Railway Empire PlayStation 4 Review

Railway Empire possesses the strategy, complexity and choice of any good resource management or tycoon game.

By RON, Posted 18 Feb 2018

Railroads are a staple of American history. In fact, both the American landscape and history would be radically different, had it not been for the various railroads built during the apogee of the industrial revolution. If the west was won by horse, it was tamed by train, and such historical importance did not go unnoticed by the video game world. Other incursions in the train world have existed in the past, such as Railroad Tycoon, but it is time now to focus our attention to Railway Empire, a nice addition to the genre.

Railway Empire,PlayStation 4,PS4,Review,Screenshots,Gameplay,Tips,Guide,Mission,Wallpaper

Railway Empire seems to be pretty niche at first glance, but after a while, one finds out that trains can be for everyone, and that managing a great railroad company is entertaining and satisfying at the same time. The premise of the game is not very different from other tycoon games: you have to build an enterprise out of virtually nothing, make a profit, make sure no one dies and have fun in the process. However, Railway Empire adds the extra feature of actually seeing the land change because of your actions. Where once stood barren, wild land, now locomotives carrying their freights with all their might. It is a testament of the will and ingenuity of man against the elements, the terrain itself becomes not only an obstacle, but a rival, and thriving despite that can be very exciting.

In layman’s terms, the game is not only about trains but also about the things these trains carry. As with any good resource management game, you have needs to cover and have to find ways to take resources to the places that require them. In this case, you start with barren land and several isolated towns that need to be connected and, more importantly, supplied. First, raw products, such as corn or cattle are needed in the settlements. As the settlements grow, the needs of their people will grow too. Cattle must be turned into meat, grain into beer and cotton into cloth. Not only is it important for you to build and maintain your trains, but also to have people to pay for a fare and use them. That is why, the more people a settlement has, the more profitable your venture will be. Not to mention the fact that commercial success also means that you will be able to invest on other enterprises; it’s called diversification. If you want a town to have access to meat faster, then there is no better way to ensure that than being the owner of the local butchery. The same goes for any other type of product. When you are the one supplying what you transport, then your profits will increase as well. This is where things get really interesting, because a city can be so large that it will be in constant need of as many as 10 different goods, in different levels of refinement, and your largest station will only be able to hold four different tracks. You don’t have to be an engineer to notice the math does not add up. Logistics is essential if you want to succeed at this business and, more importantly, not get anyone killed. Although the game does not actually allow for trains to collide, two trains can be on the same track at the same time facing each other which will put a stop to the line until the problem is solved. Traffic jams will also occur if you don’t have an optimal arrangement of your tracks. You need to be efficient and economical in the use of your space, and plan things out if you want to be ahead.

Railway Empire,PlayStation 4,PS4,Review,Screenshots,Gameplay,Tips,Guide,Mission,Wallpaper

There are also some customization options that aim to help you achieve your goals more easily, however, they fall short at times. Any locomotive can host up to four different crewmembers, each of whom will provide your train with an efficiency boost. It sounds pretty neat on paper, but there is a catch: your crew has to get along with each other in order to operate efficiently and to provide the bonuses. While it might be fun to consider the implications of pairing together crewmembers based on their personalities, the game does little to show you how affinity works. Furthermore, when you have 20 trains running at the same time, having to add four different crewmembers to each train can become tedious, and the boosts are so small that the end up being almost irrelevant.

Although not all the time, you will face the problem of track placement. You may think it is easy to connect point A to point B, and it should be. The game even tries to help you visualize how a track will look like before you place it, but it will sometimes bug out so badly that a simple connection will be utterly impossible to make. This is because the game predicts how a track will or should look like before it is placed and often this becomes chaotic and unpredictable, because it will not follow the player’s commands smoothly. To be honest, the game turns tracks into curves more often than not and it can be somewhat disorienting.

Transforming the land to your will is one of the key experiences in the game and the track placement actually amounts to this.  You will be shown the inclination of the track, and this will have an influence on the track’s efficiency. The more inclined a track is, the slower a locomotive will be able to cross it. This, of course, opens the possibility for decision making: will you be willing to surround a mountain, facing a much longer time between two points or will you invest a heavy sum building a tunnel through the heart of a mountain and face the challenge of inclination? These kinds of decisions are important while you play and add to the fun.

Railway Empire,PlayStation 4,PS4,Review,Screenshots,Gameplay,Tips,Guide,Mission,Wallpaper

Alongside the isometric perspective expected from a tycoon game, Railway Empire also lets you have a POV perspective of your train. It is more of an aesthetic choice or fan service for train enthusiasts, but it marks a noticeable difference and one that is appreciated. While the graphics are far from being cutting edge, the game is beautifully designed and geographically accurate. As one might expect, different areas of the country have different types of terrain, and the map layout may increase the game’s challenge. It is not the same to plan a route between two towns on the plains as to connect two cities divided by a mountain range and a river.

There are four game modes in Railway Empire: Campaign, Sandbox, Scenario and Free Play. The Campaign mode is quite entertaining and teaches you the mechanics in an efficient way. The story unfolds around the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad and is divided among different parts of the United States. During the campaign, you will be given objectives that need to be fulfilled by a given time. There is no specific order in which they need to be completed. You will meet important figures and will be given context and titbits of information regarding the year and the towns you’re going across. This adds to the fantasy of being part of that particular historical moment, and makes for a more immersive experience. Despite this, the character design and the way some cut scenes are presented makes it hard to take the game very seriously and actually may be damaging for some people looking for something a bit more realistic. Characters are literal caricatures and that contrasts heavily with the more realistic and toned-down soberness of the game itself. This is especially true when it comes to the different types of characters you can choose from, which can be regarded as one-dimensional and a bit flat at times. To top this off, the voice acting can be very exaggerated and annoying. And yet, Railway Empire doesn’t skimp on historical accuracy. The project of the Transcontinental Railroad is even paused because of the breakout of the Civil War. As a matter of fact, the game changes its priorities as well and, instead of transporting goods and commercial passengers, this section of the campaign will ask you to transport guns and ammo as well as soldiers to and from battle zones. This puts you directly on the hot seat of the war. Even indirectly, lives of people depend on your efficiency and you the tide of war may change depending on your action or lack thereof.

Railway Empire,PlayStation 4,PS4,Review,Screenshots,Gameplay,Tips,Guide,Mission,Wallpaper

The other game modes allow for more freedom. For example, Scenario will feel similar to Campaign missions, but is a bit more lenient regarding what needs to be accomplished. As for Sandbox and Free Play, they’re where you will be able to experiment all you want. You can choose your AI opponent or no opponent at all, the amount of money you start with and the size of the map. It is important to mention that the AI can be a bit hard to deal with at times, especially if you are not playing on easy mode. You see, on easy mode, trains are allowed to cross paths without any penalty whereas this is not possible on normal and hard modes. However, regardless of the mode you are playing, the AI will always be able to use a track for more than a train at the same time. This will seem like cheating but the fact is that the AI is always playing on easy mode. This issue becomes relevant when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. Not only will you be able to purchase stocks and percentages in other industries, but also from your competitors. Did you think you would be the only one trying to make it big in the railroad industry? That would not be America. Direct and indirect competitors will face and will threaten your business trying to get a piece of the action. Fortunately, if your business is thriving, you can choose to purchase the company gradually or, ultimately, use an aggressive strategy and take over completely. This will result in you taking control of the assets of your rivals, tracks and all. But if your rivals have been using the easy mode, as any AI will, then you will face a logistics nightmare trying to rearrange everything the way it is supposed to be. Even though this may seem like a bug, it is actually a deliberate feature that should be fixed or modified in some way.

Unlike games like Age of Empires in which music provided a sense of context, being as authentic as it could be, Railway Empire has some tunes that sound like they should belong there but somehow come off as anachronical. For example, the music that accompanies landscapes of XIX Century Omaha should not have a drum kit accompanying the mandatory acoustic guitar slides. It just feels a bit incongruent. It is not bad music, though, but it feels a bit out of place.

Railway Empire,PlayStation 4,PS4,Review,Screenshots,Gameplay,Tips,Guide,Mission,Wallpaper

Ultimately, Railway Empire is worth your while. The game possesses the strategy, complexity and choice of any good resource management/tycoon game. Having said that, all aboard!

Sarwar Ron, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PS4
Publisher(s): Kalypso Media
Developer(s): Gaming Minds
Genres: Simulation
Themes: Rail Network
Release Date: 2018-01-30

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