Traditionally, urban simulators put the focus on buildings, with players often striving for a fruitful balance amidst the residential, industrial, and commercial spaces. Transport Fever 2 takes an altogether different approach, focusing on the spaces between zones. The title persistently reminds players that budding metropolises require functional transit systems. Without a way to move goods and people about, stagnation is inevitable.
Transport Fever 2’s foray into civil engineering has two components. The game’s campaign initially serves as a tutorial, imparting the essentials of building an operational transportation network. Later, it supplies a surprisingly madcap departure, with side-missions that will task you with doing things like building a transit hub shaped that’s like a pentagram. Naturally, the title also offers a spacious sandbox, that functions like a toy closet bursting with model trains and other vehicles, permitting players to construct their own utopias or even transit-hell dystopias. With the latter, those preparations making demonic symbols can prove advantageous.
Tasteful Departures from Reality
Delve into the campaign and you’ll begin with a dusty, Nevada mining town, which the narrator divulges was won in a poker match. Here, you’ll learn that Transport Fever 2 uses real city names, with small settlements representing gold mines or logging facilities that need to be connected. But actual layouts diverge from reality, with city positioning and topographies that are intended to provide dilemma. Sure, tunneling though a hillside can make a trainline more direct, but it’s also exponentially more expensive, which is a quandary, since progress hinges on profitability. Opt for the sandbox and procedural-generation takes place, with Civilization-like liberties. As such you might find Hong Kong in the dead-middle of a sweeping landmass.
While Transport Fever 2’s interface might not seem intuitive as first, you’ll gradually come to grasp its capabilities, as you shift between sketching routes and positioning new stations. Beyond the obvious elements of physically laying down rail for trains, roads for busses, ports for ships, as well tarmac for aircraft, you’ll also have to build stops, depots, and terminals. Additionally, you’ll build transit lines, creating routes for a growing fleet of purchasable vehicles. Soon, it becomes evident that logistics are at the heart of Transport Fever 2. Common to urban simulations, you’ll learn to tackle short-term needs while providing enough flexibility to accommodate long-term ones. And yes, even if you live in a city with a sub-par mass transit system, the title is likely to illuminate the challenges faced by real-world civil engineers. After a week of play, I began to examine Los Angeles’ patchy train and bus lines with an iota of sympathy for city planners.
Less Wheel Rebuilding
Unlike many metropolitan sims, you’ll often be able to skirt the wasteful cycle of demolition and reconstruction of newer systems. Smartly, Transport Fever 2 often adopts a modular approach, letting player-planners add passenger platforms to your existing rail lines or supplementary runways for the larger craft touching down at your bustling airport. Eventually, you might have to lay new tracks for your bullet trains, as the game covers about 150 years of technological progress. But save for minor frustrations like frequently having to recreate transit routes when you add stops, there’s a healthy amount of flexibility.
Sure, you’ll run into snags, which will inevitably draw from your budget. Occasionally, you’ll lay down a facility that refuses to become operational. Other moments, an inconsequential, nearly invisible fracture in a railing will halt progress. Transport Fever 2 will habitually alert you to the problem, but it’s up to you to zoom in and inspect the line for irregularities. Sure, safety engineers are imperative, but it’s not a vocation that translates into a gratifying game activity. Venture into the game’s modern contexts and elements like pollution and noise become factors. But their impact is negligible and true-to-life steps to diminish their effect (like planting trees) have little bearing on the simulation. Another sticking point is Transport Fever 2’s handling of colonialism. I’m confused why the developers think a text-based warning provides a pass for such an awkward depiction of imperialism.
Competition Free Contexts
Interestingly, Transport Fever 2 makes no attempt at depicting rival transit authorities. Instead, you’ll always have unequaled authority. While this undermines the game’s sense of authenticity, it also permits players to focus on the supply lines and logistics rather than the minutia of business dealings. Still, for those with an interest in financial management, it would have made for an engaging possibility.
With profitability as the foremost benchmark of success, traditional forms of challenge are often absent from Transport Fever 2. If you continually work on the areas that are bleeding money, you’ll eventually push your network into the black, which will continue to generate income. As such, the challenge level is low, which might be an issue for players accustomed to rock-hard adversity.
Given the diminutive size of developer Urban Games team, the title is quite ambitious. As any time, you can jump into a vehicle, enjoying a first-person perspective ride. When scaled down this far, you’ll notice a lot of the gratifying details that were added to Transport Fever 2, like working destination signs on buses or cargo piling up at trucking bays. Sure, there’s some technical issues, long an initial load time that takes over a minute and CPU and framerate chugging on sizeable maps, but largely blemishes are small and forgivable. With US, European, and Asian contexts, that gradually change over times, there’s a pleasing amount of visual variety to be found, as even an option for period-authentic music.
Steam is brimming with urban developer simulators where players get to green-light everything from wood production facilities to skyscrapers. Transport Fever 2’s approach solely focuses on the transit systems, providing a much-needed diverge in a crowded genre. As such, planning, construction, and ironing out the inevitable kinks feels fundamentally different. If you have the slightest interest in transit systems, it’s likely worth a go, imperfections and all.
Transport Fever 2 was played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.
Developer: Urban Games
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Release date: December 11th, 2019
Price: $39.99 via Steam, launch discount price $29.99.