"Railroad Tycoon 2" has become a legend in computer gaming and set the bar high for business-strategy simulations.
With the "Platinum" release of the game, "Railroad Tycoon 2" incorporates all previous expansions and patches into one release and adds another 50 scenarios. There is very little than can be improved upon in this version!
First of all, this game is not a graphics powerhouse. At the time of its release, the graphics were considered to be good. If you are looking for the "Railroad Tycoon" game which up-to-date graphics with details to fire the imagination, this will not be your choice (more on that later). The limitation of graphics does work in its favor, though; since the game does not require any sort of powerful computer to run it. Indeed, a computer from the past (say, from 2002) would have no difficulty. Machines that were never meant to run games will drive these trains with ease.
The general concept behind the game is to deliver supplies and materials between towns and cities in the late nineteenth and twentieth century's. Those supplies will activate industries that will produce wholesale goods and foods that can be distributed elsewhere. In essence, you are creating a distribution network with some very fun and interesting options, all within the confines of the history of railroading!
The locomotives and industries appear in the game within historical context. In 1850, one would find only a handful of wood-burning railroad locomotives available that have performance not much beyond your average horse-and-carriage. But, by the 1920's, all means of steam engines have appeared, some more efficient or speedy than others, giving you the choice of what locomotive to place on what route. Similarly, industries will appear and disappear based on the date and the economic condition of the city. Grain and corn field are common throughout the game. But, steel mills, automobile factories, and even nuclear plants will appear within the correct timeline. Cities will accept milk until a certain date, when the milk must first go through a dairy processor for pasteurization. Your trains can be set up to haul specific types of freight and passenger cars to allow for precise cargo loads.
Towns will grow into cities based on how your distribution network is set up. If a city is fully supplied with its demands, it will grow within a number of years to 3 or even 4 times its original size. More industries, houses (good for producing passengers for your streamliner trains) and demands will be made from your city, giving you the opportunity to sell even more goods. Your train stations must be set up within a certain radius of the city in order to supply the entire town with goods from your trains. The stations can be upgraded to larger sizes which will cover more territory.
Another aspect of the game is the financial model, which is fairly complex. Your economy will go through recessions, depressions, and during the good periods, boom times. A fully simulated stock market is included, so that the gamer can purchase stock in his/her own and other railroad companies. During the good times the stock price will skyrocket and even split 2 for 1 (I even saw a 4 to 1 at one time). If you buy enough stock in your opponent's company, you will have a majority in the votes during investor meetings during which you can initiate hostile takeovers to liquidate your competitors. There is nothing more satisfying than being the only remaining company at the end of a scenario!
Industries within the game can be purchased, giving you a complete monopoly of a certain product and distribution net. For instant, if you have a lot of cash and see a good opportunity for a network, you can buy up the industries which form the network. Let's say there is a cattle farm in one city, and a meat processing center in a nearby town. On the outskirts of the town there may be a grain farm. You can buy the farms and meat processing center, then set up a route to deliver the grain to the cows (increasing the supply from the farm every year), then taking the cows to the meat processing center to be butchered and made into food. The food can then be delivered to a growing town. If you own all those industries, to use a term from the game, you will soon be "gushing cash." To help eliminate your opponents, the player can also purchase the industries along hostile paths, only forcing them to help you destroy themselves!
The locomotives and trains are very well modeled. The game includes all the major locomotives from the history of railroading. This continues all the way to the twenty-first century when high-speed bullet electric monorail trains appear. They appear in realistic colors – that is to say that most steam locos are mostly coal, boiler black. As the ages past they get more colored through the diesel and electric eras. The maintenance costs will increase for your trains over time, making it mandatory to upgrade your fleet.
The campaign mode will take the users through a set of scripted scenarios starting in the United States; then through Europe; and finally end up in the east. The player is given a bronze, silver, gold or no medal depending on their performance.
This game may not be for everyone, since it is fairly complex. There are adjustable levels of difficulty, making it easy enough for a child to play. But, for a railroad enthusiast, this simulation is the holy grail of all "Railroad Tycoon" games and will never get old.
For up-to-date graphics and easier game play, PopTop "Railroad Tycoon 3" is suggested. The game play is similar to "2" (although somewhat scaled back and an "auto-consist" mode for easier train management) but with better, and more memory-hogging graphics. "Sid Meier's Railroads!" is also a very colorful "Railroad Tycoon" game, but it is nowhere near as realistic, complex, or satisfying as this gem from the past.