While I'm not a big fan of a time limitation on an MMO, and I'm definitely not very skilled at micromanagement, Rail Nation is a lovely game that is relaxing to play. It does take time to grow on you, and its beta access means that the game still has a few issues that need to be ironed out.
You add stops in the schedule. At the first stop, the train will load goods. The game has some simple icons that show what will happen at each stop. Beginning routes will consist of trains that go out to one stop, pick up goods, and come back to unload them in the city. Once the schedule is submitted, the train goes on its route until it is stopped.
Starting a new route is easy to do and fun. You simply select another engine, hit the schedule button, and select which cities you want to go to. Of course, you'll be limited by the connections that you currently have and by the amount of time it might take the trains to move from one point to another, but I've learned the hard way that slow growth is much better for a newbie. I often become too excited and spend my starting funds and wind up with a couple of extra routes that do not seem very useful. I started a new game on a new server so that I had a better chance at a mre successful performing.
Associations are sort of like guilds. It's a group of players who work together to upgrade a particular city. Because the goal is to eventually be part of one of the top 10 cities in the game in order to participate in the endgame, pulling your weight (I mean, freight) is important. In order to do your job, ryou'll need two components.
- Wagons: These carry the goods that come from cities. The type you need for a particular good from a particular city becomes available once you make a connection to that city using tracks. The different wagon types all have unique costs.
- Tracks: Depending on the level of your Track Production building (which can be upgraded), you can lay down a certain number of tracks to different cities. Tracks are not cheap, so do not do what I did and buy some without considering what they connect to. I eventually used a third track to connect to a good that was needed in my host city, and I kept my other trains on short routes until my cash could be built up.
The game has plenty of issues, however. Lag, even on a powerful gaming rig, is a problem. The game is developed in Flash and will often lock up on a loading screen or will leave you hanging without access to certain areas. It's been in beta for a while now, but the developers continue to allow the purchase of virtual cash that can be used to speed up upgrades. Normally a game like Rail Nation is perfect for leaving on a separate monitor or tab while checking emails or performing other tasks, but the lag makes the game sometimes unplayable for those purposes. Perhaps a server upgrade or code tweak will smooth the game out.
The in-game chat is basically worthless as well. It updated at odd intervals, leaving all of my newbie questions unanswered. It's a shame when chat boxes are so wonky because chat is often the easiest way to find an answer to a question or to find players to play with.
The game is relatively complicated for newbies, as well. It's easy to make a mistake or to get lost in an attempt at perfect routes. My suggestion is to take it slowly and to keep two games running on two different servers. Use one of the games for experimenting and the other one for "serious" play.
If you like miniature railroad-centric, puzzle-ish gameplay or MMOs that are trying something different, try Rail Nation. Just remember that it is in testing and load times and lag will be a frustrating recurrence.
Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.