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24Sep/12

Game of the Week – TrainStation

By Huel Fuchsberger

Model trains always had a charm that appealed to many people. Not to the masses, but still to a reasonable amount of people. A good example for that is Pixelfederation’s TrainStation. Launched in October 2010 it now has 520,000 MAU and 110,000 DAU. Those are not incredible numbers, but this game is still worth taking a closer look at.

Developer/Publisher: Pixel Federation
Genre:  Simulation, Strategy
Languages:  English, German, French, Spanish, Turkish, Slovak, Polish, Indonesian, Italian, Rumanian, Dutch
Platforms:  Facebook, Browser
Active users (Facebook): 520,000 MAU 110,000 DAU

How to play

The player is in charge of his own train station and trains. His objective is to move passengers, mail and freight cars to earn gold, resources and experience points (XP). As he increases in level, he also moves forward in the time line of railroad history. This unlocks new trains, cargo and themes for purchase. Themes are upgrades for the train station that change the look of the station and unlock new buildings, trains and cars of the themes era. The player starts with a western theme and steam trains. Later he can unlock locations like Venice or Japan and upgrade his trains up to Maglev-style trains.

The game play boils down to finding the balance between transporting mail and people or gathering resources with the given trains. Moving people/mail earns the player gold. Resources are needed to construct buildings and to purchase new themes and upgrades. The player can also try to fulfill contracts for neighbors and earn bonus XP and rare rail cars.

All of this results in a fairly complex game that has much to offer. Unfortunately many players will be turned off by the very steep leveling-curve.

The though deep end

The tutorial guides the player up to level 12. Although the tutorial is not the best of its kind, those first 12 levels still breeze along in one play session. Unlocked trains, rail cars and buildings stay affordable with every level up. This accessibility changes after the tutorial.

Significant new things as themes or new engine types are beyond reach for the player. Especially for those who don’t wish to pay. Gathering the needed resources and reaching the needed level can take a lot of time. It is quite an effort to get to new themes, eras or trains. For example, the first theme is available at level 20. The average player will probably need a week to reach that level if he logs in 3-5 times a day. Not ensuring that he then has the needed resources to buy the theme when he unlocks it. Buying it with the premium currency is not an option for everyone. A deep pocket is needed, since the cost of themes and engines are significant. This is likely to scare of those who don’t want to invest deeply into TrainStation. Only persistent players will experience the deeper end of this game.

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