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Railway Empire

Posted by GG Goblin On February - 12 - 2018

Gotta choo.

 
Whilst the closest I have ever come to train spotting would be staring down the line and wondering why my train hasn’t arrived yet, I can appreciate the majesty and excellence of early trains, and the engineering feats that made them able to cross massive distances and make the world that little bit smaller. It is this side of things, building a massive empire of tracks and trains, that Railway Empire from Kalypso Media and Gaming Mind Studios challenges the player with as they try to lay tracks coast to coast in North America.

 
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Railway Empire is a tycoon game of sorts, with the player in the business of not only laying tracks from town to town across North America in the 19th Century, but also having to deal with the management side as they fight off the competition to big the big cheese of the railway world.

 
But, of course, laying the tracks is an important part of the game. It is also quite a lot of fun thanks to the very simple mechanics involved. Simply select a starting point and an ending destination, and the game does the rest, laying beautiful track across the North American countryside. Things get a little more tricky once the player has to deal with multiple trains using the same track, which would require parallel tracks and signals to tell the trains what to do. I must admit to struggling with the laying of parallel tracks to begin with, getting them to click into place seemed to involve some rules that I was not aware of, and the signals took several clicks to get them to behave how I wanted. It does become more intuitive over time, but as the network of tracks become more complex, so does the placement of signals. There is a more casual setting that allows trains to happily continue along their way whatever happens to be on the track, but using this mode really does take out a lot of the challenge from the game. Still, it is there is the player really is struggling.

 
The maps across which the player builds their empire are really nice to look at, as are the models of the trains. There is nothing ground breaking here graphically, but the game still manages to be quite atmospheric. The maps divide the coast to coast network into large chunks that the player can work through one after the other, and they are big areas, so there is plenty of detail and plenty to deal with. However, it does slightly put a halt to any dreams of building a single network from coast to coast. That being said, the developers have been listening and a single west to east coast North American map is on the way, which will be playable in Free Mode.

 
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Once you have done with taking in the beauty of the North American countryside, there is plenty of work to be done. Laying tracks from one town to another will first involve building a station if one doesn’t already exist. Then there are various goods that towns may need to expand, which is something else the player will have a hand in. So this will require building stations and laying tracks to pick up and drop off these goods. The player will also be responsible for staff, maintenance and even a tech tree that will provide improvements as the game progresses.

 
The player will also have to deal with the competition, other AI railway managers that want their piece of the pie. These guys don’t mess around and will be dropping their own stations in towns or laying their own tracks all while the player is deciding what to do next. The early game is a race to get the most control possible, while later in the game it all becomes about the finances.

 
So, yeah, there is a lot going on. This can all be a little intimidating for the less experienced players, thanks in part to a somewhat spotty tutorial. Things are not explained as clearly as would have been nice, and sometimes the player is left not really knowing what to do. The UI can also feel intimidating, there is a lot of information available to the player and it is not always easy to find exactly what they want to know. These are both problems that can be overcome simply by spending time with the game. However, they can be seen as a barrier to entry.

 
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Trains are interesting, but not really something I could call exciting. Gaming Minds Studios’ Railway Empire certainly challenges this by offering a race for control in the early game, before the grind for supremacy begins. Sure, this is a game about laying tracks across North America and managing the trains that use them. But Railway Empire is surprisingly deep and quite challenging in places. It has a few issues, and will certainly not be for everyone. However, with a nicely polished finish and further support from the developers, if tycoon games are your thing and you fancy running trains, Railway Empire will hit the spot nicely.

 

 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 



 

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