Railway Empire Switch Review – Return to the Glory Days of Transport Sim

Do you long for the days of Transport and Railroad Tycoon? Do you miss the curious and rather therapeutic pleasure of building a huge business empire? Do you like trains? Railway Empire is here to fill that empty void in your life on Nintendo Switch with over 40 trains spanning a hundred years from the dawn of locomotive technology and including 3 DLCs in the base game. Developed and published by Kalypso Media who make other great simulation and strategy games such as the Tropical and Port Royale series; Railway Empire has you building just that, potentially across a hundred year period starting in 1830.

Once you’ve played Railway Empire as much as I have this intersection will turn you on.

You start with a dream; to connect the continent, country or area by rail network. Transporting passengers, mail and goods, helping cities and industries grow, researching the best technology and trains and hiring the best staff to make it all happen. All the while dealing with up to 3 competitors who will try and stop you by sabotaging your trains and putting out fake news about your wholesome company.

The Kalypso YouTube might be for PC but the game plays the same other than a circle popup menu on Switch

You’re offered three main game modes; Campaign teaches you vaguely how to play the game while retelling the history of American railroad ending with the transcontinental railroad connecting mid America to the West coast in the 1800s. There are 5 campaign missions each slowly upping the difficulty but as long as you keep an eye on the time you have to complete the tasks none are overly challenging. 

In some modes you pick who you play as.

Railway Empire has a steep learning curve but this is more because there’s so much to learn rather than it being very difficult. The most difficult part is understanding how it all works, particularly switches and parallel lines. Reading at least some of the tips and tricks in the game manual is an absolute must if you want to enjoy building railways. The game does try and do its bit to help with information pop-ups, constantly, that are in the way of what you’re trying to build, over and over and over. Sometimes they provide helpful advice such as if you connect an industry to your rail network it might tell you where you need to get the goods to as each city only wants certain goods and pop ups to tell you a train in missing certain facilities which is code for build a supply tower. The help button will also be vital as you learn what all the different symbols mean so remember to put that ZL button to good use then hover over symbols you don’t understand, the Nintendo Switch controls work well and after an inital learning period I had zero problems. 

You might want to rewatch this after playing a level or two, there’s a lot to take in.

There’s a way in which the game likes rail lines built, everything has to be interconnected. Once I learnt the secret ancient art of how to construct tidy efficient railway lines I was completely and utterly hooked. It just took about 10 hours to get there, but here’s your lucky break as I will empart that knowledge. There’s a reason rail networks all over the world essentially look and work the same, because it’s the best way, so copy the real world, make two parallel tracks, one to go each way with the multiple directional signals and have signalling control stations so trains can go in and out of any platform, sorted. When campaign gives you stations, your best bet is delete them (there’s no punishment you get all your money back) and build the more future proof signalling control stations in their place, you’ll soon find amending tracks and building huge empires a piece of cake. At first getting used to the controls of building tracks is very awkward but after a while you adjust and find you can often choose whether you want tunnels or bridges or hills even though the game builds them automatically.

All those black and white lines move to show you the direction traffic is allowed.

If you want to make enough money you can roll in it then you need to help cities grow. Cities start small and only want a few select goods, if you provide those goods more people move there, the city expands and wants a larger variety of goods. As they grow you can also build up to 3 industries in a city to do manufacturing with the raw materials you import. Planning these industries carefully and efficiently will give you huge profits or you can let the city randomly build an industry. If you own an industry you can also upgrade it, increasing its output and potential to make moolah. The only drawback as cities grow is that you can only have one station in each city with up to 4 platforms and they will get busy with all your trains. The only way to get a second station in a city is if a competitor just happens to have one too and you buy out the competitor.

Every screen is jam packed with information.

Speaking of competition, rival companies seem to be there just to get in the way. They will steal your staff, bid against you in auctions, make your trains breakdown and affect passenger and mail levels in cities but they don’t do much else. It’s generally only right towards the end of a level that you’ll compete over resources. You can buy shares in them and eventually but the company itself, choosing whether to absorb or liquidate them. 

Take a relaxing minute to go for a ride onone of your trains.

Each month you acquire research points to spend slowly researching new trains, making improvements such as reliability and enhancing your company such as enhancing profits on mail and passengers. You’ll also be able to hire staff that pop up randomly.

With a good stoker your trains will whizz along.

You’re never bored creating an empire as there’s always something to do, so much so I once wrote a list of my next steps when I was stopping playing to help myself pick up next time. You have various options to cater the gameplay to your whims such as allowing trains to pass each other on the same track and turning up the difficulty in various ways. There’s so much to look at and do in Railway Empire. You can sell bonds in your company to quickly generate some cash or invest in the stock market. You can look at where cities get their goods from to help plan your routes and where they send goods to, you can look at cities and how much mail is being transported by train, you can look at what trains are earning the most money, what you make from industry, freight and passengers/mail, there’s tons for those who love a bit of statistics to dig into to enhance the business experience.

You can look at where all the good in the continent go.

The only downside once you’re used to the slightly convoluted way some mechanisms work is how difficult it is to build ‘express routes’ as there is little guidance and a small hard to hard meter in ‘manage train’ scheme that even when at max doesn’t always yield an express route.

You’ll need lots of trains on each route to really reel in the money so you have to get signals down.

The value for money is insane here, it took me over 20hours to complete the 5 scenario campaign and that was fairly smooth operating taking 4-7years a pop. Then there’s the other two main modes; Scenario which contains 17 longer scenarios at up to 15 years each. Plus there’s free mode that lets you take on 20 year games starting at different time periods from 1830-1910, or a whole hundred years in various sections of America, the whole US, Mexico or South America still with random tasks to complete. All the locations offer a slightly different experience from the vast stretches of South America to the resource dry Western US.

Connect a railway across the entire stretch of South America in just 8 years.

If you loved the old logistics games of the past or just trains in general then Railway Empire is the game you’ve been waiting for. Plus it’s ever expanding with more DLC on the way bringing more countries for you to conquer and more trains. I have to admit trains are not my thing in the slightest but Railway Empire is a chilled game that’s strangely therapeutic with oodles to keep you being for the long haul. To say Railway Empire is hundreds of hours long is an understatement, you can play this game as long as you still love building a rail network and have tasks to complete. 

A huge thank you to Kalypso Media for providing the review code. Railway Empire is available 19/06/20 both physically and digital on the Nintendo eShop for £35.99/$39.99/€39.99.

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