Railway Empire Review
I’ve been a fan of trains ever since I was young; I’ve owned electric train sets, LEGO train sets, and have played my fair share of train simulation titles. Nothing ever grabbed my attention, however, like the great old title, Transportation Tycoon Deluxe. Although not entirely based on just trains, it was the main element to the game. I enjoyed moving goods and people from one site to another, growing cities, and amassing some riches. Until Railway Empire, nothing has tickled that nostalgic itch for me, that is until Railway Empire on the Xbox One. But how well does this simulation title hold up with an Xbox One controller? Read on to find out!
Gameplay Will Make or Break This Title on Xbox One
Somehow, someway, Railway Empire just works on the Xbox One, despite me going in thinking it wouldn’t. My expectations were pretty low, which may have contributed to my excitement when I realised just how well it worked. I think it all comes down to the speed of movement. Getting around the map using the left thumb stick, while zooming and rotating with the right stick, is fast, easy, and keeps the game flowing at a great pace. There is no slow methodical scroll as you search the map for towns you want to connect rails to. Instead, the developers have made sure the pace is up, making you feel like you have more control than you normally would in a game like this.
Using the triggers to pull up radial menus also works really great; while in general I’m not a fan of radial menus, in a game like Railway Empire, where a few seconds isn’t the difference between life and death, it is actually a really great, organized system for all your building needs. One tab will bring up your current objectives, one will allow you to build stations, supply towers, signals, and more; and another will allow you to lay down track, which is as simple as clicking between two stations, and then adjusting the rail to fit your need and price point.
Perhaps it was because I went in with a preconceived notion that the controls would be awful, or perhaps other titles have just completely turned me off, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well Railway Empire handles on the Xbox One.
Numerous Modes, Lots to Do
There is no shortage of scenarios to play through and open maps to explore. Through the first 5 campaign scenarios, you will be taught the ins and outs of Railway Empire, and while I’m always tempted to instantly jump into free-play; with Railway Empire, playing through the tutorial is a must. Railway Tycoon isn’t insanely difficult once your learn the ins and outs of train building, but to get that knowledge in the first place is necessary, albeit fairly easy.
On top of the short tutorial campaign – which is will walk you through everything the game has to offer – there are also scenarios to play – specific goals that need to be achieved in a set amount of time – as well as the free play option. Although I eventually found the tutorials to be a big drawn out – there is a lot to learn, not too complicated, but a lot – I skipped over the scenarios and jumped right into Free Play. This was ultimately a very big mistake; although I had learned everything I needed to know playing through the campaign, I probably should have taken a stab at a few of the scenarios to hone a few of those important skills.
And this is ultimately what might turn a few people of Railway Empire. If you are dreaming of creating a vast network of trains across the American countryside, don’t expect to be doing that after only a few hours. Kalypso has created a very real and authentic experience, which will require a lot of thought and planning as you progress. I easily put 10-15 hours to scenario and campaign playtime behind me before I felt really comfortable with the free play option.
Once you get there, however, there is definitely a feeling of accomplishment. What transcends all these game modes, however, is a focus on economics. How are you going to expand these cities and bring in the goods they need? How will you maximise profits. It all initially looks and sounds really confusing, but it really isn’t; once you complete and objective, delivering the goods a city needs (and ultimately watching it expand), there is a definite sense of accomplishment! Railway Empire is great at giving you that satisfaction of doing well around every corner!
While Railway Empire isn’t necessarily the best game I’ve ever seen, it does look really great when looking from the top down on your train empire. The tiny engines and cars are well detailed, and you even have the option of following the trains on their designated paths. While it’s only fun for a few minutes, it does add an extra element to the game that is very welcome. The sounds and music work really well with the turn of the century aesthetic the developers are hoping to achieve. Major kudos goes to the graphical and musical teams!
Railway Empire isn’t necessarily a confusing game, as the concept itself is actually pretty straight forward. It is a title, however, that requires a fair amount of dedication and a strong willingness to put in the work required to open up arguably the games best mode: free play. If you make it to that point, you’ll fully realize how great Railway Empire is!