Bounty Train is a strategy type RPG, at first I didn’t think it was much like an RPG and placed it more in the rouge-like genre with games such as FTL, however after playing the game and learning more about it’s features it definitely fit more into the RPG category. Surrounding a very western theme of the 19th century using historically accurate events and trains to guide a story, you play as Walter Reed in a somewhat tycoon-esque game.
As with most games the first thing you come across is the sounds and visuals, when you start up the game you are introduced with the typical upbeat sounds of the wild west. Already setting you in the mood to stroll in to a saloon as you approach the bartender and with your best cowboy accent greet them with a “Howdy partner” And when you see the image of Walter Reed, with his red sash and hat, you fit the role even more. The actual graphics of the game are quite nicely done, however the cabins of each train segment don’t have animated doors, so when you traverse from one area to another, you walk through the door. This also happens when you attempt to stop a bandit from uncoupling your train, you will start to fight through the wooden walls with Walter Reed’s seemingly unfounded strength, who knew he could do that.
Once your battles have finished and you explorer the wider world you are accompanied by new music, it is no longer the intense cacophony of battle ready music, but the soothing winds and outdoor sounds as you look down on the ‘World Map’. Here you can select which cities you wish the travel too and once you have selected and entered into a town, a new form of music accompanied by immersive sound effects such as birds tweeting and people chattering to give you a sense of where you are. The changes from each area definitely help to create what kind of setting you are in currently.
As mentioned you play as one Walter Reed, a money orientated cowboy with his sights on leaving America as soon as possible. After receiving some news about his departed father, Walter doesn’t seem very moved by the deceased, instead his first thoughts are on what his father has left him after his death. It is here that Walter finds out that the shares his father had in a train company has been split amongst himself and his siblings, meaning Walter now owns 11% of the company, a train and $43,000. But there is a catch, he can only get the $43,000 on completion of a transcontinental railway, from the east coast of America to the west. Walter isn’t the brightest person on the planet, thinking that an operation like this would take a mere month and is confronted with the fact it could take up to a decade. The trouble doesn’t end there, if he wants that money sooner, he will have to get the line built in the shortest route possible, which is what his father would want, but there is an obstacle in his way by the name of Cornellius Tilberdnar (I have no idea how to say it either).
The definition of visibly dastardly, it is Cornellius’ wish to take the transcontinental railway through Native American lands which is a longer route and could mean the death of many natives. Though I don’t think that is his top priority when he is the spitting image of a man that ties people to railway lines while twisting his curly moustache and playing dramatic music on a piano that appears out of no where. It is your job to visit all of your siblings and convince them to change their vote from Cornellius to you and get the Railway built on the shortest route.
After following a short tutorial that guides you through the battle situations you may come across in the game you will notice that it seems to be based on tycoon mechanics. The main of which is based on trade, seeing what is being sold in one city and bought in another, you can transport these goods between the cities to quickly receive some money. This is not the only way to earn a quick buck or two, you can go to the city hall of each town and request a contract that asks you to deliver items to a different city or you bring back items to the city you are in. Along with this you can deliver post or transport passengers from town to town. The latter of which can help you boost your reputation with one of the four factions in the world, helping you build your status in the wild west.
Once you’ve earned your piece, there are a multitude of ways to spend that cash, there are three main areas where you money will probably go. The first of the three is licenses, each railway line between cities requires you to spend a bit of your hard earned money to acquire the license to travel these lines and expand you client area. The second is based on your train, in the depot of each town you can upgrade parts of each train, be it the amount of storage you take on, how much coal your train requires or just the general well-being of each train cart. This is one of the biggest money pits as you will have, spending a lot of your money buying upgrades and vehicles to attach to your train. Lastly you will hire crew members to help you out on the train when going from town to town, each crew member will have their speciality. Be it being good at range or melee, each member will help you greatly and to get things going you are given Andrew, a friend of your father in the beginning.
When you are done with the bigger picture and want to move from one city to another, you may come across an encounter similar to the tutorial based one. It is a random encounter and feels a bit like playing Pokemon, but instead of wandering around in tall grass looking for that elusive creature, you travel down train lines getting jumped by Bandits and Native Americans alike. Asking for your hard earned cash, the cheek, but you can refuse and try to flee or decided that you want what they have and fight them head on. During these fights (Which is most likely what you will end up doing, because who’s going to give a couple of Bandits $400) you must drive the train and stop the intruders from boarding your train, you can do this by shooting at them or pulling your horn to scare the horses. If they do board your train you have to stop them from uncoupling the carts and stealing your cargo.
When the battle ends you are shown what you have received in terms of items and experience, this experience goes towards your characters levelling up and the items can be put in their inventory. A level up will give you the option of doing one of three things, upgrading their power up, a particular skill or a passive ability, items include medical herbs that can help in a pinch or bombs to get rid of those pesky heavy gun users. It seems that difficulty is time based, the more you play the harder the encounters get, no matter how many people or how much cargo you have. Although you are more likely to get into an encounter when transporting more valuable goods.
Whilst I played the game I never felt like I was playing an early access, I didn’t encounter any bugs for the game, nor did I feel that it was lacking anything so I wasn’t certain why it still had the title of “Early Access” perhaps the developers want to make sure that everything is to their standards before a full release. However due to this fact I would rate it a bit lower than if it was actually out for release for fear that it could fall under the early access curse, and this poor game could be abandoned by the side of the road by its developers leaving the community that backed it heart broken. By the looks of the updates it may not go this way.
I did enjoy playing this game, it wasn’t what I first expected but finding out the tycoon aspects and money making features of the game made me love it even more (I’m a sucker for a good tycoon game) also featuring a sandbox version meaning you can explorer and trade and earn as much as your heart desires.
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