All Aboard as the Defective Inspector takes to the rails with a look at Jan Zeleny's Mashinky...
Before I begin, imagine you are in the year 1994. Chris Sayer and Sid Meier were in some sort of frantic war about who could create the best transport based game. In one corner the multi-transport and slightly bubbly Transport Tycoon (TTD). The other showing off impressive logistics and stalwart determination Railroad Tycoon. It was beautiful, two magnificent corporate-sims that indulged our monopolistic desires. Fast-forward to today and neither Chris or Sid are all that keen in the transport saga and the franchises seem to be dropping off. Step in Jan Zelený, a man who saw a chance to mix to two styles into one game leading to the spiritual successor Mashinky.
As you probably already guessed Mashinky is (currently) a Railroad based tycoon simulator where you are the owner of a corporate mega giant in the making. You start by connecting a couple of buck-tooth towns with ridiculous names like Southampton or Derby and progress your way to interconnecting goods, services while investing in nearby infrastructures to inflate your ever-growing coffers. To keep things more interesting than simply expanding there is an era mechanic. It’s similar to Age of Empires or Rise of Nations that you must spend a game based currency to invest in research which will launch you forward to the next game. While the current focus is locomotive centric the development timeline and wiki suggest that there will be boats, cars, vans and planes. So the core mechanics scream modern day Transport Tycoon with a refined edge.
The refinement can clearly be seen in the isometric graphics overhaul. While the construction mode is very blocky and linear there is an option to enter “realistic mode” which provides a well-polished visually beautiful world where the detail is admirable for any title let alone an early access game. Couple this with impressive 3D detail, carefully designed buildings and seasonal customisation there is no doubt in my mind that once fully completed there is potential to appease simulator fans to a reasonable degree without isolating the everyday player. To add to the atmosphere Zelený has tapped into the digital jazz matrix which was so prominent in TTD and created his own version, that was a nice touch and an enjoyable trip down memory lane. I also enjoyed the simple mechanic of drag and drop railroad line placement, you have know NO idea how much I hated TTD rail placement.
I cannot stress one point however; this game is very early access. While there is strong solid foundation with a couple of bugs lingering in the bushes there is still a lot of content to be developed and released. Currently you only have 2 available Eras (Steam I and II) and based on the realistic goals set by the developer there is still about 75% content left to go. Furthermore, the future promises mod-inclusive content which does provide an almost limitless potential future for a game like this. To this day people are still modding the open source TTD and it wouldn’t surprise me if Mashinky takes that fanbase by storm once the steam workshop opens up (I welcome any and all puns on that day). Based on deadlines you may have to patiently enjoy playing with the trains in the Steam Era for a least a few months. That’s not a terrible thing mind you, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but it is something worth thinking about.
In the event the game is completed, and all goals are achieved, we are in for one hell of a time. Challenging features include modding, multiplayer, level editing, multiple eras, 28 industries, 7 eras and likely lots more music and graphic models. You are always investing in a game at the early access stage and should Zelený succeed in ticking all the boxes the current price tag is more than worth it. A kind reminder that the likelihood of success tends to increase with the continued support from the community.
Overall Mashinky is a beautiful and ingenious revival of a classic game model with plenty of room to grow. While it is unfinished it has enough to keep any ardent player happy and with a target to complete the game in 2019 I shall enjoy riding the rails for the next 2 years. ALL ABOARD!
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Images - Steam
Buy the game on Steam