This Week I Played Bounty Train

American steam trains? Sign me up!

Trains, I love them. Not just any trains mind you, my love is reserved for steam engines. I’ve spent far too much time mindlessly driving the steam engines in two Red Dead Redemption games. I’ve built vast rail empires in Sid Mid Meier’s Railroads. Neither of those quite scratched the itch I have for what trains could be in games. I want to drive a train, sure. But I also want to do something beyond just making the train go “choo choo”. Enter Bounty Train.

Bounty Train tells you that it is very important that you do the campaign rather than just opening up free roam and driving your train about. The campaign is about the young intrepid protagonist, Walter Reed, attempting to buy fifty-one percent of a railway company. I’ll get back to the campaign in a bit since it doesn’t affect gameplay in any major way.

A full third of loading screens tell you use howitzers against buildings. I never found a howitzer.

On the surface, Bounty Train plays like a commodity trading game. It immediately reminded me of the free version of Port Royale I found online in middle school, only transplanted to the eastern and midwestern United States. The best way to earn money seems to be ignoring the optional missions and playing the economy. Which would be fine, except your train’s measly engine can only pull one car at best. I should have seen this coming. Bounty Train’s marketing is focused on the train’s engine rather than the train as a whole. The phrase “Control true to original locomotives” is true, but only strictly so. Commodity prices are stable enough to make trading profitable. For the most part, you can make good money trading jewelry and steel. Both of these goods are resilient and aren’t highly flammable meaning they’re likely to survive bandit attacks.

That cover outside the train is for the bandits, not you.

Bandits are a complete annoyance in Bounty Train. I’ve found either the encounters to be easily handled or completely overwhelming. What I was led to think was tactical combat, consists of positioning your gunfighters so the one you want to be shot at the most is in front while the rest of your team lazily returns fire. Your crew can’t leave the train which means every shot that misses them is a shot you’ll have to pay to repair later. Plus your train carriages occasionally burst into flames. If an enemy has explosives, you best pray your fighters aren’t in a cargo carriage or the engine. Under the best of circumstances, your repair costs will be a significant portion of what the bandits were demanding in order for you to pass unmolested, plus a pile of time wasted.

I didn’t want to spend the game with my train in working order anyway.

Bounty Train is partially set during the American Civil War. This results in a few very problematic moments. The first of which is that the conflict is very whitewashed. Any reference to the war is devoid of any mention of the reasons for the war. Furthermore, there is a section of the main story where your character’s brother won’t let you progress unless you help him smuggle steel from the Union to the Confederate States. Of course, the game doesn’t bother pointing out this makes you both a war profiteer and a supporter of a regime that rose to power because of slavery.

I understand that given the era in which steam trains existed, any historical game will have to make do with the political realities of the time. But let’s not get caught up in the train romanticism that we literally participate in the support of slavery. This was the final straw for me.

The art and environments are nice.

Bounty Train is not fun. It’s boring and tedious. The UI is inconsistent, some screens show you the distance to your next stop, others time. I constantly found myself bouncing to the world map screen, which is a convenient loading screen away, to see if I could make the next stop in time rather than find the correct UI.

The game could have been better. The combat should have been closer to the combat of XCOM, trains should be allowed to have more than one fully laden carriage, and frankly, the game should have taken a more serious tone given the times it was dealing with.

Bounty Train retails on Steam for $34.99 which is laughably high for what you’re getting. I managed to get it 90% off during the winter holiday sale. I would pay anything to get the time I wasted playing it back.

This Week I Played Bad North

Bad North bills itself as a real-time tactics rogue-lite. I’m not normally a fan of indie games that compare themselves in any way to Rogue. Usually, it seems rogue-like games make poor design the staring feature. Did the world generator give you a bad time with no possible path to survive? That’s apparently okay as long as we compare our game to Rogue. Bad North is not this.

Pikemen are best used from an elevated position.

Gameplay in Bad North consists of selecting islands on a world map to defend from an invading Viking horde. You’re given the island’s basic layout and some idea of the invading forces before you deploy your companies to the island. After a battle, deployed companies will be fatigued. You need to proceed from left to right across the map connecting islands to form a chain. Beware though, because behind you the inescapable flood of Viking based death comes.

Bad North is a beautiful game and a delightful experience. The first thing I noticed was the simplicity of its tutorial. It told you exactly what you needed to discover how the game works and nothing more. The user interface is delightfully minimal and the controls are completely intuitive. This makes the game’s challenges, regardless of their difficulty, feel fair.

Archers are great for making sure the invading Vikings never reach the shore.

Where most tactical games allow you to pause, Bad North gives no quarter. When you select a company to move time slows greatly, but doesn’t stop. You’re quickly trained into a mindset of making snap decisions and making the best of the consequences. Unlike pure rogue-likes, there is some respite.

About and after an hour nail-biting battle I stumbled upon a checkpoint. At the moment it came I was relieved. For the purists out there this feature can be deactivated, but I am not a tactical genius so I’ll take every advantage I can.

As I said at the beginning, this sort of game isn’t my usual. I don’t know how well it stacks up against similar games. I have managed to play a few hours in as many days and I’ve enjoyed myself. Which is, ultimately, the point.

Bad North: Jotunn Edition is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, iOS, and Android. There is a free demo on Steam. At the time of publication, Bad North is available as part of the Xbox Game Pass.

For more information, visit www.badnorth.com/

Sometimes you just have to hide.

All images were provided as part of the Bad North press kit.

First Post: Hello Word

Hello internet. The goal of this website is to be an outlet for my creative side. I’m an engineer who likes to be a Rottweiler on the internet. I play a lot of TTRPGs and Video games. I’m an author, but my only paid credit is under my IRL handle, so I won’t be posting about it here. My goal is to get some writing credits under my furry fandom handle. I will be sure to keep this space updated as that happens.

I am an adult. As such some of the things I post here will be of an adult nature. This blog is an outlet for me therefore its content will be well rounded. NSFW posts will be tagged as such and I’ll keep any explicit discussion after the break.

It is nice to meet you. I hope you like what I have to say.