The game features oversized graphics for cities, trains and commodities (farms, oil wells, etc.). While this does make it easier to see things, it also at times makes it more difficult to see what you need, especially when laying track. And while it claims more realistic graphics than the earlier series, I actually preferred the earlier treatment and found it not unrealistic at all. For instance, in the southwest, with the oversized mountains and inability to zoom out, it is extremely difficult to figure out where you need to go and how to get there. While it can be fun zooming in to watch people (and cows) get on and off trains, the graphics didnít do much for me. They are, however, perfectly in keeping with the overall theme of making this more of a casual game.
The colors are definitely an improvement, nice and shiny, and the engine models are nice as well. The cities are, perhaps, a bit overpopulated, especially in earlier scenarios where youíll have skyscrapers in the mid-19th century. But it is nice the way the cities grow as they become richer as a result of your or otherís actions including them in the burgeoning railroad economy. Train and building animations are also nice and an improvement over the earlier series, but definitely function more as eye candy than essential parts of the game. Overall, while the graphics are something of an upgrade over the old series, I feel they are more designed to give the game a casual feel rather than being helpful to gameplay.
The music and voices are fine. While they can get repetitive, as you would expect in a game such as this, they are well done to start with so I didnít mind them. While the are somewhat contextual if you zoom in enough, I didnít find them to be terribly relevant to gameplay. But at least they donít have the annoying Old West guy previewing each scenario for you as the original series did; that voice got really annoying, especially on scenarios that had nothing to do with the U.S. or were set in the latter part of the 20th century. While the sound wasnít spectacular, it also wasnít annoying enough to have me turning off the volume every time I played, which some games have been known to do.
The legends series is designed to bring somewhat older games to the Mac at cheaper prices. At $30 this game isnít what I would call cheap, but also isnít at the $50 or more level of some current games. And it does have the spit and polish of an A list game, coming from a well-known game designer and company. It comes with a variety of scenarios and includes multiplayer LAN and through GameRanger. Each scenario can be played with one of three ending times, with different goals for each time. You can also select the number of AI opponents (which are pretty good) and the level of difficult in train routing (how quickly the pass one another, as discussed above). You can also randomize the location of cities and geography in each scenario, further enhancing the possibilities. In this sense, SMRR provides a good amount of gameplay at a reasonable price.
The game comes with a pdf manual that in addition to covering gameplay goes into great details on the history of the railroads, specific engines, the AI players in the game (based on real people) as well as additional details on each scenario, industries in the games and game economics. It's nice to see this much attention being given to something that doesn't even exist anymore in many lesser games.
The less interested you are in a realistic experience, or one similar to the experience playing the original series, the more youíll probably get out of this game. In an era of first person shooters and simulations that are either The Sims or something with more limited gameplay options, SMRR is a return to what may someday been seen as the golden age of simulations in the early/mid-1990s where challenging and open-ended gameplay could be found in many places.
Iím a big fan of the Railroad Tycoon series and was excited to see it come back to the Mac, even if it was six years late to the party. And while this review has probably had more than its share of complaints, some but not all of that comes from comparing it to earlier versions. As mentioned above, those who come to this game clean seem to have a higher opinion than those with previous experience. And Mac users are giving it better reviews the Windows users did when it came out in 2006, where it received a number of reviews similar to this one from popular gaming sites. While I find it difficult to recommend the game whole-heartedly because of its gameplay and other flaws, simulations such as this are hard to come by these days. Used to be you had your choice of Civilization, SimCity, Railroad Tycoon and many others. SMRR gives us a chance to go back to that style of gameplay and despite its flaws, if you want to build railroads and railroad companies, this is probably the best and cheapest way to do it.
ē Return of a venerable series to the Mac
ē Mostly high production values
ē Variety of scenarios
ē Gameplay issues can make having fun difficult, especially with harder options set
ē Small maps
ē Canít zoom out all the way on maps
ē A few errors in graphics and gameplay