20 July, 2016

Bounty Train Review

I don't usually review early access(2016-7-19), but for Bounty Train, I figured I may as well

Bounty Train is a game about running a train through the not-so-wild eastern coast of the USA right in during the civil war, trading in the cities and ferrying small amounts of passengers around. It has several ways to make money, and plenty more ways to lose it. But in the end every part of it works great on its own, but is still not really working together as a single whole game just yet.

You can trade, you can customise your train with carriages and historical locomotives, you can do combat when the bandits try to take your money, you can level up, and you can have a chase scene almost straight from a western. It is already entertaining and a pleasant experience, with the base gameplay being solid and simple enough to understand even for someone new to the game. At the same time it allows you enough control to remain interesting after you learn the basics.

The graphics and sound are pleasant, with the world map being a well made stylised view. That is where my first complaint lies. Specifically, with the transition between your train view to the world map. Every single time you do this you get a loading screen, which slows down the game by a lot as anyone who doesn't know US geography will need to go check the world map every time they see a place name to see where it is, and even those who do know will need to check it regularly to see if there is an indian camp or army position at the track they plan to take. This is quite harsh on the flow of the game, especially if you need to switch back and forth multiple time before actually moving your train.

Other negatives are balance issues. As it is early access, I'm not weighing them as much since they are mainly numbers that need tweaking, or things in need of more explaining. For example, the ability to escape from bandits is fun to have, with the chase being interesting and very good at engaging you as you have to control your train. But what it doesn't say is that you have only old trains, and you are not going to go fast enough to escape from anything at all unless you've left most of your wagons at the station. Any train that has enough cargo to make a profit is better off just stopping and shooting the bandits until they stop coming, simply because of the weight of your cargo slowing you down enough to make escape impossible.
At a similar note, often you do not get a chance to escape at all. When the army engages you(Which they will, both north and south will en up hating you for no particular reason other than you existing) you are only given the option to attack them, with no way to escape until time on their barricade runs out. The barricade they have lasts long enough for them to completely destroy your train before you can move on, which will feel like the game just said "Okay, you encounter this event. You lose", rather than it being your fault for your loss until the late game where you can defend against a small army group.

Another balance issue is the weaponry, some of them are just plain better than others, and when the bandits attacking you have these stronger guns and you don't, you do not have a good chance. What is worse is that you can not loot their weaponry; Loot is randomly generated after combat is already over.

While Bounty Train has a lot of potential, it is still unfinished as the Early Access tag says. Even then it is certainly worth keeping an eye on for when they tweak the gameplay and finish adding the rest of it. The price is a bit steep for what is in it at this point, but there is a promise for more, and if you are sceptical about that then there will be a sale for it at some point.

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