A mad scientist type called John Merrick had this great idea to get rid of the greenhouse effect by blowing up a couple of nuclear bombs at each pole. It would have been a good idea, if the scientists had not completely naffed it up and plunged the world into a never-ending nuclear winter.
Several centuries later, and thermal underwear is still fashionable, and the only transport between cities is via a huge rail network controlled by a bunch of bad guys called the Viking Union. Playing the part of a good guy who has discovered a possible way to break the hold of the winter, and thus destroy the power of the Vikings, you manage to nick a train, and set out on a mission to discover the secrets of a cold and dangerous world...
I am sure you know the sort of thing. Travel between cities do a bit of trading, blow up a few enemies, chat to philosophers and follow up rumors which could lead you to your eventual destination.
To the posthumous delight of Arthur and the NUM, the only source of energy left is coal, which fuels your locomotive and acts as currency. Occasionally, a message will direct you to a newly discovered mine, where you can prospect for coal, if you have the appropriate equipment.
Cities can be of four types: commercial (selling miscellaneous goods), industrial (manufacture and sale of wagons), slave markets (work it out for yourself) and mammoth fairs. These are not big fun fairs with lots of candyfloss, but meetings where you can buy or sell any mammoths you may have bumped into on the way. Did I mention them? No? Oh. Well, given the cold weather, woolly mammoths have made a comeback. They are good for heavy transport and you can use the dung as a face pack.
You meet herds of them wandering around and are given the option of rounding a few up in true Wild West fashion. Or rather, your slaves do, since all you get is a screen telling you how many you have captured.
Occasionally, when you enter a town, a rumor (general gossip which may prove helpful) will be available. Do not worry, they are not hard to find. Instead of the usual trading icons, you get the icons for receiving rumors and research, both of which reward you with three lines of text in something close to, but not quite English. Big deal. It is usually either a fact or a hint pointing you in another direction.
Whether this makes any sense or not is another matter. You do not get anything else, just a short hint or fact. This is where the game starts to have problems. Apart from moving around the map, there is relatively little interactivity. You never really feel like you are quite in control of your own destiny, even when you are in pitched battle with one of the Viking battle trains.
Tracks of my tears
You can arm your train with machine-guns and cannons, as well as employing troops and war mammoths in order to beat up the opposition. It is all very well, but about as exciting as standing on the end of a platform taking down train's numbers as they pass you buy.
The animation for the troops and mammoths is, to put it politely, poor, and would be more at home on a C64 than an Amiga. You can move your train back and forth on a short stretch of track and blast the opponent's wagons, or send out troops to plant explosives, but you are more likely to give up in disgust. Fortunately, the train conflict can be turned off, and the result decided by the computer.
You do not expect scrolling shoot-em-up-type action from a game of this genre, but it is not unreasonable to expect some degree of choice and freedom.
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