Published by UIG Entertainment
Developed by ARTDINK
Given the game’s name, The Train Giant, you might think that this is another game from JoWooD in the same vein as Industry Giant, Traffic and Transport Giant. In actual fact the game title is rather misleading as The Train Giant is A-Train 9, developed by Japanese developer ARTDINK, which has been renamed for the western world. It’s only fair to say that from my time with this preview of The Train Giant I’ve actually found it to be a very impressive urban development simulation. I do have to admit to initially struggling with the game however as there are no tutorials or even any hints on how to play the game in this preview build and despite appearances, the A-Train series is a very different experience to other urban development simulations that you may have played before.
On the face of it you might think that The Train Giant is a similar experience to what you’d find in a SimCity or Cities XL game and there are some similarities but there are also some key differences that help to make the game significantly different. In The Train Giant you’ll play as the owner of a rail company but whilst running the rail company is your primary concern, there are many other things to take into consideration. In addition to building rail stations, lines and underground lines, you’ll need to build housing for people to live in, factories to produce materials which you’ll use to construct other buildings such as shops, offices, leisure facilities etc., which can act as additional sources of income for your company. Of course you’ll need to build roads if you want to keep the citizens happy and it can be more cost effective to run a few bus routes here and there to cover the short journeys, trains are expensive after all. You can even dabble on the Stock Market, although it can be a fun way of making some extra cash it can also be an easy way to lose some cash too, of course. The aim of the game is to be profitable and you’ll only achieve that if you make a city appealing to live in and the more people that live there, the more people you’ll have making use of your rail network.
Some elements are tricky to initially get your head around but in some respects this is a more restful game than other urban development simulations. The materials you produce are the only resource (apart from cash) that you’ll have to really concern yourself with. You don’t have to worry about different social classes as society is viewed as a whole. You don’t even have to construct and run every business in town. The AI will make use of your materials to build houses and other facilities. You can even sell businesses and not be responsible for their expenses if you wish. Your main focus is the financial health of your company, not having total control over your city and in some respects that feels like a breath of fresh air.
As much as I like The Train Giant there are some aspects of the game that I find a little irritating. When you purchase a train you have to decide how many cars (freight or passenger) are going to be attached. If at a later time you decide that you want to alter the number, you’re out of luck. You can’t simply attach or detach a car to your train. Instead you’ll have to sell the train and purchase a new one with the required number of cars. Likewise you can’t upgrade a station once it’s been built so if you decide later on that you want more platforms you’ll have to destroy the existing station and place a new one with the desired number of platforms. I would have also appreciated the ability so see what percentage of my buildings are occupied and also the ability to tweak train timetables without having to redo them. Even though A-Train 9 has been released in Japan now for two years, the preview version I’ve looked at here appears to be a much earlier version than the current Japanese version so it’s possible that these problems have been rectified.
There are no real problems with the presentation of The Train Giant. Graphically the game is detailed enough and looks quite impressive when zoomed out, although when you’re zoomed in you’ll notice that the textures are rather lacking in detail. However, what I will say is that the game manages to hold a good frame rate even when you have a large city and I for one would take less detailed textures and the ability to keep things smooth rather than having high resolution textures and the frame rate in single figures. There are some weather effects such as fog, snow and rain and it all looks great. You won’t see any people walking about in your city however as the people in this game are simply statistical details but again it’s understandable given how large your cities can become. The game looks as though it will cause no problems at all for deaf gamers. There is no speech in the preview version and all messages are in text. In fact all information in the game is given visually. During my time with the preview I encountered no problems at all.
I’ve enjoyed my time with the preview version of The Train Giant immensely and even if I weren’t able to acquire review code for the game I can honestly say I would purchase the game at some point. It has to be said however that it does take some getting used to and whilst it looks like it’s going to be something very similar to a SimCity style game, it actually does many things quite differently. That said, once you do get used to the game’s intricacies, you’ll really appreciate what the game has to offer. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game where I’m happy to play for hours on end simply getting to grips with all of its nuances but moments of frustration aside, I’ve really enjoyed it. Of course I’m hoping the final version does come with an effective tutorial or at the very least a manual that helps you get up to speed with the game as quickly as possible. For those who do have the patience to get to grips with it, The Train Giant should be an essential purchase.