Transarctica

Tagged: Game

Videogame (1993; vt Arctic Baron in the US). Silmarils. Designed by André Rocques. Platforms: Amiga, AtariST, DOS (1993); Mac (1994).

Transarctica is set in the world of La Compagnie des Glaces ["The Ice Company"], a sequence of novels by G-J Arnaud (see France). In Arnaud's fiction, a twenty-first century attempt to mitigate global warming caused by the greenhouse effect (see Climate Change) goes badly wrong, surrounding the Earth with eternal dust clouds and blotting out the sky (see Ecology; Nuclear Winter). Civilization is shattered by the abrupt arrival of a new Ice Age; centuries later all that remains are a few shrunken towns and the giant armoured steam trains that travel endlessly between them. The player adopts the role of the "Arctic Baron", an idealistic rebel and master of one such train – the titular Transarctica – who is dedicated to bringing back the sun (see Dying Earth).

The visuals are a mixture of two-dimensional displays and static images; the most commonly used screen is a map on which the course of the player's train can be guided in plan view. The gameplay, however, is essentially that of a Space Sim on rails. Players must spend much of their time mining coal and trading in mammoths, slaves and other items if they are to acquire the resources needed to maintain their train and its crew. Meanwhile, they must fight or avoid the battle trains of the Viking Union, which dominates this winter world and does not want to see it change, while searching for clues which might reveal the long lost nature of the catastrophe. As is traditional for the exploration form of Space Sim, the player's train can be upgraded in several ways, including the addition of missile launchers, goods wagons and observation cars as well as the purchase of small railroad cars for reconnaissance. Various kinds of wanderers can be met in the ice fields, including nomadic merchants and the degenerate descendants of the workers who built the global railway network. Despite the erratic quality of the English translation and its occasionally frustrating gameplay, Transarctica is a unique work which makes good use of its exotic world. [NT]

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