Train Fever is similar to Transport Tycoon but with modern 3D graphics. Developed by a very small Swiss team, it was released on September 4th, 2014. Some impressions after playing for about 100 hours:




An entertaining sandbox in which to experiment with different approaches to running a profitable rail empire.

Beauty Shots

Before I get too deep into describing some parts of the game, here's a few screen shots to give you an idea of what it looks like.

The game starts with simple 1850's locomotives. Here's a meet way out in the countryside between towns.

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While featuring mostly German and Swiss equipment, the famous 4468 Mallard is included too, shown below pulling out of an early town.

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The TGV is expensive to buy and maintain, and so far I haven't found a situation where it attracts enough passengers to make it profitable. Maybe on the large map size.

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Hints For Laying Out Roads and Rail Lines

Until you gain experience with the rail and road layout tool, you will hit situations where it looks like it should work, but it won't. The little tool-tip error messages and red shading of problem areas do not always clearly describe what's causing the issue.

Some examples of frustrations that can appear while using the rail and road layout tool:

Time Scale and Costs

Since the game covers the time period of 1850 to 2014 (and beyond if you wish) the developers chose a time scale which allows you to play all the way through without taking weeks to do so. However this has the side effect of train trips taking months to complete. For example, a high speed express TGV line from one side of a medium map to the other can take over four in-game months to complete. With only a few trips completed per year, the profits from a route can vary wildly from one year to the next, depending solely on whether a train happens to arrive in December or in January of the next year.

An improvement would be to include a user-adjustable time scale when starting a new game, similar to the feature found in the Civilization series of games. Players could, say, set it so time passes only half as quickly and trips take a more reasonable length of time. Passenger fares would be halved to keep the economy balanced as it is now.

Semi-Sunken Passenger Station Experiments

Laying out a passenger station and tracks beside a town tends to cut off development in that direction. I wanted the game to generate the feel of a big city rail hub with larger buildings on both sides of the tracks.

Roads crossing the tracks very close to the station are needed so the population are tempted to build over there, but placing roads right after the station platform makes it impossible to lay rail lines across them. Building road bridges over the railway will work, but I wanted to avoid the typical heavily arched style produced by the game.

Partially sinking the rail terminal below ground level allowed more natural looking bridges. To create a gradual depression I used long stretches of wide roadways and pressed 'N' to sink them into the ground. Then I bulldozed the road, leaving behind the modified terrain.

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Arranging the overpasses was a delicate business so the supporting pillars wouldn't block the tracks. As shown above, one bridge ended up with no middle supporting pillar at all, while the other overpass had the more typical configuration with a central pillar dividing the two sets of tracks.

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I tried to smooth out the slopes as best as I could, but after a few years the game had auto-generated nearby buildings with some unnaturally steep cliff-like terrain. Oh well.

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If you want to experiment with this sort of setting, be sure you've got lots of cash. Building the station above, which including bulldozing a fair chunk of the original town, cost about 23 million.

Hard Mode Tips

The game's Hard difficulty level certainly is hard. Running costs are several times higher and revenues are cut dramatically. I went broke a couple of times before making it to year 2000. It seems the best approach is to completely ignore the 'train' in Train Fever.

You can make a bit of money with the first two locomotives, but after that rail operating costs quickly escalate and make those lines unsustainable. There's no point in constructing railway infrastructure for such a short period of time only to pay to bulldoze it later. Instead concentrate on moving goods and people by roads.

I used three phases of development to succeed in Hard mode:

  1. Carry cargo via wagons and trucks. This gets you started. Try to find a spot where a raw resource passes close to a town on its way to a production location. For example, there was an oil well that was sending oil down the road near my town and off to a refinery. By building a cargo station on that edge of town and one at the refinery, my wagons / trucks could carry oil in one direction and goods in the other, doubling the usual payouts they would generate. No empty trips.
  2. Use trams to carry passengers between cities. This models sort of an interurban-style passenger service and it will be your bread and butter in Hard mode. Try to upgrade equipment as newer trams are released so they will be as fast or faster than car travel and therefore continue to attract passengers.
  3. Convert tram routes to buses. In the mid-50's tram speed falls behind automobiles and ridership will drop. Don't wait for that, convert tram routes to buses as soon as their speeds become greater, basically when the Mercedes-Benz bus is launched in 1951.

Other General Tips

Final Silly Bits

The game's 'Glacier Line' achievement for running a rail route at a height of 450 meters is meant to be gained when building on a hilly terrain type map. So of course I wanted to see if it could be done using a bridge starting from sea level.

My first attempt went across a medium size map but couldn't get high enough before sloping back down again. Looks more like a roller coaster than a railway.

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The folks living there didn't seem to notice the giant rail bridge skirting the edge of their town.

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My second attempt headed for some low hills along one edge of the map. This reduced construction costs enough that I could extend the bridge higher before returning to earth.

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I didn't even have to hit the summit to get the 'Glacier Line' achievement. Total construction cost? A mere 1.32 billion.