Reviews - Updated on April 3, 2022

Transport tycoons are an interesting genre: a rich past, a rather vague present, and a very vague future. What can we say, if the remake of the same Transport Tycoon from the recently revived MicroProse – OpenTTD is still relevant, despite its advanced age. Recently, the old man turned 17 years old, and he celebrated this event not with retirement, but with a release on Steam.

Elements of the genre can be found in a variety of strategies from Factorio to Cities: Skylines and in even more specific products, such as railway simulators or mods for Minecraft, but now there are almost no large fresh projects dedicated to purely transport topics. If we remove the most notable exception in the form of two parts of Transport Fever, then we can assume that transport strategies are developed only at the expense of independent developers.

Another confirmation of this is Voxel Tycoon from the domestic studio of the same name (in which only two people work), which appeared on Steam Early Access in mid-April.

Big seen from a distance

From the name of the game it is clear what kind of technology the developers use to create the tycoon. The surface of the world is built from small cubes, and all objects are drawn quite schematically, as is usually the case in voxel graphics. Nevertheless, this approach did not go to the detriment of beauty. On the contrary, VT looks pretty nice and cute, the eye clings only to the unevenness of the landscape at maximum approximation. Given that the size of one cube that makes up the world is comparable to the size of a truck, the elevation changes are too chopped.

If you move the camera away, then there’s nothing to complain about at all – the world, divided into biomes (from desert to tundra), pleases the eye. Houses, cars, trains – all objects look somewhat toy-like due to the same voxel graphics, but this only emphasizes the unique style.

Voxel Tycoon: Early Version Preview

Well, it’s beautiful!

To match the general style of VT and interface. Minimalism, smooth shapes, pleasant, almost tactile sensations from interacting with windows and buttons – very convenient, except that I had to zoom in a bit, since the labels are too small by default. And there is also unobtrusive background music, ideal for leisurely gameplay.

All this in general makes Voxel Tycoon very cozy. A big plus for such strategies, where the fun of the game lies, among other things, in simply observing the life of a self-built transport empire.

Voxel Tycoon: Early Version Preview

You can place signals on the tracks automatically, which is quite convenient.

Not only transportation

Nevertheless, for such a tycoon, the first place is still not the convenience of contemplation of wagons and trucks rolling back and forth, but the process of developing its transport business.

Here there are not enough VT stars from the sky – the gameplay is not much different from the same OpenTTD. We build roads, pull railway lines, buy cars and trains, deliver cargo from the manufacturer to the consumer and transport passengers, optimize the logistics chain and help cities grow on the map, gradually opening up new regions and areas for the production and marketing of raw materials.

OpenTTD or Transport Fever are more likely to be role models, because Voxel Tycoon is somewhat simpler – for example, we have no competitors in the face of AI companies. New models of transport and buildings appear due to research conducted by the player and do not depend on the passage of time, so the course of history and the development of transportation (from horse-drawn transport to modern aviation) are not felt at all here, which once again emphasizes the abstractness and toyiness of the world. And there is no aviation here, just like ships, only trains and cars.

Voxel Tycoon: Early Version Preview

Creating and editing routes is easy; from pleasant trifles – automatically generated names for them.

However, do not forget that we are only facing early access and, judging by the development roadmap, Tycoon should be significantly overgrown with content by the time it is released.

On the other hand, there is the opportunity to create products on their own, which brings VT closer to the related genre of production strategy. Factories, production chains, assembly lines… Hello Factorio!

You can, of course, ignore the requests of urban enterprises that want to purchase high-tech products and transport only the main raw materials, but for the full development of your company you cannot do without your own factories. It was not in vain that I remembered Factorio – given that goods for processing in factories must be moved using conveyors, such an analogy suggests itself first.

Voxel Tycoon: Early Version Preview

The first attempts to create their own production. Pulling conveyors in Factorio is still much more convenient.

Better wait

The comparison, however, will be far from in favor of Voxel Tycoon – as far as this game looks nice on the outside, it is just as inconvenient to do construction here.

For example, there is no planning tool – if you made a mistake with the placement of a road or a building on one cell, be kind, redo it, demolishing everything. Roads already behave quite capriciously without this when it comes to joining an existing path or building on a height difference. A separate torment is the creation of railway interchanges: I want the game to help create symmetrical and regular shapes, but instead you have to figure out by eye where and how to start turning the rails. There is no need to talk about such luxury as saving path templates – all this is in the same place, in the plans for the development of early access.

In general, there are more imperfections here than it seems at first glance. The sparse tutorial does not reveal the depths of the game at all – VT is definitely not created for beginners in the genre, despite the simple design that favors this (compare with the realism of Transport Fever or the monstrosity of OpenTTD). The statistics are very poorly presented, and there are no graphs at all, which is quite strange for a tycoon. About the lack of multiplayer and pleasant little things, like the sandbox mode or the mini-map, you can also mention, even though they promise to finish all this sooner or later.

Voxel Tycoon: Early Version Preview

A slight narrowing of the tracks at the turn before the intersection turned out to be quite an insidious thing – it does not interfere with trains, but the signals on this section may not work correctly, so it is better to space the tracks away from each other.

I was a little upset that the same “voxelness” does not participate in the gameplay in any way. I would like to see how the mining mines gradually “eat up” the ore cube by cube, changing the landscape, it would not hurt at least some kind of simulation of the physics of water and earth – such terraforming is always interesting. In the meantime, you can only dig and pour the earth with the help of a separate tool and indulge in a “bomb”, immediately destroying a huge piece of the surface.

With the help of the first-person view, you can “ride” on any train or car, or even “walk on foot”.

It’s funny that Voxel Tycoon awakens interest in virtual railway construction, but in the end you want to postpone this strategy for the time being and go to master this science in the time-tested OpenTTD or Factorio.

Here, at the moment, only the design can be unambiguously praised: the game instantly has a cozy appearance, user-friendly interface and pleasant music. At first, it seems that the content will match, but in fact, signs of early access are visible literally everywhere – the developers still have a lot of work to do to bring their project closer to the ideal.

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