Over the last couple of days I’ve been sinking quite a few hours into RollerCoaster Tycoon World. You may well have heard of its troubled development. It’s now onto its third studio and up against stiff competition in the shape of Planet Coaster, so the knives were well and truly sharpened ahead of its Early Access launch.
The initial blitz has been quite something to behold, with plenty laying into it for its buggy, incomplete state, garnering a Most Negative rating on Steam. It’s a steep uphill battle out of that situation, but I still find myself befuddled about how people can get so up in arms about a game which the developer so readily admits is an unfinished project.
So RollerCoaster Tycoon World is by no means the genuine article. Yet. You don’t have to look far or hard to find problems. That’s the nature of an incomplete game. If that doesn’t appeal to you, just wait until the final version and the final verdicts. I have to say though, what actually is there is a hugely enjoyable core of a game, albeit one that needs some serious fine-tuning.
Bear in mind as well that I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone into theme park management games an unreasonable amount. My childhood was spent clicking away in Theme Park before graduating to RollerCoaster Tycoon. I get a kick out of building great looking spaces and these games have always serviced that fantastically.
Right out of the box you do have a fair number of options available to, including the husk of a campaign mode and quite a large number of unique scenarios. I’ve only been doing the first campaign mission so far, which takes you through the basics and tasks you with building a moderately successful park.
Those familiar with RollerCoaster Tycoon will settle in fairly quickly. The most immediate change is the switch away from a grid based system. I mean, it’s still there, but you can layer over any permutation of curved paths and tracks to get your theme park looking less like city centre LA.
The improved customisation tools are a double edged sword in RCTW though. Despite packing in 30+ rides and I believe 10 or so coaster types, the actual terrain and scenery customisation is very lacking. There’s no themed items really to speak of whatsoever. I sculpted a nice hill with a cliff face on one side and a sharp jaggy path on the other, before plonking down a murderous lookin haunted house of course. That looked neat and felt like some powerful tools, but as soon as I wanted to drop in some spooky lights and gravestones I hit a dead end.
Now obviously a lot of this is going to be coming as part of (hopefully) regular content updates, while players can create their own objects and share them in-game or via the Steam Workshop. I don’t think relying on others to solve the problem is an acceptable answer though, so I’m looking forward to them getting implemented by Nvizzio eventually.
Likewise rides and shops are also a little limited. There are no water rides, indoor coasters, transport rides, or much theming to speak of whatsoever really. Again it’s the lack of content rather than the quality of it. What is there looks fantastic, and what’s impressed me most has definitely been the rides now being a realistic size. In previous games you’d plonk down a pirate ship and it would take up a 1x6 block, but here a simple ride like that can appear gigantic, as it would in real life.
Coasters are impressive as well, with huge entrances and proper queuing systems which tick a lot of boxes. Track design is iterative rather than revolutionary, but you can place track pieces and actually drag and stretch them in real time. It makes building them a fairly pain-free process, although the act of actually connecting two tracks together can be a nightmare without employing the old grid system. You’re also limited much more by real world physics, so coasters can fly off the track easily, struggle up inclines are come in too fast to the finish. I found just pushing and playing with the boundaries here a lot of fun. Should you want to just stick to the management though then there are pre-built coasters, and you can download other people’s designs also.
For all that though, practically everything in this package has its downsides. I’ve had paths disappear on me. The menus need serious work. It’s crashed a couple of times. Performance can be juddery during coaster cam. Park visitors have a serious habit of glitching out. It’s nearly impossible to track your theme park staff. There’s a lack of scenery objects. You can’t build curved queues. Terraforming is far too slow. Ultimately it’s early access though, and the job for Atari and Nvizzio now is to stamp these out as best they can. A roadmap has already been laid out and in next week’s update there’s a huge list of bug fixes, a new ride, and roofless coaster stations.
I think the best thing I can say about RollerCoaster Tycoon World is that despite its laundry list of faults, I’ve still found myself having a huge amount of fun and clicking away until well past midnight. The bones are there for a more accomplished product, but if you have any doubts then I don't hesitate in suggesting you take a wait and see approach.