It is like this, y’see. A mad scientist type called John Merrick had this great idea to get rid of the greenhouse effect by blowing up a couple of nuclear bombs at each pole. It would have been a good idea, if the scientists had not completely naffed it up and plunged the world into a never-ending nuclear winter.
Several centuries later, and thermal underwear is still fashionable, and the only transport between cities is via a huge rail network controlled by a bunch of bad guys called the Viking Union. Playing the part of a good guy who has discovered a possible way to break the hold of the winter, and thus destroy the power of the Vikings, you manage to nick a train, and set out on a mission to discover the secrets of a cold and dangerous world…
I am sure you know the sort of thing. Travel between cities do a bit of trading, blow up a few enemies, chat to philosophers and follow up rumours which could lead you to your eventual destination.
To the posthumous delight of Arthur and the NUM, the only source of energy left is coal, which fuels your locomotive and acts as currency. Occasionally, a message will direct you to a newly discovered mine, where you can prospect for coal, if you have the appropriate equipment.
Cities can be of four types: commercial (selling miscellaneous goods), industrial (manufacture and sale of wagons), slave markets (work it out for yourself) and mammoth fairs. These are not big fun fairs with lots of candyfloss, but meetings where you can buy or sell any mammoths you may have bumped into on the way. Did I mention them? No? Oh. Well, given the cold weather, woolly mammoths have made a comeback. They are good for heavy transport and you can use the dung as a face pack.
You meet herds of them wandering around and are given the option of rounding a few up in true Wild West fashion. Or rather, your slaves do, since all you get is a screen telling you how many you have captured.
Occasionally, when you enter a town, a rumour (general gossip which may prove helpful) will be available. Do not worry, they are not hard to find. Instead of the usual trading icons, you get the icons for receiving rumours and research, both of which reward you with three lines of text in something close to, but not quite English. Big deal. It is usually either a fact or a hint pointing you in another direction.
Whether this makes any sense or not is another matter. You do not get anything else, just a short hint or fact. This is where the game starts to have problems. Apart from moving around the map, there is relatively little interactivity. You never really feel like you are quite in control of your own destiny, even when you are in pitched battle with one of the Viking battle trains.
Tracks of my tears
You can arm your train with machine-guns and cannons, as well as employing troops and war mammoths in order to beat up the opposition. It is all very well, but about as exciting as standing on the end of a platform taking down train’s numbers as they pass you buy.
The animation for the troops and mammoths is, to put it politely, poor, and would be more at home on a C64 than an Amiga. You can move your train back and forth on a short stretch of track and blast the opponent’s wagons, or send out troops to plant explosives, but you are more likely to give up in disgust. Fortunately, the train conflict can be turned off, and the result decided by the computer.
You do not expect scrolling shoot-em-up-type action from a game of this genre, but it is not unreasonable to expect some degree of choice and freedom.
As it is, it feels like you are following a script which won’t allow you to improvise; more like an episode of Eldorado than Coronation Street.
Amiga Format, Issue 45, April 1993, p.82
Wer sich das Transportmittel der Zukunft aus? Wie wird das Wetter? Auf derlei Fragen weiß Silmarils Antwort - in Form einer Bombastischen Mix von Abenteuer, Strategie und Simulation.
Die Franzosen prophezeien uns eine völlig verschneite Welt, in der es nur noch eine Möglichkeit gibt, die weißen Wüsten zu durchreisen - mit den gewaltigen, waffenstarrenden Zügen der alles beherrschenden Eisenbahngesellschaft "Viking Union"! Da mit solchen Allesbeherrschern selten gut Kirschenessen ist, hat sich eine kleine Gruppe von Rebellen gebildet, die den Grund des kühlen Übels erforschen und womöglich beseitigen will. Unsere Revoluzzer verfügen ebenfalls über eine Power-Train (nämlich die "Transarctica") sowie hoffentlich einen zuverlässigen Zugführer vor dem Monitor...
Als solcher bekommt man hier allerhand zu tun, beispielsweise fährt die Heldenbahn keinen Meter auf dem riesigen, ganz Europa und Nord-Afrika umfassenden Schienennetz, wenn sie nicht beständig mit Kohle gefüttert wird. Die wiederum läßt sich entweder durch Handel und Wandel zwischen den wenigen überlebenden Städten beschaffen (konsequenterweise ist der Koks auch das einzige Zahlungsmittel dieser frostigen Zukunft) oder in alten Bergwerken abbauen. Das Schürfen ist freilich nicht so einfach, braucht man dazu doch erstens Sklaven fürs Grobe, zweitens Mammuts fürs ganz Grobe und drittens passende Waggons sowie Verpflegung für beide - vom Transportraum für das schwarze Gold ganz zu schweigen.
Davon abgesehen kann der Bildschirm-Rebell mancherorts in alten Zeitschriften schmökern, um so mehr über das prinzipielle Klimaproblem herauszufinden. Den Expressen der Viking Union, die ihm das Kohlenfeuer ausblasen willen, sollte er jedoch zu Beginn tunlichst ausweichen. Später, wenn ein paar schlagkräftige Kanonenwagen zur Ausrüstung gehören, könnte man vielleicht eines der taktisch-strategisch ausgerichteten Duelle mit den Company-Dampfrössern wagen, bei denen sich beide Gefährte auf parallelen Gleisen gegenüberstehen und durch Hin- und Herrangieren empfindliche Teile des Gegners zu treffen versuchen.
Eine fröhliche Mischung also, die (ganz in der Tradition von "Storm Master") vor allem auch durch die Präsentation überzeugt: Die tollen Grafiken von Bahninterieur, Städten und anderen wichtigen Örtlichkeiten tragen ebensoviel zur dichten Atmosphäre bei wie die stimmungsvollen Soundtracks und feinen FX. Ganz so bunt wie am PC treibt es die Amiga-Eiszeit optisch natürlich nicht, aber wer könnte ihr das verübeln? Zumal die sinnige Maus/Icon-Steuerung, mit der man sich in Lok und Waggons oder in den zoombaren, an "Railroad Tycoon" erinnernden Kartenscreen hineinklicken kann, über alle Zweifel erhaben ist und in der endgültigen Verkaufsversion deutsche Texte für vollen Komfort sorgen werden. Gewiß, in diesem oder jenem Punkt hätten Optionen und Rätsel ruhig etwas luxuriöser ausfallen dürfen, aber auch so geht das Game glatt als Prädikatsprogramm durch! (jn)
Amiga Joker, March 1993, p.48
It is trains, planes and automobiles – except it has not got any planes or automobiles in it.
Authors: Louis-Marie Rocques, Andre Rocques, Jean-Christophe Charter
Release: Out now
arren wiped the heavy droplet from his nose with the sleeve of his anorak, and peered through the grime and thumb prints that covered his thick-lensed glasses. Rain fell intermittently across the deserted platform as he calculated that the next Inter City was not due for another twenty minutes and sat back to enjoy his packed lunch.
As he chomped on his spam sandwiches, Wagon Wheel and coffee from a tartan thermos, Darran was completely unaware of the strange twist his life was about to take. Which was just as well really, for since the most exciting thing he had ever done in his life was listen to heavy metal tracks backwards in the mistaken belief that he would receive instructions from Satan, he was entirely unprepared for it.
As he sat, the eerie blue light of a time-warp shrouded him, causing sparks to fly painfully off his dental bridgework and numerous fillings. In an instant, he was whisked through the millennia, propelled by forces far beyond the understanding of us mere mortals. And then… (Something relevant to the game happens? – Ed) …Then he was standing knee-deep in snow next to a rail line (far larger than a European standard gauge track, he noted) and in shocked amazement he stared as a massive train blurred past him, the omate snow plough throwing snow off the track with such a force that it took minutes to drift back down again. On and on it went, sparks from the funnel glittering in the icy air above the carriages.
And what carriages! Ten storeys high, entire jails rumbled past. In massive stables, mammoths snorted and munched on hay, while in glass-covered carriages, gardeners tended to their crops. Finally, gun crews serviced massive cannons and machine gun posts, while bawdy ballads were sung heartily in garrison carriages, the shutters locked down to keep out the biting wind. ‘Blimey’, thought Darren as silence returned, ‘that was even more impressive than the 332 Devonshire Scot that I once saw at Paddington’.
On board, the captain of the train Transarctica (Who, it should be noted, is the character you play in the game, this ‘Darren’ chappy being the invention of a staff writer’s literary pretensions – Ed) was lost in his own despairing thoughts, unaware that the acne-ridden, shivering figure he had just swept past was in fact a time traveller from the far distant past. While his personal secretary Kolotov recorded the results of the latest mammoth hunt, the captain paced nervously, running over the events of the last few months.
He’d believed the ancient writings that often considered heretical. He’d believed that the ice-age was man made and could be reversed. He’d been driven onwards in the belief that he could unlock the secret of Project ‘Restore’ so that the clouds that obscured the sky for centuries could be driven away, and to the first time in a thousand years, mankind would see the sun. Breaking the ice-age would break the Viking Union’s hold over the world, so they’d fought him all the way.
Wandering down to the engine room, he was shocked that the navvies were still shovelling coal into the cavernous boiler, even though the pressure was dangerously high. If the boiler blew in these Siberian wastes it would be disastrous, but his crew refused to make any independent decisions, and he had to tell them to stop. Such responsibility meant that he was forced to spend half his days checking on the speed, coal supplies and steam pressure.
For months now they’d been crossing the entire European/Asian land mass in their stolen train, avoiding Viking Union bases and attacking and looting other trains. They’d traded goods like fur, salt and caviar for the essentials of tracks, slaves and soldiers, buying in areas of plenty and selling them for a profit in towns where demand was high. They’d gone to the industrial Ruhr and bought new carriages which, along with the ones they’d captured in battle, meant that the train now stretched for nearly a hundred carriages. He’d sent out spies to report back from all over the continent, kept his coal supplies plentiful by mining, and even carefully checked his routes out by sending out scout carts.
Sadly, the captain returned to his carriage, accepting the fact that he’d brought all these people on a wild and futile quest. The guilt of all the wasted lives too massive, the boredom of travelling for days too great for him to handle. He’d failed, and there was only one thing left. He reached for his revolver.
A solitary figure limped out of the fog and snow, its feet gnarled by frostbite, its eyelashes frozen together. The screams and babble faded as the Transarctica crew turned and stared at this person who’d appeared out of the desolate wastes, a thousand kilometres from the nearest town. One by one they bowed before him. Surely this must be the chosen one… (So are you. Chosen for the sack, that is. – Ed).
Amiga Power, Issue 23, March 1993, p.p.46-48
"Darren sat back to enjoy his packed lunch"
Even in the future trains never seem to run on time. Mark Patterson buys a ticket and settles down for a long wait.
aking the lead from such PC games as Dune 2, Silmarils have come up with, would you believe it, a futuristic train simulation. The Earth has been turned into a frozen wasteland by a failed experiment aimed at counteracting global warming. What's left of mankind resides in small communities linked to railways controlled by the nefarious Viking Union. After reading some books explaining how to reverse the effects of the experiment, you've saved up your hard earned cash to buy a train of your own and set out trying to implement the plan.
The Viking Union aren't very enthusiastic about your attempts at defrosting the Earth, as the end of the global winter will spell the end of their monopoly on the rail lines. They're out to stop you any way they can, which includes sending heavily armoured attack trains out after you.
UP THE JUNCTION
Towns are divided into two main categories, trading posts and manufacturing plants. The latter is where you buy extra carriages for your train. These include prison cars for transporting slaves, and missile cars for defence. Trading posts are where you make your cash. Commodities have different values in different towns and it's down to the player to work out where cargoes are worth the most. Should you buy a town's entire stock of an item, you're going to have to wait a fair while for them to produce more of it. This prevents you depending on one cushy trade route.
The game's currency, lignite, brings new meaning to the phrase burning money. Lignite is a form of coal which, apart from being used to buy things, can be shoved into the fire should you run out of the worthless, but highly combustible, anthracite. Naturally, running out of anthracite doesn't bode well for your bank account.
One altogether tedious and virtually pointless part of the game is stoking the engine. Coal needs to be regularly chucked into the furnace to keep the boiler going. To do this, you call up the engine room screen, and click on one of the two blokes standing either side of the furnace, who then shovel the coal in. This process has to be repeated so often that it soon becomes tremendously boring. Unless you're a hard-core train freak like our beloved Editor, Dan, the novelty value of watching someone shovel coal in a computer game wears off in no time at all.
CU Amiga, March 1993, p.55
Dieser Tage trudelte Silmarils origineller Genremix aus Abenteuer und Strategie, Schnee, Eis, Lokführerträumen und Ökokatastrophe als überarbeitetes Turbomiga-Bonbon in unseren weitläufigen Hallen ein.
Wenn einem soviel Buntes wird beschert, ist das immer eine Reise wert – also machen wir dem waffenstarrenden Superzug „Transarctica“ Feuer unterem Dampfkessel und tuckern erneut durch schienendurchzogene Eiswüsten (Landkarte à la „Railroad Tycoon“), um die Welt von ihrem zukünftigen Klima-Kollaps zu kurieren...
Gar nicht so einfach, denn die mageren Hinweise auf das, was hier zu tun wäre, sind allesamt gut versteckt, und so ist man meist mit viel profaneren Dingen beschäftigt: zwischen den übriggebliebenen Städten Handel treiben, Mammuts und Sklaven als Arbeitskräfte einkaufen, falls die Schienen mal unterbrochen sind, neue Wagons auftreiben und nicht zuletzt die Züge der am Status Quo interessierten Bahngesellschaft Viking Union mittels taktisch-strategischer Schießduelle (die man auch dem Rechner überlassen kann) bekämpfen.
All das zeigt sich neuerdings in schicker PC-Optik, der man die feineren Farbabstufungen durchaus ansieht. Die dramatische Sounduntermalung mit ihren diversen Musikstücken und FX konnte indessen ja immer schon überzeugen. Auch der Handhabung per Mausklick läßt sich kaum etwas Schlechtes nachsagen, mal davon abgesehen, daß das Game erst nach ziemlich umständlicher Handarbeit aus dem Harddisk-Bahnhof startet. Insgesamt also eine prima 1:1 Umsetzung der VGA-Version.
Amiga Joker, June 1993, p.?