Game Reviews: OpenTTD

What follows is a slightly adjusted cross-post of a review I wrote on Desura with added hyperlinks. The writing style is a bit off for my blog but, unfortunately, I won’t have time to rewrite it in the near future.

OpenTTD is a beautiful re-creation and superset of Transport Tycoon Deluxe. If you liked Minecraft for adding a challenge to LEGO™, you’ll love OpenTTD for doing the same for your model train set.

In fact, after spending a day and a half doing nothing but this, I had to force myself to abandon it. If you’re into simulation games, this will take over your life.

Not only is everything about OpenTTD beautifully polished and tuned, it includes a built-in manager/downloader for mods, graphics sets, and the like.

So, what’s the gameplay like? I suppose the simplest way to describe this game is to say that there are two classes of large-scale city simulation games which have grown very successful:

The first is zoning sims like SimCity (Free on Linux as Micropolis) and SimTower where you actually lay out a city/tower/etc. These are fun but do involve a type of micro-management and foresight that, depending on your personality, may wear on you.

The second is business/infrastructure simulations like Transport Tycoon and A-Train where you don’t directly control the cities. Instead, you provide essential services to connect supply and demand and the cities grow and change in response.

OpenTTD (being a Transport Tycoon clone) belongs to this second class. Meet demand by road, sea, and air, buy out your competitors (if you didn’t turn them off), and have a jolly good time in the currency and locale of your choice.

Speaking of which, the advanced options let you tweak EVERYTHING and there are four modes to the level generator, each with unique challenges.

There are only two excusable caveats stemming from its origins as an open-source remake of the Transport Tycoon Deluxe engine:

1. While not as bad as some real “read the manual” games from the 90s, this is definitely a game where you’ll probably want to skim through the tutorial before you’ll be able to reliably get your transport empire to turn a profit.

2. Due to the bitmap fonts and pixel-based GUI, the game isn’t as comfortable as it could be in windowed mode on a big screen

Note: What follows isn’t in the Desura review.

There’s only one thing I’m left wondering. If SimCity is so much fun and Transport Tycoon is so much fun, why does nobody seem to have tried writing the third class of civil/transport simulation games which sits at the intersection of the other two?

Why have I never been able to find a game where your job is to design a road network and you’re actually choosing where highways should go, what kinds of interchanges and on/off ramps to use (eg. weaving lanes), whether a highway needs separate express and collector lanes, whether it’s worth the public outcry to use eminent domain to acquire the land for a given option, etc.

Even if you’re not also in charge of things like subways, light rail, bus routes, and bicycle-only routes, that could be a lot of fun. (Especially if you’re allowed all the fun stuff you don’t see very often like elevated and buried highways)

(I’d write it just for the fun of learning the requisite knowledge about civil engineering and programming simulation models but, given how many other “just for the fun of gaining the requisite knowledge” projects I have creeping along, I’d better not.)

CC BY-SA 4.0 Game Reviews: OpenTTD by Stephan Sokolow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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