The sequel to Train Valley takes the addictive gameplay of the first game, adds a dash of tycoon elements, and is shaping up to be another little gem that will keep you entertained for hours. Currently in Early Access and with 20 of the final game’s 50 levels to play – though now with a level editor and Steam Workshop support – there’s plenty to challenge you as you strive to get those perfect scores.
The first game was a race against time, juggling your trains to their target stations before you ran out of money or inevitably crashed them. Train Valley 2 takes a different approach though, more in line with Transport Fever for example, whereby the map is dotted with various buildings that either produce or consume resources. The objective is to transport goods or workers from their source to their destination, ultimately supplying towns with the resources they need.
Certain products require one or more raw materials before they can be finally delivered. So if the city is demanding a supply of glass, then the first step is to transport workers from the city to the sand quarry, then transport sand to the glass factory, after which you can deliver the final produce back to the city. Sounds simple right?
Placing the track is nice and easy, as is controlling the points with a simple click. Laying down track obviously costs money, and there’s still the tricky trade-off in going for the shortest, most direct route versus taking a slightly longer route to avoid demolishing expensive forests or troublesome buildings. A key difference is that you control when the trains begin to move, unlike in the first Train Valley where they would randomly generate and you had to race to ensure it could safely travel to its destination. That means that rather than being a puzzle game per se, Train Valley 2 is a more methodical, management-style, train game.
There isn’t the sudden panic as a new train sets off before you’re ready for it like there was in the first, but that isn’t to say the game is any easier. At the start of each level, I’d often pause the game and poke around the map, looking at where certain resources were being produced and where they were required. In my head I’d be trying to work out what the end-game layout would be to ensure the correct buildings have the necessary transport links.
As with the first game, completing each level is not the sole focus and additional optional objectives are again what will keep = you coming back for more. They vary, so one might be to avoid train crashes or ensure that trains don’t arrive at the wrong building, while others are financially related, such as earning or spending a certain amount, or avoiding a certain limits for destroying objects when placing track. There’s plenty of replay value, as some objectives may completely change how you approach the level, such as re-completing the level but without building additional bridges or tunnels, leading to a completely different layout.
Additional features, such as being able to buy additional trains or upgrade your existing ones means that once you’ve got your track layout sorted, there’s still goals to strive towards. The upgraded trains travel faster, and can carry more resources – something that is essential if you’re aiming to beat the clock for the time related objectives.
The art style has been updated too, with the graphics moving towards that low-poly isometric style that seems to be in fashion right now. While it’s aesthetically pleasing, the terrain can be difficult to interpret. Certain slopes are too steep to place tracks upon, but trying to spot the shallower gradient tiles isn’t always the easiest. It’s a shame that the settlements aren’t more dynamic, as I was hoping that I would see them grow as I delivered resources to them. Overall the maps are still interesting and varied; something that I really enjoyed from the first game that took you to different settings around the world.
The current offering in Early Access contains 20 of the 50 levels planned for the full release, with more things to be added such as more generations of locomotives and more rolling stock. Mod support is on it’s way, but with the leve editor and Steam Workshop integration having been added this week, there will be loads of content soon enough, and I can’t wait to see what the community can make. Even though the editor is brand new, it’s the same tool that was used by the developers, so there’s a great degree of sophistication that can be achieved with it. Not only can you easily terraform, add buildings and production facilities, but you can set how much money and trains the player will start with. Furthermore, you can then add your own additional objectives that you can tailor to how you want players to approach your map.
Even in its current state, it certainly feels worth the Early Access price at £7.19/$9.99. Not all fans of the first game will like the new direction, but if you’re looking for a game that leans towards the management end of the spectrum than the puzzle side of things, I’m sure you’ll join me in looking forward to the full release.