely related to it's biggest strength: the graphics engine itself.

In a move I completely fail to understand, more and more games these days trade in the conventional zoom to a "folding" one, which flattens the viewpoint the more you scroll in, viewing things from the side at maximum and from a birds-eye perspective at minimum zoom. While this would be a nice additional feature, if there's no conventional zoom you can use instead, it can be slightly annoying. In Railroad Tycoon 3, it's EXTREMELY annoying. Because the folding occurs such that, no matter where you scroll, you'll hardly find a good compromise between eye-candy and overview, which is really a shame. Minor corrections to the shifting of the angle could've prevented this effect.

Other than that, there are simplifications I personally consider harmful to the games' appeal as well. A lot of micromanagement tasks have been "automated", for example the computer will just issue the number of wagons required for the cargo present in the station in question itself, all you need to do is set the max and min number of wagons the train should consist of. This is just one of the numerous simplifications, which in my opinion make this game closer to a miniature-railroad-sim than a railroad management sim. A bad thing, as far as I'm concerned.

Apart from the railroad business part, there's also a quite simple industrial model, like the one from the previous games, but a bit more simple, or maybe only more general. The stock market is very similar to the one of the predecessors.

The Bottom Line

The thing that really made me dislike this one was the graphics engine. So, by all means, get a demo or something, and if you find you can live with (or even like) it's engine, this could very well be a game for you. Especially if you're fond of not having to take care of things yourself, but like the computer doing them for you. Even more so if you don't own any of the previous games.

If you dislike any of the things I disliked, though, i'd honestly recommend you to get one of the various editions of Railroad Tycoon 2 (they should be very cheap nowadays) instead, or stick to them if you already own one.