One of the most fun business strategy games ever made, Chris Sawyer's Transport Tycoon Deluxe is a great update of the earlier – and also underrated – Transport Tycoon released in 1994. The Deluxe version adds multiplayer options, complete world editor, three new world environments (sub-arctic, sub-tropical, and toyland), newer vehicles and structures (e.g. maglev and helipads), customization options, and a stronger AI. |
TTD is inspired by Sid Meier's classic Railroad Tycoon, but designer Chris Sawyer expands the concept to include not only railroads, but also seafaring, road and airborne transportation. The result is a far more sophisticated (and IMHO fun) game. You start off in 1950 with a bank loan and a quest to build the best transport network in the region. The concept, like all other business games, is simple – try to run goods from where they're supplied to where they're in demand, make a profit, race to get lucrative subsidies/monopolies and attempt to drive your opponents to bankruptcy. One of the high points is the vibrant graphics, which are detailed SVGA, and all the menus and options are viewable and tweakable through a very slick window-based system (and you don't even need real Windows to run it).
On the gameplay side, TTD runs on a smaller scale than Railrood Tycoon in terms of world size, but you can do many more things and create a truly comprehensive transportation network. The game by default starts you off in 1950, and you play in "real-time" (one month is a few minutes of game time) into the 21st century. There is no time skip feature, so a full game will take quite a while, but it's quite surprising how fast time does go by as there's always something to do. The game is very, very engrossing: you will happily plan bus routes, buy new trains, lay tracks, buy depots, watch your planes whiz passengers back and forth – and the next thing you know, it's six in the morning and you only have a few minutes to get ready for work.
Some business experts might argue that TTD is not so much a simulation game as a strategy one, and this is somewhat true. The game is undoubtedly very focused, with emphasis on the management of day-to-day business and operating decisions rather than the "big picture" at a CEO level. You cannot, for example, make billions by playing the stock market or speculating on real estate as in A-Train, buying lucrative industries as in Railroad Tycoon, or engaging in ruthless acquisitions as in 1830 (although these features are available on a very basic level). Despite this, you'll have so much fun with building and managing routes that you'll hardly complain about the demotion.
The game's AI needs a lot of work, although it does offer a good challenge for beginners. Computer players will do strange (and often laughable) things, such as creating overly convoluted tracks. There are numerous easy ways to cheat, and A-Train experts will likely find the game far too easy. All the complaints really don't matter in the end, though, because Chris Sawyer has done the impossible: struck a perfect balance between realism and gameplay. While it's not strictly realistic, it feels right, and thus it's fun to play, much the same way as SimCity is. It's a fairly safe bet that if you even have a slight interest in strategy games, you will love Transport Tycoon Deluxe... bad AI and quirks notwithstanding. A must-have!
Note: Try to find the Transport Tycoon Scenario Disk, an add-on released for the original game, before the Deluxe version. While it contains features that have been updated in Deluxe (e.g. multiplayer options), its Martian landscape environment is not included in the Deluxe version. Be careful when you install the add-on, though – the game will revert back to the original version, not Deluxe, so make sure you keep those zip files! Secondly, check out Burkhard Jahnen's excellent tips and railway design sections on one of the game's best fansites. Also, be sure to check out TTD Patch, THE best unofficial patch that fixes numerous bugs and adds a lot of gameplay improvements :)
Reviewed by: Underdogs