Review by wildgoosespeeder

Reviewed: 06/15/11 | Updated: 07/13/12

This Game Is Seriously Underrated

I just cannot believe I did not hear about Chris Sawyer's Locomotion before. It comes from the creator of the RollerCoaster Tycoon series; a series known by many and is one of the best PC game series ever created. Many people were not impressed by Chris Sawyer's Locomotion. I say it is very underrated and worth the time to play.

The basic idea behind the game is to transport cargo and passengers from one place that supplies it to another place that needs it. In order to do that, the game gets very complex. I suggest going through the tutorial modes first before attempting anything. There is a lot to take in but it is very satisfying once you get the idea of what you are doing. There are four types of transportation: rails, roads, water, and air. The tutorials are very lacking considering how complex this game is. You only get three tutorials about how to build roads and railroads for passengers only. Seeing the other modes of transportation and other types of cargo, I was lost at first on how those worked. I do understand the point of tutorials and that is to teach the bare basics of a game mechanic and not to teach the more complicated stuff but if I do not understand how to use the bare basics of a certain game mechanic and there is no tutorial for that, then it forces you to do by trial and error and that can get frustrating if something is not working the way you expect it to. Since there are AI competitors, your best shot is to watch them use the transportation you are struggling with and hope they do well so you can take notes.

I have not completed this game yet but I can say this game can have some very challenging building challenges. Not only is building on slopes and mountains awkward, which is OK considering that this is one place where the challenge comes from, it can easily drain your funds. To make it even more challenging, some train engines could have trouble climbing slopes, especially with heavy cargo because horsepower may not be very good with some train engines, which can cause costly delays. Sure you can add more train engines or replace it with a newer, more powerful model, so really this game forces you to think, which is a good thing; something I do not see in a lot of games today. I love the feeling of stealing business from a competitor and so does the AI-controlled competitor companies. In one scenario I played, a competitor kept trying to build stations next to my stations because they were so competitive. Then I ended up doing the same to them. They were always in 2nd and then because I was expanding so much, they gave up and ended up in 3rd. Another case someone was stealing my cargo at a sawmill causing one of my trains to lose money! I had to get more lumber from somewhere else to make up for the demand. Overall depending on who enters the scenario, the competition can get ruthless so you better adapt fast! All of this offers great challenge.

I heard that in Transport Tycoon you can buy-out your competitors. There is no such thing in Chris Sawyer's Locomotion. This could have been a difficulty tweak so this one is up in the air.

One thing kind of disappointing about the scenarios is that all of them have you starting your transportation empire from scratch. In the RollerCoaster Tycoon series, some scenarios have you start from scratch or have some rides already built. I do not know if this was a difficulty tweak during development but it would have been nice to see something similar done in Chris Sawyer's Locomotion.

The game takes on a similar interface to RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 so it was quite easy for me to just jump right in because the first Chris Sawyer game I played was RollerCoaster Tycoon, and that game anyone can play but only an experienced player could master it. The interface is a bit too organized from other Chris Sawyer games I have played in the past. I preferred the "spread-out" interface of RollerCoaster Tycoon 2. Why? Some drop-down menus that used to be buttons can, at first, make the game a little confusing to navigate. The zoom, rotate, and Town/Industry buttons should not have drop-down menus for them. The map button was moved to the game speed panel. That should not be there. It should be near the zoom and rotate buttons. Oh, wait, it is, but in the zoom drop-down menu. Dumb design.

Many people prefer Transport Tycoon over Chris Sawyer's Locomotion. It is the reverse for me. I tried Transport Tycoon Deluxe (PC port from the MS-DOS version) and that interface is very confusing. RollerCoaster Tycoon's interface is great and straight forward and RollerCoaster Tycoon 2's interface was improved a little bit from its predecessor. Since Chris Sawyer's Locomotion's interface is based on RollerCoaster Tycoon 2's interface and is "the spiritual successor to Transport Tycoon", Chris Sawyer's Locomotion took Transport Tycoon's interface and made it way more intuitive, straight forward, and less clunky. It does have its flaws, as stated before, but it is way better. I kind of see what Chris Sawyer was going for. He tried everything to make it easy for a new player to understand what to do but it still has a few flaws that could have been worked out better.

One complaint I have heard is the isometric camera (nicknamed 2.5D) not because it can have awkward building angles, although this is a minor problem with any isometric game, but because it is not "modern" using true 3D graphics because this game was released in 2004 and Transport Tycoon was released in 1994. That is really judgmental; judging a game by its graphics. The RollerCoaster Tycoon series has gone "modern" and that game started with RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, also released in 2004. Playing that game just has no personality or addicting game play compared to its predecessors. Good thing Chris Sawyer did not program that game. He just simply allowed Frontier, the developer of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, to use the trademarked name. Unlike other players that wanted a true 3D Transport Tycoon game, I applaud Chris Sawyer for staying with the "outdated", yet more appealing and addictive isometric graphics style, just like the games before it. It is just another case where better graphics do not make a better game.

I do not understand why this game was not called "Transport Tycoon 2". If Transport Tycoon was a huge success, would it not make sense to name the sequel more logically, kind of like RollerCoaster Tycoon and RollerCoaster Tycoon 2? I would have never guessed this was a sequel to Transport Tycoon because the sequel was the first I played.

All I can say is this game is an underrated good game. Sure there are flaws in this game but people nit-pick games and do not want to remember the good overall experiences of the game. I am looking at trains in a different way now than when I used to growing up with a father who loves model and real life trains. In fact, I am looking at all the types of transportation in a different way compared to how I saw them growing up. Although not entirely realistic, I do have a pretty good idea how things are run in real life after playing this game for a while. Overall, it is worth it to pick up on eBay or something just to give the game a try.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Chris Sawyer's Locomotion (US, 09/09/04)

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