Railway Mogul is a massive 3D railway simulation, a sort of Railroad Tycoon crossed with Sim City 3000.
The game is scenario based. A map of rolling hills contains different factories or towns and each has differing supply requirements or products. For example, a steel plant might require iron ore and produce steel, a mine produces iron ore. The aim is to join up the various factories with rails and make a profit for your railway company.
Your first task as a new player is to experience the extensive tutorials. They take a long time to read, almost a hour, but they work well and during that time you learn the skills to play the game.
The graphics are all created to a high standard. The bridges and tunnels you can construct that span rivers and lakes look very nice and the whole scene is fogged. There are some incidental animations in the factories, and the final look of the game world is a little grainy but still high quality. There are many sound effects in the game world, from the horns and rail clatter of the locomotives to the buzzing saw mills.
The 3D landscape can be flown over using very awkward controls that involve holding Ctrl and various mouse buttons while moving the mouse. It takes some time to get used to and is not nearly as simple to use as flying in a typical F.P.S. game. Fortunately, there are always hints about what key to press but having to use keyboard qualifiers only enhances the fact that the game interface is closer to a PC application than a console game.
When it comes to actually designing your track one problem becomes evident in that each rail has to be placed individually. You can't just draw where you want rails to go like you can with roads in Sim City, instead you have to select each individual segment using the mouse wheel and stamp it down. Make mistakes, and you have to grab the bulldozer and pay on a per-square basis to delete errors. My first snaking and unwieldy track took about fifteen minutes. Creating it was not fun or enjoyable.
Getting trains moving is also rather difficult. A waypoints system allows you to exactly place and route trains, you can even specify specific goods to load and unload but all of that detail makes the process complicated. The game crashed once or twice during waypointing too, and the spelling mistakes might indicate a lack of long term play testing.
It's not all bad news however, there are plenty of nice details in the game. Budgets are handled in a realistic way, it's almost like you really are running a railway company. Bridges of various materials can be placed over ravines, tunnels can go under hills and trees need to be cleared before you build. When running, Railway Mogul is much better than a train set. You can tweak and create scenarios for yourself too, and on the whole every feature you could want is there somewhere.
All of the production values are very high, a lot of work has gone into this potentially deep and involving game but I found playing Railway Mogul a very frustrating experience. Those with model railways will appreciate the time it takes to make a working railway system but the average game player might spend too long juggling with the awkward interface to fully appreciate being a mogul. This should appeal to fans of these sorts of games but I think that Railway Mogul will find it difficult to attract players unused to this type of game.
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