Game: Railway Empire
Genre: Simulation | Strategy
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam & Console)
Developers | Publishers: Gaming Minds Studios | Kalypso Media Group
Age Rating: EU 3 | US E |AUS G
Price: USD $39.99 | AUD $64.99 | CAD $55.64 | UK £35.99 | EU €39,99
Release Date: 19th June 2020
Review code used, with many thanks Kalypso Media Group
Railway Empire is a simulation, strategy game that was previously released on Steam in 2018 and has now changed tracks and rolled on to the Nintendo Switch.
Starting in the 1830 and set over one hundred years, Railway Empire puts you in control of running a railway in the New World of the USA in the final stages of the Trans-Continental race to establish the most powerful and economical rail network across the USA, before your AI competitors beat you to it.
At the start of the five-chapter main campaign which loosely follows major railroad events of the 1800’s, the opening stages of the campaign are where you learn the finer workings of running a rail empire. It teaches you the basics of track building and signal settings as you lay your first lines between Omaha and Norfolk for your very first locomotive and on across the vast plains of America. Your are joined by a person of significance from that era at the side of the screen to offer advice and help you along.
Laying down tracks from point A to B is a simple enough exercise and the game figures out the easiest way between the to point’s, creating bridges and tunnels as it goes. Though its not necessarily the cheapest way, you can adjust the track to make it less expensive but simply dragging it into position to cut down on costs.
Unfortunately the instructions in Railway Empire are a bit vague and the control system input for the buttons to press are a little weird. For example, when laying a track you click on one end of the track and drag it to the next station to connect it, then you’ll need to not only hit one button to lock in your drawn out track, but you need to hit another button to physically build it and that’s not made clear during the tutorial. This did take a bit of getting used to as it’s not an intuitive control system by any means and it might put some players off, but if you perverse with it and it eventually sinks in what the buttons to press, you’ll be building up an Rail Empire in no time.
Blow The Whistle
Once you have laid the tracks you’ll need to add in some supply towers and buy a locomotive to run the route. There are two modes for track laying, a normal mode where trains pass through each other on the tracks or realistic mode where trains require proper side tracks and signals. So, it’s important to make sure you have signals and side tracks on the route to stop the trains backing up and delaying their progress to the next destination.
There are different trains to purchase for your routes, from freight trains to passenger trains, in all there are 40 train models to pick from and all of them are detailed in their designs. I don’t know a lot about trains but they certainly looked pretty accurate in their detail to me. You can also choose to ride along with the train and your given a first person view from the engine drivers perspective, you can even blow the trains whistle at the press of a button, for some reason this amused me no end and brought a smile to my face as the train stopped at the station and I blew the whistle.
Mind The Gap
The cities play a vital part in Railway Empire, as you progress you’ll need to build maintenance hubs and purchase faster, fancier trains. Working out the best routes from city to city, what each city needs in terms of production and you’ll also need to connect farms and industries to the rail route to supply the cities with the goods they need to expand. Such as transporting cotton from one farm to a plant that makes fabric, then transporting that fabric to a clothing factory, to finally ship the finished product to New York City.
Who knew that playing with trains could be a pretty satisfying experience! Watching as a tiny town slowly develops into a growing, thriving city with lots of trains in and out of the station, and this is always an appealing part of playing a simulation game, watching your empire grow bigger and better. You’ll also hire staff, railway staff like a conductor and office staff who can give you a bonus such as faster unloading times or lower construction costs.
You’re not on your own while doing all that, as you have AI competitors to keep an eye on too as they are all trying to do the same as you and strike it rich. Purchasing stocks and buying out your competitors comes into play as well, as does the chance to sabotage your competitors, and take them out of the race.
Railway Empire has a research tree similar to the Civilization games that allows you to unlock engines and other upgrades as you progress through the game. With over 300 technologies to develop, from mechanical improvements to the trains themselves to workplace infrastructures and advanced amenities as you progress through the five eras of technological innovations. Though again I feel this could have been explained a lot better to the player than it is during the gameplay, as I had to look for some online help to read up on it before I felt I had a handle on it.
Modes and DLC
There are a couple of different modes to play in Railway Empire apart from the Campaign mode, there is a scenario mode where you are set certain tasks to complete which adds in more complexity and variety. A free mode and sandbox mode where you can let loose with your own creations across the vast Wild West of America.
The Nintendo Switch version of Railway Empire has been released with the additional content of Mexico, The Great Lakes and Crossing the Andes already in the game and it also introduces the night and snow modes into the gameplay. You have the option of adding to that with the three DLC’s, Great Britain and Ireland, Germany, France that can be purchased separately in the eShop.
I bought the Great Britain and Ireland DLC and have been having tremendous fun building a rail road across Northern Ireland, from Belfast across the Irish Sea to England along a route I recognize and to cities I’ve been to. Buying the other two DLC’s is on my list now too, as I want to continue building my rail empire across the rest of Europe.
Visuals and Controls
As I’ve said, the trains in Railway Empire are presented in detail and the surrounding’s, stations and towns when you zoom in and out look great too. Some of the menu items could be a bit bigger so they are easier to read, but that’s a usual gripe I have with most games.
The sounds effects are superb, from the whistle of the train, the chug, hiss, and clickety-clack of the steam trains on the tracks, to the hubbub of the crowd sounds when you’re hovering over a town or city, all backed up by an appropriate old time western soundtrack and voice acting.
The game controls are fiddly to get the hang of as I’ve mentioned, but other than that the game runs pretty well on the Switch, I haven’t had any crashes or glitches while playing it.
Railway Empire is a deep, engrossing simulation strategy game. Once you get the hang of the controls and the finer points of running a mega railway empire, you’ll spend many hours playing with trains. For train enthusiasts this is the game you need and for those of us that are looking for their next strategy simulation hit then look no further than Railway Empire!
That only leaves me with one thing to say before I rush off to carry on building my vast rail empire across the UK and transport some much needed meat to those hungry folk in Kilkenny, my score is…
Final Verdict:Two Thumbs Up