It is the 1830’s, and the industrial revolution is at its peak. The world has entered a new era of growth and technology with the United States at the very front of this movement. It is at such an exciting time that Gaming Minds – Kalypso Media’s very own studio – sets this game Railway Empire in.
Perhaps any gamer who lived through the times of the Railway Tycoon games will recognize this one at first site. But, unlike most others of its kind, it is not bound to the world of PC gaming but also accessible in your very own gaming console.
Railway Empire Xbox One game review
Will you be able to outthink your rivals and always stay many steps ahead to make sure you are at the helm of this empire that is not only powerful but dripping money and potential? Well, we are here to find out.
Like previously mentioned, Kalypso Media’s in-house studio Gaming Minds has set this one in the very heart of the Industrial Revolution, that is, North America in the 1830’s. And you are a tycoon looking to establish a booming railway empire in the entirety of North America.
Your work begins in 1836, that is when the trans-continental railway system is in its final stages. It spans the then unimaginably great length of the Omaha plains and continues to the Salt Lake City. The initial few scenes of the game are meant to train and give you a basic idea about how to build tracks and how to set signals. The first line that you will be building will span the area between Omaha and Norfolk. This is where the Philadelphia coal-powered engine – your first and very own locomotive engine – will first travel.
The gameplay is pretty straight-forward and familiar if you follow Kalypso Media’s Tropico gaming mode. You will have with you a pretty helpful albeit sort of arrogant guide who holds a significant position in those times. They will not only be guiding you through the missions but also offer you bits of information on the life and times, their reasons for building such an empire and what kind of person they are. With them by your side, you work to lay down tracks between the bigger and the smaller, farm-like towns and villages. Any of these will take you anything between a half and a full hour. Some of them have strict deadlines, and you must rush to finish these missions before the stipulated dates.
As you complete missions, you will move from one place to another for that campaign. Some of it will take you to New York, others to Los Angeles or the humbler eastern coasts. You deal with several different and significant areas and time frames as you establish the network of lines that will have a very big part to play in the Civil War. The main campaign should take you about fifteen solid hours to get through because there are but five missions to complete. But if you choose to go back and replay parts to achieve perfect scores, which you will pretty much won’t be able to resist doing, and you will have to tackle high difficulty levels, including not being able to pause the gameplay, laying very realistic tracks and using signals. You might, of course, choose the easier modes that allow engines to pass right through each other and avoid the nerve-wrecking difficult modes altogether.
You will use the circular menu for pretty much everything as it is the hub of the entire gameplaying settings that allow you to choose the staff for the company and your trains to getting upgrades and better tech for your towns and engines.
But it’s not that you just need to stick to the campaign mode during gameplay. You can also go for the Free mode, Sandbox and Scenario options, each of which will allow you access to different sides and kinds of missions.
Before we deliver a verdict, the first thing we ought to mention about this sort of addictive homage to the Railway Tycoon games is it’s the first one to bring these kinds of games to the gaming console. Perhaps that gives one enough reason to be thankful for, but the game too does not let you down in itself.
Perhaps one unfortunate omission that you notice first about the game is the lack of multiplayer options. For a game like this where you build empires, it would have become even more enjoyable if our rivals were real, breathing players rather than a pretty obnoxious AI that does not give any importance to the rules you are forced to stick to. Speaking of the AI, perhaps the biggest turn of anyone faces in the long hours of gameplay is how it makes for not just a difficult but petty rival to compete with. Sometimes you will notice that while your trains are stuck waiting for the other trains to pass and some space to become free, your rival’s trains tend to just go straight through each other like the trains are not even tangible. This creates a lot of difficulties later as you are left struggling because the AI just doesn’t seem to notice that rules exist. Your opponent’s profit and rates will hit an all-time high because of this.
Anyway, while Railway Empire has its problems, it does not mean that it is not a hugely fun game to play, which it is. The sound and visuals are pretty decent too. It is interesting how the studio seems to have put together an enjoyable homage to the Railway Tycoon playstyle without getting tediously detail-oriented or boring. The game is available on Amazon here.