Transport Fever – Review

Disclosure ‐ Our deep thanks go out to Urban Games for providing us with this review copy of Transport Fever

The train pulls into the station. I go to build a new section of line. It doesn’t work. I look at my funds. I sell my house and I go live under the last bridge I built…

It all started 8 years ago. I was tasked with the seemingly simple task of bridging the Forth river. Starting small, I needed to make trains take the iron ore and coal to the steel plant. Once that had started producing enough steel, I moved it across the river and to the main construction site. Everything flowed nicely for a few years, then all of a sudden the bridge was complete.

It was finished.

Normally I would be pleased about such an event. It not only made the journey between Edinburgh and Kirkcaldy much shorter, but it also created new opportunities. However, as the greatest saying goes, as one door opens, another closes. My steel business suddenly started turning around far less money. It was not a good sign.

I decide to change my routes. I have an extra train running towards a new good production facility. This will help soak up all that excess steel that I am producing. Success! I have fortified my funds for the future… I thought…

Next I construct a line connecting Edinburgh and Kirkcaldy. I was expecting to see the money flowing in. But… but it just never came, it kept trickling away. As I looked out at my modest train pulling a small number of passengers across the forth, I could never have guessed that only a few months later, I would be forced to call it my home.

Who needs money anyway?

A boat collecting resources

I wish I had a boat

Transport Fever is all about creating links in complex supply chains. Sometimes it will be goods and resources, other times it will be about ferrying (both literally and metaphorically) people from city to city, and dwelling to desk. How you prioritise these various connections will determine your ability to earn money and then scale your business.

There is often less money in passengers than in cargo, but they are also easier to grow over time, and will always keep a consistent amount of money coming in. This reliable income is always a nice to have. However, the big money, and the factor that will really grow your foundation, is in the cargo.

There are often many cargo nodes of various types all around the map (in both free-play and campaign modes). Some will produce raw elements (farms and mines) and others will process those into things that cities, or other places, will use. The more you feed the various cities demands, the more those cities will grow.

This is a big long spiral. Everything in the game works to feed everything else. This is not just true of regular passenger lines, but is especially pertinent to the other goods. The associated cost, however, is that if but a single link in your chain fails, so will the rest of the system.

S map with all the different facilities that you can link

That is a map with all the different facilities that you can link

Fortunately, learning how to play the game is not all that difficult. Players can construct roads and rails, stops and stations and vehicle depots. Each of the four different types of transport (boats, planes, trains and roads) have two different types of stops: one for passengers and one for goods. This means that you are able to focus your routes around the appropriate type of resource. It also means that you need to be careful about using the right forms of transport for the routes that you are planning. For example, if you are looking at transporting goods from one side of the map to the other, you could do better than using trucks; trains or planes would be much more appropriate.

As always, building roads and rails is not always a simple business venture. It is not just about avoiding crossed lines or getting from point A to B as the bird flies. No, Transport Fever is a much more finessed endeavour. For roads,slopes are okay. Though, steep slopes will still mean they cost a little more to build, especially if you have to dig into the hills. However, it is the trains which can, if not built in small sections and along contours, cost extreme amounts of money. Trains like straight lines and very small gradients. This means that if the default brush paints your full line, you could find yourself running tunnels and bridges, which cost more than a small fortune.

Train coming into station

A steel-mill gets a lot of trains.

Once you have worked out your routes, the game becomes all about vehicle management. From each depot you are able to purchase a wide range of vehicles appropriate to the present period. We have covered a large number of already in our articles looking at the announcements leading up to Transport Fever’s release. So, all I will say here is that there is an impressive range of vehicles at this point, with plenty of scope to expand in the future. This is especially true thanks to the Steam Workshop integration.

However, as much as building good routes is critical to success, so is making sure the right vehicles are running at the right time. As dates change, so do the available vehicles, each with their own unique price, efficiency and speed (amongst other things). When you sell and upgrade your existing fleet is all up to you. How you then go about changing from your old vehicles to the new, is where you have to balance how long they will be off the road for, against needing those new motors. Managing your lines, and their associated busses, trucks or trams, is a large portion of the experience. You cannot get away with just firing and forgetting. A lot of work has been done to make these actions as convenient as possible. For instance, vehicles will always do their best to spread out evenly along a route. There will not be any clumping of motors causing your lines to maximise their return.

Lots of bar graphs

I like my bar graphs, but not when they are red…

As this game is all about making money, there has to be ways to monitor where it is coming from and going to. Your lines and vehicles are where central to this, and as such, that is where we find the charts showing the most critical numbers. It allows us to easily spot problems around the vast world, and tackle them before they become significant issues. There are also charts that give a bigger overview, but I feel that once you have too many lines, it doesn’t help you identify issues quite as well as some of the other more specific tools.

There are a couple of niggling things that have disappointed me, most critical of which is the side of the roads that vehicles drive on. Not everyone drives on the right, so when we are doing a map in Scotland, it should be on the left. On the free-play maps I would also prefer to choose. The developers were able to confirm that this is something which will be coming up further down the road. Also, tram only lines are not in the game yet, but they too will be coming in the future.

colours showing different land uses

The different colours show the different land uses

I really like where this game sits at the moment. I was a huge fan of Cities in Motion, but I felt that the second game in that franchise became too close to a real simulator to be something that I could just sit back and enjoy. I like to get the cogs turning and watch the world work itself. Transport Fever does just that. It is the successor that I wanted. Interacting with the game is a breeze, moving and manipulating vehicles is super simple, and keeping your book in the black is a great challenge. It ticks all my boxes.

Otherwise, the game that I most want to compare Transport Fever to is Transport Tycoon Deluxe. This is a game that came out many, many moons ago, and has been the pinnacle of transport simulation for each and every one of them. It allowed players to build chains that were extremely complicated, yet all within a very accessible interface. I cannot help but feel that Transport Fever has managed to end this title’s domination. It has managed to adapt the game for this generation of gamers whilst keeping it just as accessible, just as complex, and extremely fun. It is an absolute must for anyone who likes any city builders, and even more so for those who like public transport.

Julian has been involved in the games industry for more than a couple of years now, from working in retail to developing board games to judging Magic: the Gathering tournaments Australia wide. Now as a writer for OK Games he likes to explore niche titles that try to approach gaming from a different perspective. Now all he needs to do is start finishing all those games in his Steam Library...