Golden Rails: Small Town Story
Golden Rails: Small Town Story is a time management game very similar to the “12 Labours of Hercules” series and while it contains all the gameplay elements you would expect from a time management game, it does add a few new interesting twists to the standard mechanics. You will still need to focus on collecting resources and trading them for other resources, removing obstacles to open up new paths, construct production buildings, but some of these things are made easier, while others are slightly changed.
For one, the resources produced by buildings are now automatically collected after some time, or alternatively you can collect them yourself by mouse hovering over them. Either way, there’s no need to keep track of when the buildings finish producing any more, and this eases the gameplay a lot. On the other hand, many of the levels are built around a train mechanic that periodically brings in a larger quantity of resources to their corresponding stations. These have to first be repaired and then further upgraded to be capable of receiving bigger quantities, and you will also have to reroute the trains to their corresponding stations. Like in other similar games, some of the environmental resources replenish automatically after some time (you can harvest bushes over and over again), but other types of resources will require a manual refill. Cut down trees throughout the level map will grow back again (and be ready for a new round of harvesting) after you talk to a shaman that calls in the rain, or the water tower will have to be periodically refilled so that the surrounding buildings are actively producing.
While in other titles from this genre you can upgrade your workers 2-3 times, in Golden Rails: Small Town Story this is permitted much more and the reason for this is the upgrade mechanic of the production buildings. The workers will not only collect items from the environment, fight off bandits, save hostages, repair the train rails etc, but they can also be assigned / hired for production buildings. A level 2 production building can have either 0, 1 or 2 workers assigned and this number controls its output. As long as your production buildings are upgraded, you can adjust the number of resources you get from a certain type by moving around the workers you have available.
So overall it’s of course still a planning game, but the planning in Golden Rails: Small Town Story is a bit varied from what you’re used to in other time management games. It’s more of a “think big” kind of thing, rather than “plan the order of each step”. Yet even if there are so many mechanics, the levels feel very balanced and you can also influence the gameplay furthermore by selecting the most appropriate set of bonuses before each level (speed / more resources / less costs for hiring workers etc.). There are also three difficulties to choose from (that can be switched at any point), with all achievements being obtainable no matter the difficulty (playing the game on easy mode, without timers, will also award you 3 stars for a level). The stars that you get from completing levels can be used in a separate city panel view where you can spend them on building and upgrading the main buildings encountered in the game (this has only a cosmetic purpose, but it’s very nice to see the city fully rebuilt in the end). Also, in terms of achievements, there are no silly requirements like “beat the developer score on X level”, kudos to that.
I really enjoyed playing Golden Rails: Small Town Story, it brought some new fun mechanics to the genre. The background story isn’t anything spectacular and sometimes it doesn’t make much sense either, but the levels are solid and extremely entertaining. It’s a game that will likely appeal to both experienced and novice time management fans because of its flexible difficulty and the many ways you can adjust your gameplay.