Lahftel
Lahftel
Lahftel, some guy with lots of lukewarm takes on video games. Mostly responsible for the FFXIV section and some verity content. Big Nerd. Top guy, smart guy, educated speaker.

Sweet Transit Early Access Preview – Getting Steamy in the City

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Transportation and City Sim Sweet Transit launches strong into Early Access. Here are Lahftel's thoughts after a weekend with the title.


Damn, I really, really like trains.

I did not know what exactly Sweet Transit was until I installed it, honestly, had I known what it was before I would've already stood in line on launch day. Despite being in Early Access, Sweet Transit already feels like a complete product. Yes, it is still somewhat bare-bones, but the gameplay loop is already rather addicting. No surprise being, since the game is being developed by Ernestas Norvaišas one of the minds behind Factorio. Which itself is probably the closest we'll ever get to digital drugs.

Sweet Transit follows in that tradition by being made up of several addictive gameplay loops that seamlessly click into each other. But instead of fighting aliens and ceasing the means of production by stripping an alien world bare. You find yourself managing an upstart town, well on its way to becoming a global superpower.

It all begins by slapping down a warehouse and then follows the foundation of a village. A few houses, some water towers, roads and a station. Then you have to ensure that everyone has something to eat, so you are recommended to build near a source of water for quick access to fish. That can be either a small lake or the coast of a vast ocean on your procedurally generated map.

Thanks to a light progression system, the game will slowly ease you into the many resources and mechanics while gradually introducing more options for you to mess around with. Some of those unlocks can make your life a lot easier, but you are encouraged not to progress too fast. Whenever you hit a milestone, you should take some time and look at what you've built. Figure out if there are any bottlenecks and make sure not to build too cluttered. You would not believe how easily a small impromptu solution can mess everything up a few hours later.

So you start out by mining coal, for that, we have to get workers via train to the coal mine and back. We also have to get coal to our town to be able to refuel and the excess to our warehouse. For this you create trains with specific tasks, one to constantly swap out the workers at the mine and one to get the cargo from the mine wherever you want it to go. Now you also want to be able to swap workers and load/unload cargo at the same time. So build larger train stations with multiple railways in order to speed things up.

That's how it starts and as you progress, more materials are added for you to farm, transport and eventually process and transport again. Same as with Factorio, it never ends. What starts out as a simple loop, soon spirals out of control and it will eventually become a mess of your own making. That's when I drop everything and start over. Because I might as well start fresh when I have to rebuild everything anyway. And that's quite fun. Even if I've had some working knowledge of trains from the developer's previous outing, you still end up learning more and more.

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There are always little faults to shave off, some small errors or little tricks that make it vastly easier the next time around. The best tip you can give with those games is that you should probably space everything out and try to keep things organized. Try to create some kind of module-based transit system that you can easily intergrade more and more without your layout of railways looking like a plate of spaghetti.

All the functions of signals that are used to communicate to your trains when they can access certain rails can give way to some fascinating solutions. The system especially shines when you have to get as many trains as possible through tight spaces or over a river. And that is probably the most addicting aspect of it, the tiny dopamine releases you get from figuring out a big brain solution to a mess you created.

Where Sweet Transit currently slacks a little, is probably the city-building sim aspect of its gameplay. It's fairly easy to keep your workers happy, and there never seems to be any crisis for you to manage that can't be solved by ‘build better railways'. But in the same vein, I also understand that Sweet Transit wants to be a cosy game about logistics and spiralling away into a trance until you realize it's 5 am again and you have a deadline to meet. And in that, the game succeeds already massively. It takes what was my favourite aspect about Factorio and makes it the focus.

My current problems come at large from the grid-based map. It feels like you sacrifice lots of estate and opportunities by being able to place rails in a perfect diagonal and horizontal direction, but not buildings. Wouldn't mind if the buildings stay like this, but please let me at least place train stations along the rails, so it doesn't feel like I'm playing Minecraft.

And while the progression system is deliciously simple, I would much enjoy it if I could spend my surplus money on early unlocks or additional resources. The other way around, it would also be great to be able to sell my surplus resources, but I can see how this is meant to discourage overproduction. And I wonder for the future if natural resources like coal can run out and you'll have to relocate, and if the addition of season's to the game can encourage players to stock up on food for the winter.

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Conclusion

I have enjoyed watching my life spiral out of control once again, while I enjoy my new addiction. Sweet Transit will probably join other mainstays of games I play idle on the side only to spiral down into another addiction. Everything that is already in the game is super solid, at least if you're really into the logistics aspect of it. The city building is kind of flat because there are no interesting decisions to be made here. Something along the lines of having people work less for increased happiness, but to counter this you have to build out your transportation network.

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Ernestas Norvaišas has already delivered a technically solid base, which makes me excited for the future of the game. So… Just give me more things to manage? Maybe add some unique challenges or goals to meet with limited resources? Personally, I'm perfectly fine with optimizing the hell out of a map by just loading in. But I can see some players won't find much joy in the lack of direction a normal save currently has. Yes, you slowly progress towards bigger and better but there is no goal to strive towards.

While it is addressed on the roadmap and will come soon, the current lack of statistics to track your production output and throughput really stings in the late game. I'd also like to see some kind of analytical tool which can help me figure out which rails see a lot of traffic. Because once you really get going, it can get confusing really quickly. I do hope however that in the future, we'll see factors be added to the current gameplay loop. Maybe something along the lines of having to maintain both your rails and your trains.

Another idea is adding tourism. Where you have to build a solid system to just transfer passengers about, hell add public transport as well once your towns develop into cities. Perhaps even go the Sim City 4 road of having multiple maps connect with each other!

The sky is the limit here, and Sweet Transit has only entered early access last week. I find it however a little concerning that there is not much in terms of future plans for the title. While it is admirable to be open to suggestions from the community, I fear a little for a lack of direction for the game. But all of that is left to be seen, we'll definitely keep you posted if anything changes. But so far, Sweet Transit is super solid and hits all the marks if you don't go in expecting an in-depth city builder, at least not yet. I'll still give it a heartfelt recommendation if you're looking for something a little more relaxed.

Early Access Code provided by Team17.

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