Railroad Tycoon II is an incredibly addictive railroad management simulation that occupied much of my time in the year 2000. The game is the true heir to Sid Meier's masterpiece Railroad Tycoon, although it was designed by an entirely different team: newcomer PopTop Software, led by veteran programmer Phil Steinmeyer (whose works include Heroes of Might and Magic).
Since the original RRT, the gaming community has developed a passion for 3D graphics and multi-player Internet gaming, and RRTII is a true product of its time, delivering these options and many more. RRTII is the very first PC game developed exclusively for the 1024 x 768 resolution, in either 16-bit or 8-bit color. With six scalable zoom levels, the result is nothing short of stunning. You will see trains move along their merry routes in isometric view, passing through lush landscapes and realistically rendered towns, complete with many little animations that make games like SimCity a marvel to watch. Add some nice 16-bit bluegrass and jazz tunes, and we have a game that is as pleasant to watch as it is to play.
But die-hard RRT fans know that bells and whistles are not what a classic is made of, and fortunately RRTII does not disappoint. For a start, there is more of everything that made RRT a joy to play. There are over sixty engines, more than forty cargo types, and a variety of map sizes, ranging from 96x96 to the really large 500x500. Although the game is played in real time like the original RRT, there are ten different speed settings so you can play at your own pace. With an extended temporal span from 1804 to 2000 and beyond, you can not only test drive hypothetical, futuristic trains, but also experiment with high-tech industries (fusion plants anyone?) as part of your route planning and industrial investments.
One of the things that made RRT a great game was the variety of computer opponents, each of whom would use different strategies depending on their unique personalities that are true to their historical fame (or notoriety). Moguls with an engineer's mentality, such as Westinghouse, will concentrate on building and optimizing their routes, while the real robber barons such as Jim Fisk or Cornelius Vanderbilt will instead attempt to drive competitors out of business by speculating on their shares and finally snapping them up at bargain prices. RRTII retains all these computer personalities, enhances the AI, and adds a lot more moguls to spice up the action, including lesser-known robber barons from outside the US. If your empire grows so huge that micro-management becomes tedious, you can hire computer managers to handle day-to-day railroad operations while you concentrate on high-level strategic planning. The manager will have up to four characteristics that can affect your railroad performance in either a positive or negative way via actions such as stock liquidation, bridge building, and changing safety standards. These abilities can not be altered or disengaged and take effect immediately upon hiring, so you must be careful of your choices.
Another one of RRT's acclaimed features is the dynamics of interaction with other players. Like other features, this has been greatly enhanced and improved in RRTII. You can buy and sell stocks of yours and other companies, allow other companies to use your train lines (for a price of course), and even buy their stocks on a margin to try to drive prices low enough to swoop in and buy a majority stake. The icing on this luxurious cake includes dozens of scenarios that span the globe from Cairo to California, real-time multiplayer options, including Internet-based hosting for up to sixteen players, and a full-fledged scenario builder you can use to build your own maps. Overall, RRTII is a dream come true for fans of the Sid Meier classic, and a must-have for all fans of railroad management or business simulations in general. RRTII and The Second Century expansion pack along with extra scenarios are now on sale in a great compilation called the Platinum Pack – a wonderful deal. Two thumbs up!Reviewed by: Underdogs