Railway Empire is a new offering from developer Kalypso, and takes place in the very heart of railway construction in North America, spanning the century between 1830 and 1930. Available on PC, Xbox One and PS4, gamers on any platform can enjoy what is an incredibly deep and thorough game. Just don’t plan on starting if you have other things to do within the next few hours because the time will just disappear!
The aim of the game is simple, in theory. Set up your own railway company in North America and grow it into a thriving business, achieving various tasks along the way. It sounds simple and in principle it is, would it not be for your competitors who are trying to do the same. You then get rated for each task based on the speed with which you complete it and the difficulty you set the game to. The ultimate goal, achieve a score of 30 out of 30 and be given the rating ‘President’, something that I have so far only been able to achieve on the tutorial.
I was sent the Xbox One version of ‘Railway Empire’ by Kalypso but have seen videos of the PC version. Normally for games released in this way they are designed for PC and then converted across onto console, resulting in an interface that’s not quite so smooth and graphics that leave players desperate for a PC version. Thankfully for the most part with Railway Empire this isn’t the case. The graphics are just as good and the interface is predominantly the same. Naturally it takes slightly longer to navigate on console as moving the pointer with the analogue stick is not as fast as moving your hand on a mouse, but there is nothing on the PC game that you can’t do on console.
Some of the menus are messy and confusing to begin with but once you understand the order of buttons to press in order to achieve what you want to then it becomes second nature. I also felt that in my first ‘proper’ scenario following the tutorial that the game moved a little too fast for me initially. No sooner had you got used to having rival companies in the game then train staff are thrown at you. You haven’t quite got used to those when research and development is introduced and nor are you used to that when company stocks and shares, mergers and takeovers are displayed. It’s fine after a few minutes, but play through the second scenario twice if you want a real go at getting a perfect score. The final problem is that your competitors don’t play by the same rules that you do, as their trains seem to be able to ghost through one another, eliminating the need for waiting at signals or passing loops. This lowers their delivery times and reduces their costs which seems a bit unfair, but Kalypso are rolling out patches in the coming weeks and months with enhanced AI being one of them so hopefully that will get sorted. As it stands there is also no multiplayer option.
Don’t think though that I am setting this game up for a fall, as those are minor details in an otherwise superb game. The graphics are brilliant, so much so that you are able to zoom right in and view individual people going about their daily lives, aided of course by your new railway system. The game is so easy to pick up and play even railway novices can play on free mode without the added difficulty of competitors until they get the hang of things. Station placement is simple and track laying is by far the easiest of any railway game that I have played. Pick your start and end point for the track and then manipulate it however you please to avoid costly bridges and tunnels to maximise your company profit. Locomotive placement is also easy and should you just want to let them run, the game can automatically decide what loads each train takes, allowing you to just sit back and watch the money roll in. Another nice touch is the ‘ride on’ feature, placing you in the cab with your head out the side watching the countryside go by as you thunder through towards your destination.
The best thing about the game though by a mile is its depth. So far I have amassed around eight hours or so of gameplay and have only scratched the surface. There are around 50 hours of gameplay across the campaign and scenario modes as well as an unlimited amount in free mode. There are 160 tasks to complete in the game which will take you right the way across America to 100 cities and hundreds more agricultural destinations. 41 locomotives and 30 wagons are waiting for you to research them and implement them into your network as you progress through the eras and these are just part of the 300 inventions that you can unlock to improve your fleet. From added features such as refrigerated trucks, which will add to the money you receive for freight goods, to business strategies so that you gain the edge over your competitors. You can even hire bandits and saboteurs to disrupt your opponents.
This game has the one key feature that I look for most of all in a game. It’s addicting. Highly, highly addicting. The base game has so many features in it that you will get immersed in the detail of each city and when Kalypso release their update allowing players to access the whole of America in one map, that will add another dimension to the game altogether. Yes, there are a few historical accuracies but it doesn’t detract from the game in the slightest. I recommend this game without a shadow of a doubt. (CG)
Value for money: 10/10