Railroad Tycoon Deluxe, Pirates! Gold. (computer games) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Paul C. Schuytema
MicroProse has taken two classic Sid Meier games, Railroad Tycoon and Pirates!, and updated them for today's PCs. Although the originals still stand as two of the most playable games in the company's history, the Super VGA graphics and more-detailed playing environments of Railroad Tycoon Deluxe and Pirates! Gold makes great games even better.
Railroad Tycoon Deluxe is a game of railroad development: You build a rail line from the ground up. You've got to balance economic and logistic considerations while trying to make a large, profitable enterprise grow.
The depth of the economic model and the omnipresent competition from other rail lines make Railroad Tycoon Deluxe an exciting, interesting game that's likely to hold your attention for many hours. You must lay track prudently, build stations, buy locomotives, and set up schedules which will meet the necessary supply-and-demand requirements of your stations.
Railroad Tycoon Deluxe improves the depth of thB economic model (taking into account such things as drastically falling stock prices) and adds several new locations which give you an opportunity to explore not only North America and Europe, but South America and Africa as well.
Unfortunately, the game shows indications that it was rushed into release before some problems were ironed out. It locks up occassionally, and has more than the average share of sound card addressing conflicts. On the map screen, the viewing area sometimes jumps too far away from your mouse clicks. The manual spends an entire chapteer taking you through a detailed tutorial railroad which is missing from the Deluxe version's disks. The screen prompts were sloppily done in places, and the copy protection (didentifying a locomotive from a picture) presented me with a train which wasn't mentioned in either the manual or the technical supplement.
Railroad Tycoon Deluxe basically puts a pretty face on an otherwise solid game. As far as play goes, the bugs of the new version balance out the enhancements. If you already own Railroad Tycoon, it might not be worth the money to upgrade. But if you never played the original, this is one rail line you'll want to hop aboard.
Pirates! Gold is truly a visual feast, with hand-painted screens that have the feel of Caribbean watercolors. It's off to the seas in a small sloop to seek fame, fortune, and many, many dueling scars. Pirates! Gold features three main arenas of action: sword fighting, ocean-faring battles, and land battles. These are connected by a role-playing shell which allows you to court the favor of local politicos, woo beautiful women, and recruit salty dogs in thB local pub.
All in all, Pirates! Gold is as addicting a game as you're likely to find. It doesn't take week to learn, and it proves hours of fun. In the fencing sequence, you'll find yourself lunging, parrying, and slashing in a duel with an opponent. At first it sems like an exercise in key bashing, but after several duels the madness gives way to method, and you'll discover that there are times when a parry can save your hide and set you up for a low lunge sure to score.
The seafaring battles are a marvel of simplicity. You steer the ship and fire the cannon at your enemy. There are a number of factors to take into account, though, such as the direction of the wind, the fullness of the sailes, the cannon reload rates, and the speed of a particular ship. Once an enemy ship has been softened up, you can sail broadside and grapple her, raiding the deck and battling the enemy captain. If you're victorious, you can plunder the ship, then keep the ship or scuttle it.
Pirates! Gold, like Railroad Tycoon Deluxe, does have some problems. For all the beauty of the interaction screens, there isn't much variety (towns of different nationalities should look different). There's no eaqsy way to restor a game (you must exit the game entire to restart a saved game), and you can't save a game unless you're in port. Finally, some of the logistical interfaces are a bit clumsy; there's no easy way to switch your command to anewly captured ship until you face combat.
However, Pirates! Gold is a more spectacular upgrade than Railroad Tycoon Deluxe: even if you already own the original Pirates!", this new version is certainly worth looking into. In all, both of these games are essential additions to any serious gamer's library.