Why oh why, I remarked to Anne Robinson the other night, do people trust scientists? Whenever the world is about to explode or collide with a plague ridden asteroid it's the scientists that are called upon to rescue us. Scientists grow up reading Tolkein, listening to Genesis and playing complex rpg games. Trusting people like this to save the world can only end in tears.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating so get a mouthful of earth post 2022. In a surely somewhat rash, attempt to reverse the effects of global warming Professor John Merrick and a team of like-minded boffins explode thermo nuclear devices simultaneously at both poles. This experiment is known as 'Operation Blind' although 'Operation Bloody Stupid' would have been a better name. Due to a tiny miscalculation the world is plunged into a massive nuclear winter. Golly they must have felt silly.
A few hundred years later civilisation continues in small communities and. more usually, huge trains which traverse the frozen wastes trading, fighting and grumbling about the weather. The rail system is controlled by the all powerful and no doubt recently privatized Vikings Union, who have too much money invested in snow ploughs and anti freeze to contemplate a return to a sunnier way of life. What would their shareholders say? You of course, as a free thinking software purchaser, hold no truck with such selfish aims.
You have become what is known as an Ambivalent, someone who thinks snow is overrated and sun glasses are really cool. As captain of the Transarctica, a large armoured train, you set out to discover more about the sun. Operation Blind and the sequel: Operation Sun. Your aim is nothing less than restoring warmth to the world. Rather like Cliff Richard.
At heart Transarctica is a strategy game and the core of the strategy is trading. You need to trade to get more Lignite and Anthracite both of which fuel the train. Lignite also has the advantage of being used as currency, the unit of which is the Bak (100kg of lignite) Trading is done in cities which supply anything from food and consumer durables to carriages for the train, slaves and soldiers. It's also in the cities that you'll occasionally come across rumours concerning Operations Blind and Sun. Since different cities buy and sell goods for different amounts there's the chance of a quick profit for the sharp operator - or stinking parasitic middleman.
Time For Action
War it is often remarked, involves long periods of boredom interspersed with moments of intense excitement. (No one ever mentions the moments of sheer naked terror). In Transarctica combat involves long periods of boredom interspersed with periods of intense tedium.
The combat takes place when you run up against trains of the Viking Union. The two trains face each other across a bleak no-mans land. Battles are fought using gun carriages to blast away at each other, and more importantly soldiers who can climb onto the enemy's train and lay bombs. Obviously the enemy have soldiers on the roof of their trains to stop you which leads to plenty of traintop scraps. It reads well but you shouldn't believe everything you read.
The action is so slow. Soldiers, even when carried by mammoths, move in slow jerks. In fact they are slow jerks. A soldier's guarding a carriage? Simply get off the train, go round the carriage on the ground and get back on again. These boys' intelligence is so artificial it doesn't exist.
For the rest of the action you simply move your train up and down a small piece of track while firing. The combat option can be turned off. I strongly recommend you do this.
Train In Vain
The more I write about Transarctica the more I start liking it again. There seem to be so many elements to it and it's based on a good scenario. However I know that the moment I start playing it I'll go into a tedium induced trance. Let's just see shall we. (Exit reviewer to play game once more) Yup I was right.
The game falls down because of its pace or lack of it. Although there's variety of incident in most of it you're passive, simply admiring the graphics and reading the information. Attacks by anything other than trains are simply noted by a graphic screen and information on your losses. Collapsed bridges are simply noted, again by a graphic. The train stops automatically.
Am I being a bit too arcadey here? Perhaps the game would appeal to out and out strategy buffs. But then why put in the dreadful combat arcade sequence, why make you drive the train, which can be quite fiddly/irritating. Why not go the whole hog and make it board game style. It might have been a better game. Besides I don't think there is enough strategy here. Essentially all you're doing is going around a rail map buying and selling goods and making sure your fuel reserves are intact.
I never thought the day would come when I wouldn't enjoy attacking a train with woolly mammoths. I was wrong. Yet another childhood illusion bites the dust.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP