REVIEW: The Train Giant
Title: The Train Giant
Publisher: UIG Entertainment
TL;DR: Made by Trainspotting Computer Scientists, for Trainspotting Computer Scientists
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The Train Giant is the latest installment in the acclaimed A-Train series that started way back around the same time as Sim City, but whilst it has also grown in complexity and visual style, it hasn’t added the user-interface to match. You could say The Train Giant is like Sim City – if Sim City were made by Trainspotting Computer Scientists, for Trainspotting Computer Scientists.
Your aim is to create a mass transit system and build a range of residential and commercial buildings. However, there are none of the user-friendly hints, tips and advice that make the best in depth-simulation and strategy games easy-to-pick up but with near-limitless complexity. Sadly The Train Giant mainly just delivers on frustrating complexity. There’s effectively no training or introduction other than a sketchy and inadequate manual – inadequate because, for example, it does not properly explain something as basic – and necessary – as how to change and integrate elevated roads and rails, essential for a game built around transportation between crowded built up conurbations.
This isn’t the only problem. The controls are not intuitive – you have to click and drag! – and you have to set almost everything manually, for example following trains around their tracks to set the route and a sort-of ad-hoc schedule (as far as I could tell at least) so the lack of a tutorial leaves you alternating between scouring the poorly-written manual and trial and error. You never have an idea of why something is working, or why something is making money – you really miss the ‘advisors’ and hints from similar games. Sure, you turned them off about an hour into your first game but they were always there in a menu for when you came across a feature of the game you hadn’t used before. What I would have given for a Microsoft Paper-Clip level of support!
Visually the game isn’t much to look at – it is reminiscent of the early noughties ‘true-3D’ games which tried to be real but as a result left large areas of the game space as blank patches – as is the case here, where the space between cities is just blank green space. And the cities themselves feel like works-in-progress, lacking detail and never feeling alive enough for you to suspend disbelief and allow proper immersion. No lessons were taken lessons from more stylistic (if less realistic) games like Civilization or Sim City, where the isometric is used to make an appealing game.
Which brings us to: realism – valued above all else in The Train Giant. This is a game for people who love train sets and would like to work in the town planning office or schedule planning office of a train company. However, those people get paid – for a reason! This stuff is tricky, and involved, and requires a lot of skill and a huge amount of patience. Maybe I’m just not up to the task – however, despite loving resource management games I wasn’t up to the challenge so I’m guessing this one is for the hardcore train geeks only. And there are good things available for the hardcore – extraordinary detail, the option to build castles or even the Eiffel Tower in the middle of your city – but the rest of us should steer well clear.
- Immense detail
- A few quirky architectural inclusions
Takes user-unfriendly to new heights Generally baffling, even for resource management geeks
Nothing unsuitable for youngsters here, but if your ten-year-old can master this, get ‘em on the advanced stream at school and give Mensa a call.