* Prices may differ from that shown
It's now been 5 years since Chris Sawyer's Locomotion (CSL) is released. On that eventful day on 7th September 2004, possibly the best business strategy game since Transport Tycoon (and of course its successor TT Deluxe) was released.
CSL is a business transport strategy game. In this game the player is presented with a map with several cities and/or industries and is challenged to connect them with trams, buses, trucks, railway, planes and/or ships. The aim of the game is to make as much money as possible, or to fulfill the criteria set by the scenario creator (e.g. transport xx units of cargo by xx time).
The game comes with several categories of maps - ranging from novice to expert. The player is free to create his/her own maps or to download ones made by others from the internet. The maps that come with the standard package includes Britain, various parts of America, and other fictional or real landscapes. The expert maps are different from the beginner maps in the fact that they start later (e.g. 1960 as opposed to 1900) and there are more competitors.
The maps are limited to a maximum defined size. This means that a player would have to play in a restricted area - for example in the Britain scenarios many cities are omitted where there is simply not enough space. In this case many players have created regional maps which is much more detailed.
The maximum population of the city, due to programme and graphical limitations are limited to around 50000 - 60000. The geographical span, however, can be disproportionally big. This means in the Britain scenario, for example, a fully grown London can go from Chelmsford to Brighton!
The cities are easily grow-able with a steady supply of passengers - be it by train from other towns and cities or intra-city transport by tram. The buildings of the city changes with time (e.g. a 1900s building will not exist in the 1950s) and with population (e.g. a small town house will not be seen in a large city).
The industries in the game are varied but mainly carried forward from Transport series. For example players will earn money by transporting wood from Managed Forest to Sawmill - which would create goods - to be transported to the cities; or by transporting coal from a Coal Mine to a Power station. The options to transport include railway, planes and ships. The cargo payment rates vary between the cargo transported, the distance transported, the time it takes and over time.
As in real life, vehicles are introduced and retired over the years. When the player first start playing in the 1900s, there is only 1 train (which is very slow and has very limited horsepower), 1 bus, 1 tram, 1 ship (wind powered!) and no planes. As the game progresses more powerful vehicles are available to the player, and the older ones need to be replaced. The first airplanes available from 1920s are truely experimental and useless in the game. It is only with the release of the DC3 that air transport is viable.
In my opinion the best decade in CSL is the 1980s. This is the decade when the arguably best passenger train (the APT), the best airplane (the Concorde), and the best ship (the Hovercraft) are available. These vehicle would become obsolete one by one in the 1990s replaced by ones more expensive, carrying less people and slower.
The name of the vehicles are fictional, but can be renamed by the player. There are also speed limits applied to the wagons individually, so even in the 2000s the fastest freight train will be limited to 70mph - which is realistic.
Additional vehicles can be obtained by downloading mods from the internet. For example there is a future mod which is a pack containing new scenarios and trains and introduces the Maglev trains for playing after 2020.
---how to START a game---
To start making money (or not losing money) try building a tram network in a city. The tram tracks are relatively cheap and the running costs are minimal compared to a bus.
The best industrial money-making way at the start of a game is to build a line between a Coal Mine and a Coal-fired Power Station. It is the most profitable non-tertiary route and provides a nice income each time the train pulls into the station. Once you start making a nice profit consider a tertiary line (e.g. transporting wood to Sawmills which makes goods to be transported to a city) which makes the most money.
When you have millions of ££ and looking to make even more - start by building an underground, direct railway line from one (huge) city to another. For this to work the cities much be big and be poviding enough passengers to fill an express train. The best train to do the job is the APT - fast and carrying loads. The initial outlay may be a lot but you will easily make them back within 5 loads!
This is simply one of the best transport games - not that there are many. After 5 years there is still a vibrant community around and the mods are being made as I type. CSL is unlikely to have a sequel as it would most likely involve a radical overhaul of graphics and programming but would be unlikely to sell well. There are improvements to be made but I am very pleased with this game. I am sure I will be playing it in another 5 years. I hope you will give it a try too!
Having played Transport Tycoon for the best part of a decade I think I started playing in around January 1996, the question of whether or not to purchase the spiritual sequel" was a pointless of course I would, not least because the game had an inflation busting EUR 19.90 price tag - I'd expected that it was going to retail at closer to EUR 50.
In the intervening period, Chris Sawyer has produced a number of games basically all of the same genre namely management simulations with an assortment of different flavours (e.g. rollercoasters, theme parks, railroads) and Locomotion is yet another in the series - indeed the engine behind it I believe is lifted from another of his games.
Being the spiritual successor to Transport Tycoon and Transport Tycoon Deluxe (TT and TTDLX from now on for the sake of brevity) youd expect that the name of the game was to build up a transport empire à la Stagecoach, Virgin etc. The old game was very playable although your computer competitors often played into your hand with their stupidity (massive amounts of carved up land to avoid carving up a tree for a train route, etc.) Whereas you used to have a maximum of seven opponents, you can now have up to 15 opponents, and they are less one dimensional than in TT some are very aggressive or competitive, some are more considered about their approach.
There have been some new additions to the game tramways are a welcome addition, although they can cause a citys growth to explode and make any scenario target involving passenger numbers very easy to achieve. There are new commodities involved there are no longer banks with valuables to transport - for example there are grapes to make into wine (huzzah!). There are also new locomotives, aeroplanes etc. (the fictional Yate Haugan (read: Concorde) has given way to the Concorde) and many have accurate names, although their passenger capacity is inaccurate.
The Concorde for example makes the game very easy a 250 people capacity makes it very easy to have all your Christmases and Birthdays rolled into one with a single passenger route from one side of the map to the other raising you a million pounds per return trip this will fund any tramway project around a city with ease! At least the subsidy bonuses that helped you to get a flying start in TT have been removed a couple of quadruple subsidies and youd all but sewn up a game in TT!
There are an increased number of scenarios included with the game - split between five difficulty levels, although some seem to be misplaced - some challenging scenarios were completed first go, whilst I couldn't complete a medium difficulty scenario until about the 20th attempt. Any scenarios you then build are added to the list they are graded according to difficulty, and ticks are added to those you have completed, with information about the quickest completion of the scenario.
The complexity of track options has improved you can build inclined track, with different track curve radiuses too - although this can lead to track not quick meeting up! Stations are no longer of fixed dimensions - the maximum of 4x5 block platforms is just a memory. Unfortunately though you have to be careful, especially when you select to see through buildings, that you don't demolish skyscrapers etc. - this can be a massive problem as you wipe out the population of your city. Tramway routes allow you to have a U-bend at the end of the route to ensure that the trams can carry on going I often just let the trams go merrily on their way without instructions they seem to pick up passengers nicely this way.
The user interface has become more complicated given the added options involved - it can get overcrowded on occasions - with all the dropdown sub-menus and the fact that you can have up to 7 windows open on the playing area. Route planning is not as straightforward as in the previous game I have discovered that hovercrafts can often get lost and end up spinning round in circles until you find them. Whilst the graphics are more detailed than before, and the vehicle characteristics likewise - e.g. the APT really tilts around corners, the Boeing 747 and Concorde appear too big for the game in terms of size, and from realism terms this detracts substantially. The trains are perhaps the biggest culprits in this respect the old steam logos with their tenders and carriages mean that you have to have an eight or nine block station thats quite excessive.
There is copy protection on the game, and you have to keep the CD in the drive whilst playing the game this can be annoying if you are on the go and dont usually want to have a game in your drive of your laptop. There is an online gaming option, although I have yet to try this, given the fact that I am the only person I now who is an owner of the game.
The sound effects can get a bit boring after a while the sound of tooting horns, revving engines etc. can get on your nerves and the limited range of tunes can make the in-game music a little bit repetitive, so I usually turn the sound off and listen to a CD or the radio. The graphics retain the familiar feel of Transport Tycoon - although trains etc. are more detailed. The game still has the quaint feel to it especially given the tramways in little towns named with twee names suburbia rules, eh?
Of course it is the very middle-classed nature of the game that is almost its downfall if you maintain your vehicles well, then the coppers flood in in torrents you dont have youths putting sleepers on railway lines, people playing chicken, driver strikes, the delays, wrong types of leaves on tracks / snow sending your network into a near-standstill.
At the end of the day the game is good clean fun, although ultimately I have found that after a month of intermittent playing, I have scythed through most scenarios and the appeal of the game is starting to dwindle, although I can't foresee uninstalling it for the near future - there are a couple of fiendish scenarios to complete still.
Patches are unofficially released to eliminate the problem of incorrect vehicle capacities affecting the ease of scenarios www.tt-forums.net seems to be the best source of them, as well as all discussions about the game itself.
I would have to say that given the addictive nature of TT, I was a bit surprised that Locomotion was not up to the same standard really. Dont get me wrong, you will enjoy playing the game, but I dont see it having the same long-term shelf life or appeal that its predecessor so definitely did have.