I’m sure that everyone has played the likes of Sim City in one form or another during the history of the game. I used to love playing them, but it did start to get a little bit over complicated when you had to factor in adding sewage relief to all of the buildings as well as connecting power lines and many other resources to keep your city alive and thriving. So, in the same vein, Railway Empire is a Tycoon Simulation brought to us by Kalyspo Media who are famed for the Tropico games which have been a huge success. Released in early 2018 the game has supported various DLC with the latest being set in Germany and I will get on to that after I review the base game.
So where Sim City annoyed me with the over complication of building a city, Railway Empire thankfully simplifies everything so much the game is an absolute joy to behold. The game takes place in America between 1830 and 1930 and charts the invention and growth of the modern railway also giving us a brief history lesson at the start of each level.
The game offers an array of different game styles to play; campaign, sandbox, scenario and free-mode, however I would seriously advise just jumping straight into the campaign mode. Within this mode you will find a great guide of how to play the game as you progress. Its starts out with the basics of building your railways, adding trains, signals etc etc but as the levels build and progress it also introduces you to more and more of the many different controls to help build a thriving railway business including the technicalities of taking over your competitors business’ as well as investing in stocks of their railways so that you can take a nice cut of their profits. There are also so many other things to take in that if you do just jump in to any other game mode you really wont last long before you are bankrupt and having to start all over again.
Each level within the campaign is set between certain years and you have a list of objectives that you need to complete within a specified timescale or you will fail and have to start all over again. Rather obviously, the whole idea of the game is to build the most successful and powerful railway line within the USA. Each level takes part in different locations across the great land slowly seeing you build railway lines across the continent. This is done with ease. The very basic idea is to build a station within a city from the build menu as well as building these stations outside of small farms and other business’ that are dotted around the map, then you connect the stations by building your railway lines. All you need to do to connect them is to select the end of one station, then the end of station you want to connect to and the game will automatically build the line for you. Do be warned however, that if you do this over a long distance it is not always the cheapest way of laying the tracks. If you build a line in shorter sections (which is as easy as building point to point where you select) it can work out a lot cheaper as you can avoid the cost of tunneling or building huge bridges that aren’t really needed. That being said, gradients of the tracks also come into play with regards to the power of the trains you buy within the game.
You start off with a very basic engine to pull any loads that you choose and can unlock more through research which is explained within the game, the more engines that you do unlock, the more powerful they become and can deal with inclines in tracks easier. Then, you also have to factor in the maintenance of these engines as well as building water towers along your routes or they will start to break down. Believe me, it is a lot easier to do than it may sound. The joy of this game is how easily accessible it is to play and in no time at all you will master it.
The game isn’t just about looking after those locomotives and rail lines though. You need to be aware of the demands of the towns and cities along your routes. Business’ within the towns create goods and need to be supplied with raw materials from the above mentioned farms so when you build your trains, you also need to assign that train to a route of your choosing. You can have a train simply moving from a city to a farm, or you can have multiple stops along the line at various farms. Then there is also the fact that a city may need a manufactured item (for instance cloth) to create a finished product (clothes, dresses etc) and you will have to assign a train to run between two towns/cities. These trains will then transport the necessary items between stops. There is also the good ol’ passengers that need to travel between towns, however you will need to buy the right train for this. There are three different types of train; Express, Mixed and Freight. You have to select the right train for the job at hand. Transporting all the above things will help the towns grow in size and allow you to invest in those towns to build Universities, Museums and more, all attracting a greater population. All of this keeps the money flowing in to your bank account.
One feature I did really like within the game was the ability to ride on the train as it progresses on its journey. I had great pleasure in building a nice 700 mile stretch of line from one side of the map to the other and set off an Express Train from one city to the other with no stops in between and thought I’d take 10 minutes out to enjoy the engineers point of view. It really did bring a whole new depth to the game for me. It can start to get a little monotonous just building the lines and the water stops along the route needed to keep a train moving, in fact it does start to drag at times, but not for too long. The journey on the train was a nice break.
It’s actually quite difficult to go into the full detail of the game in a review like this or you really will be sat here for hours reading, like reading one of my novels (search for my name on Amazon and please buy one haha) but there is a hell of a lot of depth from such a simple looking game.
One annoyance I did have however was from your competitors within the game. You’re obviously not the only one trying to break America with your railways, but the constant comments from them when you build a station became annoying, not to mention if you dare build one in the same city as them. Any other actions within the game either by them or against them caused more comments. I found myself just constantly attacking one of them as her voice started to grate on me so much, so I would do my upmost to sabotage her instead of the other one, bring her stock prices down as well as poach all her staff that worked on the trains.
The graphics within the game are simple yet effective but it really does come to life when you ride along with one of your trains when you can fully take in the scenery, towns and farms you pass through as well as the water towers as you stop to fill up at them. Throw in the extremely simple way of controlling the game and the game is a sure fire hit, not just for all your rail enthusiasts, but for anyone looking to bring back the good old days of the Tycoon Sim which sadly has seen a decline over recent years when at one point the market was saturated.
The base game alone for me is easily worth a 9/10 for in game features, graphics and ease of play on what is an extremely involved game when you dig deeper.
And now we move on to the latest DLC for the game, the Germany update.
The Germany DLC introduces the historic country to the game with 59 new cities and reworked city buildings to add to players’ extensive rail networks. Conductors will play through the new Patchwork scenario (1850-1870) and the new concession feature, where players buy concessions to access new building grounds. There’s also access to ten historical engines including the Adler and the Rhein to power the trains across the German countryside. Also available are twelve new tradable goods, including canned kraut and cuckoo clocks, to increase revenue and eight music tracks to make the journeys across the German countryside all the more enjoyable.
At £9.99 it is simply a great addition to what is already a great game and brings what the fans had been screaming out for right from the start.. more!
Accessible through either Free Mode or Scenarios the DLC doesn’t deviate from the original game in as far as the controls and idea behind it, but it does expand the game considerably with its added cities as well as the new trains that are brought to life. It did take me a while to start to conquer the game however as the difficulty level is quite steep straight out of the station compared to playing through the base game, but the last thing you do want is to be able to run through a DLC in an hour and feel like you wasted your money. This DLC will take a while to play through and after experiencing it for myself I now really want to get my hands on all of the previous additions to the game.
Both DLC and the main game have a serious replay value attached to the games, not only for the content itself, but also being able to research everything that you can to allow it to travel through to the next part of the game which I really did skip over at times.
As an extension to a great game and for it to continue along the same vein as before without adding overly complicated things to it, once again it is a solid 9/10 as far as a review goes. I cant score it any lower as what is available is perfect.
**PLEASE NOTE: AIR Entertainment were kindly supplied with a review copy of both the base game and DLC by Kalypso Media. This has in no way influenced my review as per our Review Policy**