Name: Railway Empire
Developer: Gaming Minds Studios
Publisher: Kalypso Media Digital
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Acquired: *A copy of this game was provided from publisher for review purpose*
I absolutely love steam engines, they’re romantic and fascinating machines, as well as an engineering masterpiece. Now I’ve had the chance to not only learn american (railroad) history, but I have also gotten to make my own railway company. Time to shovel some coal!
Railway Empire has several entries of story, which all follow the american railroad history. You are tasked with taming the Iron horse, and make her fly across North America. To help you along the way, you are given several small tasks. (e.g. “Have 12 trains operating at the same time”).
While playing the story mode, which spans from 1830 to 1910, you have to research new technologies, make new routes to different cities, handle employees and, most importantly, beat the opposition.
Along with a story mode, there’s a scenario mode, where you, as the name suggest, get different scenarios to handle, for example you can get the task of supplying the towns with enough meat. I must admit I’ve yet to see why the scenario mode exists. Misunderstand me correctly, it’s not a bad addition, but I feel the story mode could include these scenarios instead, which I feel could improve the story mode (even) more. Instead of them being two separate modes.
Personally I found the story mode to be a tad too stressful, and I never felt the freedom I wanted. I constantly felt haunted by the rush of getting further ahead of the competition, and not in a good way. That’s not all bad, mind you, as it also kept me alert, looking for a way to get an advantage. However I had more fun with the sandbox mode (more on that further down).
I can happily announce that the game looks stunning! From the locomotive models, to the sprites of your competitors. It all follows the game’s western style, and it simply just works. Joining the train for a ride is a joy for the eyes (even though they might get smoked by the steam engine up front).
One problem I had with the game was the fact that it didn’t scale properly for my 4K TV, and I ended up with a massive black border around the active pixels. Not a big deal, but it is a little bit distracting.
The PC requirements are as follow:
Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
OS: Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 (64bit versions)
Processor: Intel Core i5 750 @ 2.6 GHz or AMD Phenom II X4 @ 3.2 GHz
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: nVidia GeForce GTX460 or AMD Radeon HD5870 (2048MB VRAM with Shader Model 5.0)
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 7 GB available space
Sound Card: DirectX Compatible Sound Card with latest drivers
Luckily, the gameplay is doing well! With over 40 different locomotives and 30 different wagons the customizability is great. And with 300 different technologies to research (in a way similar to Civilization), the game doesn’t lack in those departments.
What I do want to focus on though, is the sandbox mode, without any stress about money or competition, the sheer joy of making cool rail lines got to shine! I felt like I was a kid again, playing with trains in the living room. “Just how many turns can I make between these towns” was a repeating thought, and I could sit for hours planning and testing out different routes between stations. If you’ve ever enjoyed playing with BRIO or Märklin trains, you’ll know exactly what feeling I constantly had in sandbox mode. And better still, here you don’t have a set amount of rails, you can simply make more!
And after making the longest tunnel I could, followed by a seriously long bridge, on the same route, following the train on its trip was such a great reward. I could finally see my creation come to life, and imagining I was an 1850’s NPC seeing these scenic routes for the first time, I almost wished I could enter the game world myself and see the game from inside one of the luxurious wagons.
It must be said, games like this don’t work too well with a controller, that’s just how it is. It would be a lot easier to steer the camera and shape the tracks on PC. This being said, Railway Empire has done a solid job with the control system, with a straightforward system that was easy to get the hang of. The only complaint I have is that the menu wheel doesn’t stick to a selection after I let go of the left stick, and instead decides to go back to “no option selected”.
I don’t know what to say about the replay value, as I’ve mostly played (and had the most fun) in sandbox mode. However, both the scenario and story modes has several “small tasks” that affects the total score. I.e. if you barely manage the minimum score to pass a scenario, you’ll have plenty of reasons to do more tasks and try again for a better result.
In free mode there’s pretty good replay value, as the different playable characters have different abilities and allows for different playstyles, such as “I will only research things myself as the Doc” or “I will focus on stealing tech instead of developing it myself”, to be checked out.
I choo-choo-choose you, Railway Empire. It was a joy to play the game, and the hours has simply been flying by. The feeling of being a kid again, playing with trains, was a great experience. And the few faults I found, can easily be forgiven.
Replay Value: 8/10
Total Score: 8/10
“Maybe not a must buy, but this is a game with high quality”