What is Railway Empire?
In 1830s America, the country is growing fast - and the people need a way of getting from A to B with ease. Enter the steam locomotive, and the dawn of the very first public railways in the United States. Stepping into the shoes of a railway pioneer, Railway Empire is a "tycoon" style game that asks you to to build tracks between cities, farms, and factories; buy and research new trains; and set up lines and routes to ensure that everyone, and everything, can get to where it needs to go in the shortest time possible.
How do you play Railway Empire?
Played from a top down perspective, Railway Empire is a game of planning. From choosing where to build your stations, and how large a station you want to build (larger stations can pick up business from a larger radius, letting you potentially serve two farms or factories with just one station), to where you want to lay your tracks, there's a lot to think about, and a lot to get right. With inclines (or slopes) not getting on all that well with trains, badly planned railways will see you having to build expensive bridges, or worse, bore hugely costly tunnels. While the game will help choose the best route for your track, you can easily tweak it to your liking by simply dragging the route, sometimes saving you million in the process.
After building the lines, it's up to you to buy some trains, and get them transporting goods from A to B. By selecting each city, you can see what goods it needs - making a connection between the city, and the factory/farm that produces the resource it needs will let you pick up the money for transporting it, and help your railway grow. With several modes on offer, from the game's campaign and scenarios, which offer a total of 16 lengthy stages to play through, each with its own tasks to complete, deadlines you'll need to complete them by, and competitors you'll need to defeat, to the game's more relaxing free mode, which gives you an unlimited bank balance, and no competitors to worry about, there's a lot of railway fun to be had here.
How easy is Railway Empire to pick up and play?
In general, Railway Empire is a complex game, requiring a lot of foresight, planning, and thinking. However, it's also a game that can be tweaked. Though it may not be immediately obvious, the game's main difficulty setting is actually found in the options for the signalling. Set it to realistic, and your trains will behave as they would in real life - only one train can be on any one piece of track at a time, only one train can be on a platform at once, and you'll need to build complex passing places, points and signals to manage your railways, and attempt to avoid any bottlenecks - something that's easier said than done.
On easy signalling however, things are much easier, as really all you need is the one piece of track, with trains able to travel on it in opposite directions, and even pass through each other without any issues. While it certainly makes the game easier, though, it certainly doesn't make it easy - you'll still need to carefully plan your railway lines, to ensure you can afford to reach key towns before your competitors, and provide all the equipment your trains need along the way to keep them going (like water towers, and maintenance workshops at key stations).
That said, for those who find the business part a bit too much, free mode does offer a perfect way to kick back and relax with some trains, giving you an unlimited budget, no competitors to worry about, and no deadlines to get in your way either.
Though the game does carry a very low age rating, it's worth remembering that there's a lot of reading involved here. Though the game may be fully subtitled, not everything is voice, so a strong reading ability is a must.
Sample sentences include:
- Because of the steep incline, the Kelly Ranch - Denver train runs at a minimum speed along its route. If possible, use a more powerful locomotive. Also note that freight cars are five times heavier than passenger or mail cars.
- Select an item from the list to change the track and loading at this station.
- The city of Buffalo is refusing you permission to build a station as you haven't connected a station in Pittsburgh with your hometown yet.
With nothing in the way of bad language, violence or sexual content, there's nothing for parents to be aware of in Railway Empire.
Format Reviewed: PC