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Q4 2003



- Deep economic simulation

- Easy to learn interface

- Accessible gameplay

- Different modes and tools to create your own scenarios



- Can suck up huge amounts of time



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Railroad Tycoon 3

Score: 8.5 / 10


As far as first assignments go, Railroad Tycoon 3 (RT3) is a double-edged sword.


PopTopís latest offering is a deep and engrossing game, which is easy to get into and hard to walk away from.  The back-handed slash is that if you allow it, RT3 can take over your life.


railroad tycoon 3          railroad tycoon 3

Essentially, RT3 is all about building a railroad empire through strategy, luck and know-how.  Yep, that's a short and to the point description.


During regular single-player games there are three levels of accomplishment: bronze, silver, and gold.  Any half-baked attempt can usually net a 2nd Loser, bronze finish.  Earning silver and gold is another matter entirely and itís aiming for these goals that can keep you away from more productive life pursuits.


Silver and gold goals require much concentration, a little luck, and you practically have to be an armchair economist to manage your empire to complete the required objectives.  RT3 features a ďreal worldĒ economy where you continually have to reassess your holdings.  This is easy when you have a couple of tracks laid but 




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when tracks are sprawled like so much spaghetti (with meatballs) across the map you have your work cut out for you.

Your decisions stretch far beyond laying the track efficiently and choosing what cargo to haul for the most profit. (You have a board of directors to answer to after all!)  You must also deal with an economy that moves on its own.  Itís your ability to influence the flow of capital and thusly 


the economy that will make or break you.  Thereís the stock market but thereís also the chance to buy up other businesses (or build your own) to form a Microsoft monopoly on rails that plays second to none.  That eloquently said, I donít think I ever reached the point of a Microsoft monopoly.  It was more Unix than Windows, but I digress.  Every decision has to be weighed.


Probably the qualities that makes RT3 so accessible are the good control options and interface.  PopTop did a great job making sure everything important was close at hand without a lot of cumbersome overlays.  Iíll use for example my six-year old niece, who may not grasp economics, but she can build some great tracks in sandbox mode.  What Iím trying to say is that even a child can figure out the controls so you shouldnít have a problem.


If you can tear your eyes away from the easily accessible ledger sheets, youíll notice RT3 extremely serviceable 3D graphics.  While not on the level of Strategy Firstís Trainz, itís nice to see that PopTop paid attention to the presentation as well, complete with weather cycles.  In Tropico, PopTopís last major release, the music was much-applauded.  RT3 features much toe-tapping banjo riffs but the somehow fall short of Tropicoís calypso beats.  Thereís about 90 minutes worth of tunes so repetition is somewhat avoided.


railroad tycoon 3          railroad tycoon 3


Although there is a reportedly an excellent Multiplayer mode, I have yet to be able to play due to an argument with my cable provider.  Legal action may be involved but whatever.  Trust someone elseís review for the multiplayer.


My being without regular Internet access also leaves me out of the loop as user-created scenarios start being posted.  PopTop has included the same tools they used to make the game so anyone with a little patience and know-how can make their own projects.  So if Multiplayer gaming isnít your thing (and you have easy access to the Internet) you can extend the shelf life of RT3 well beyond the included scenarios.


Deep, fun at long stretches, accessible and you just might learn something about economics Ė Railroad Tycoon 3 is a recommended title.


- D.D. Nunavut

(March 7, 2004)


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