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Chris Sawyer's Locomotion - Review

Chris Sawyer Locomotion Banner

Chris Sawyer is probably best known for creating the Rollercoaster Tycoon (RCT) series and developing the first two games in the series.  He has also recently been involved with the team who recently made the mobile port RCT Classic, which is essentially RCT2 with a touch interface for tablets/phones and the RCT1 scenarios and content reworked in the RCT2 file format.  This is not the only games he has made however.

In the 80's and Early 90's he worked on a number of projects including the PC version of Frontier: Elite 2 with David Braben.  This would develop the relationship that would lead to Frontier developing the Xbox port, expansion packs for RCT2 and going on to make RCT3.  He also created transport management game Transport Tycoon.  It was actually whilst working on a sequel to this game that he became sidetracked and made RCT.  Following the success of these games, he returned to the transport game and Chris Sawyer's Locomotion was released in September 2004. 

Despite the name, the focus is on multiple transport methods, rather than just railways.  You have access to rail, road and air transport options depending on the scenario you are playing.  Some you are limited by the time period, whilst in others you may be restricted to using, or not being able to use, a given form of transportation.  You are challenged with providing and developing a diverse and thriving transport network in the region.  You do this by providing trains, trams, goods vehicles and busses to meet the needs of the various buildings in the area.  This also means managing a production network, for example transporting grain or cattle from farms to food factories, and then that food in to your cities.  Of course, you also need to ensure the infrastructure exists, so can build new roads, rails and tram tracks in the region.  You also need to set stops and stations.  When you are placing these there is a useful highlight showing the catchment area, helping you ensure that as many buildings are covered without overlapping.

Scenario selection, clearly heavily inspired by RCT

The game is split into a number of scenarios which are divided by difficulty (Beginner, Easy, Medium, Challenging & Expert) in a format that will be familiar to players of RCT and RCT2.  These have a variety of objectives such as delivering a set number of passengers or goods, or achieving a set performance index which is a score based on your network efficiency.  In most of these you will also need to compete with AI companies.  Like you, they can also build roads, stops and rail meaning that you may have to react to the placements of these, particularly the rails as you cannot run trains on lines owned by other companies.

Once you have placed your transport stops (train stations, bus/tram stops, cargo depots, ports or airports) you will be able to select these to see an information pane.  This will give information, such as items waiting collection and items accepted for delivery, which will help you plan your routes.  You also need to think about the best placements for your stops, for example most houses will produce both passengers and mail, however only certain buildings can accept the mail.  As the towns will develop dynamically based on how well you are providing services, the items accepted at a particular station may change, new industries may develop or industries may even stop production.  You will get a notification for these events and may want to change the services you are providing as a result.
A town serviced by trams and busses with shared stops

Setting road routes is as simple as popping some stops on existing roads and purchasing a vehicle.  If you don't set a route they will move between the stops in their own priority, however you are able to define a set route to control which stops it will visit.  If you are connecting industries, or setting a route between two towns, you may need to add more roads.  Setting up tram routes is very similar to road routes, except you need to place tram tracks.  These can be placed either over roads or completely off road.   These will use the same stops as the busses which will help you to increase the speed at which passengers are transported from popular stops.  Air and sea networks are similarly simple to set up - place the port, select the type of ship or plane you want and set a route between them.

Simple rail circuit

Setting up rail routes can get very involved.  Firstly you must build rails and stations.  Then you purchase a locomotive and select your carriages based on what you want to transport on a given route.  The simplest train route you can have is a straight line with a station at each end.  On this you won't need to set a route as trains will shuttle between both ends, however you can only run one train.  The simplest solution to this would be to create a circuit where you can have a train running between each station.  A more 'elegant' solution is to split the track after the stations and run a train in each direction.  This involves the use of signals.  To do this you need to pull a branch off the line a few tiles away from the station (making sure there is enough space for the entire train to clear the junction) and run the rails to a similar position at the other station and linking them back up.  You can the use the one way signals to determine a direction of travel for each of the tracks.  As you learn the system you can also expand to use branches off the main line to supplement deliveries and also even utilise complex junctions with multiple platform stations.

Signal controlled station with multiple platforms

In all the game is a very solid management simulation, although sometimes it can feel like the available loans are a bit OP and sometime the AI companies can expand very rapidly.  If you enjoy this style of game though it's very worth the purchase, although the main downfall is the lack of an endless/sandbox mode (although there is a 100 year challenge on some scenarios), but that is more a sign of when the game was released as it was less common at that time.  I've had a good number of hours enjoyment from the game and even picked up a version of it which Sawyer worked on as the iOS and Android release of Transport Tycoon in 2013, although there were some changes in that version.  You can pick it up on Steam for £4.79.

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