Railroads Online is a first person railroad builder. Something that at least for me is a novel thing (unless one counts railroad construction in Minecraft, that is) and it has both its good and bad sides.
It should be said that the game is still in early access and under development so what I have been playing is not the final version.
The basis of the game is that you are taking on constructing a small industrial railroad somewhere in the American wilds in the age of steam engines. Even if there is sort of a goal in constructing a good, functional connection between the different but interdependent industries on the map – a forestry, a sawmill, a coal mine, a steel furnace, and an oil well – the game is first and foremost a relaxing activity focused on running a train. Something that can be done both as a single player and in co-op mode by the way.
The game currently has one static map, so there is no random generation involved. As it is, that is not a huge drawback since the small scale of operations and the progress of the game mean that even with a pre-designed map it makes for quite a number of game hours anyway.
Graphically the surrounding landscape is very nice and the modelling of the steam engines excellent. With the latest game update a day-night cycle and different weather are introduced which heightens the feeling quite a bit. The one map feels like it has got its inspiration from some of the mountainous regions with leaf and fir trees in abundance and the valleys with their higher passes and steep mountainsides are obviously designed to make for a nicely challenging railroad construction. This is probably also the reason behind the use of one single pre-designed map – it being the easiest way to ensure a good buildable and challenging-but-yet-achievable terrain.
The laying of track leaves a bit to be desired. The first person only view in combination with a somewhat clunky interface can at times be a slight annoyance. Personally I must admit I had preferred a possibility to zoom out in order to get a a better overview. I also wish there were some kind of surveyor possibility or a map overview where the gradients of the landscape would be visible.
Once you have got a line in place the actual maneuvering of the train can be quite a fun experience. Here the first person view becomes a bit more entertaining in that you can feel that you are the driver of the locomotive. Although I do also like that there is a limited possibility to zoom out and look over my own shoulder. At times that makes things simpler.
All in all Railroads Online feels promising but not entirely there yet. Which maybe isn’t so surprising for a game that still is in early access. If the development continues in the right direction I think it can be something quite good. As it is right now I must say that it’s a little overpriced considering what you get for the money. But maybe it should be seen as an investment for the future.