Sweet Transit is a city builder simulation with a heavy focus on the use of railroads. It launched into Steam early access on July 29, 2022 by solo developer Ernestas Norvaišas and published by Team17. This game gave me great memories of playing the early SimCity given it’s more zoomed out focus, and the tutorials are well detailed, but I quickly got overwhelmed as trains started not working or blocking each other, and it was a tough pool to get out of the deep end.
The tutorials do a very good job at showing you the essential elements to establish a village, build railroads and trains, and setting up train routes. However, I feel they told me too much of what to do without fully explaining why I should have done those things. Like why I needed to build exactly four new residence buildings, or why did I have to plant 120 forest areas. I know now, but only after having spent a couple of frustrating hours making mistakes and learning from them.
Establishing a village was fun and very straight forward. You need to be close to a water source so you can build a fishing dock for food. Residences need to be built to grow your population, and these need to be connected to roads so your workers can move to and from work. Water tanks need to be placed such that every residence has access to water, so you will need multiple towers depending on the housing layout you have constructed. So far so good.
I was enjoying myself a lot in this early stage of Sweet Transit. I understood that to gain access to coal and wood, that I would need to build a coal mine and sawmill, and then connect railroads between my village, a central warehouse and those two resource nodes. Train stations are essential and you need platforms, and creating trains was also self-explanatory with the well-detailed train models. The artwork of the game is outstanding.
I struggled understanding the use of signals. Rail signals essentially maintain the flow and direction of train traffic, as well as separate the railroad into segments. This is useful around where you want the trains to stop and load/unload so that you don’t have trains crashing into each other. Trains don’t actually crash and burn as you would imagine, they just sit in a stalemate position. You’re not actually alerted visually to two trains at gridlock until you wonder why your wood stocks aren’t increasing, and why your workers are getting tired and their efficiency dropping.
We you do eventually spot the issue, the only way I knew how to get myself unstuck was to send one of the trains back to the train depot and to restart their train route. This is only a quick fix as eventually if you don’t work out the route cause, they will just gridlock themselves again. What I eventually figured out after a couple of frustrating hours was that I needed more than a single railroad at major destinations. I thought if I built big enough loops that they trains would get out of each other’s way, but that didn’t happen.
It wasn’t until I quit my first game, starting a fresh one using the Paris pre-set that I realised my mistakes. In this campaign, it appears to be established enough to have a built-up village and rail access to the coal mine. At the village and the coal mine, they had set up dual railroads with bridges connecting them to the platforms. This meant two trains could load/unload at once without causing a gridlock.
This was a head-slap moment for me – of course a single line is going to have issues. No doubt simulation game fans and train enthusiasts would likely not have this issue, but I certainly did and almost quit because of it. Now that I knew that method, my next fresh game progressed much more successfully. I also saw a tip from the game’s Twitter feed that helped too, “When generating a map, try having around 0.25 water and mountains in order to ensure an easier experience for yourself when expanding.”
Sweet Transit functions well for an early access title, and I appreciated the well-illustrated buildings and units. I struggled to gain enough understanding from the tutorials to be able to hit the ground running, but that is likely more a me problem. Watching other players on YouTube and seeing their intricate railroad constructions means other players are getting it, and their games look fantastic. I have a lot of learning ahead of me.
On the game’s Steam page, the developer states the full release is currently scheduled for mid-2023 and until it’s good enough for release. The full version is planned to have the following:
- More farms, factories, city buildings, decorations
- More advanced factory building
- More wagons and goods
- Total of three people types
- New and expansive production chains
- Iterate on terrain generation and immersion
- Improve upon city building, managing and interactions
- Lots of improvements on the main loop, UI, quality of life
If you’re into city builder simulations games and also are a train buff, this game is likely to be right up your alley. This early access review utilised a key provided by Team17 and Sweet Transit is available now on Steam early access.