Updated: July 2, 2011
So many opens. The thing is, it's been almost five years since my last openTTD review. Many things have changed. The most important of those is the fact you don't need the old data files from the original Transport Tycoon game to be able to play OpenTTD anymore. The major release version 1.0 offers free alternative graphics and sounds as good as the original. This means anyone can play and enjoy this fabulous title.
Five years had flown past, but the game remains as fun as ever. Simply timeless. Well, it's time for another review. I'll pretend I've not written an article before and just give you yet another lovely, pleasant scoop on one of the finest strategy games even created. Not without a reason is it listed as my favorite Linux pick for 2010.
Setup & installation
Easy peasy. The game is available in all major distribution repositories. On my openSUSE 11.4 KDE machine, I added the Games community repository, searched for openTTD and had the game installed. Once on your system, it will be periodically updated, so you gain from the latest and greatest game fixes and improvements. Moreover, OpenTTD with free graphics and sounds is fully compatible with older versions. You can easily import your older save games and even scenarios, so you lose nothing.
OpenTTD simply remains the best urban planning and transport game, by a lightyear. The interface is simple, so it does not steal away your focus, yet it's pleasant enough to use. Traffic management can be dead easy or you can turn it into a logistics PhD if you want. There's no one way about building your infrastructure, even if you play the same scenario over and over. You will always find new, better, more elegant ways of chaining your industries together. Custom mods make the possibilities endless.
Play on your own, against bots, online, you choose. There are many levels of difficulty you can setup, starting with vehicle running cost and maintenance cycles, breakdowns, accidents, disasters, subsidiary multiplier, local council penalties and bribes, and more. The game can be tweaked more than a typical Linux distribution. Best of all, nothing is a must. If you don't want to fiddle with anything, just start a map and enjoy. On the other hand, if you're looking into a realistic simulation of transport management, you can crank it up to impossible.
Graphics and sounds
The free graphics are really great. A little different from the original, but you won't really notice, especially if you have not played TTD in a while. I did spot a few subtle, effective changes to train depots and stations. However, it's same old product you cherish and love.
The alternative music is also very good. A little jumpy and quirky, as you would expect from the 8-bit digital music hailing back to mid 90s, but it adds to the atmosphere. More songs would make it even better, since tracks tend to get repetitive if you play for extended periods. The original game featured softer music, old blues and jazz mostly. The new tracks have a quicker pace and a deeper, electronic buzz.
I decided to focus on this one element, because it's so important and yet so complex. As you may have guessed, I'm still having a hard time with the railroad traffic signals. There are six different kinds, and managing them takes time, patience and intelligence. I have not fully figured out the right algorithm for placing them or spacing them out or even how to lay the tracks so that many trains can utilize them without getting stuck or colliding.
Signals are probably critical in multiplayer games, where smart railway management is a must. In standalone scenarios against bots or even no opponents, you will enjoy relaxing building and planning, without having to go lean on your resources, but at the same time, you won't feel compelled to master the signals. I think this is a very tricky challenge, so if you have the time and the willpower, please do invest in learning how to manage huge stations.
If any benevolent reader wishes to share his/her knowledge, they are welcome to mail me, and I'll post their magical howto here. For now, I keep on building multiple parallel tracks, each serving one train. On shorter and less important passenger routes, I'm experimenting with signals, but so far, no revelation. It works, but I feel like I'm just being randomly lucky.
A handful of great images:
OpenTTD is getting better and better. It's truly a blessing, a timeless work of art. You must admire the dedication of the development team, who are continuously adding new features and improving the game. When the original game was retired, millions of diehard fans were left wallowing in panic, begging for more. Luckily, their wish was granted; OpenTTD was born. Today, OpenTTD is more popular than Transport Tycoon Deluxe ever was, with a deep cult status and more followers, promising immortality. Old people infected with nostalgia are having a moment of their life, while younger players yearning for a real strategy challenge will find an unexpected gem in this retro title.
OpenTTD blends realism with fun in a unique, unbeatable equation. Alongside SimCity 4, it's the ultimate city building simulation. What makes it so special is the fact it can cater to just about anyone, from a nooblet to a hardcore game theory fanatic. Combined with great looks, lovely atmosphere and a vibrant community, OpenTTD will remain with us for many more years. A perfect 10/10.
Have a great day!