Locomotives are some of the most important technological creations in human history. Societies were built because of the tracks and the trains that chugged along on them. Nobody alive today was around to see where this all started, however. And that’s exactly what Railway Empire – Nintendo Switch Edition and its included free DLC is all about — taking you through simplified points in history (starting in the early 1800s) and illuminating how railroads played a part in shaping that history.
Chugging through history in Railway Empire
The whole goal is to build up a railroad network that is both profitable and efficient. The tracks will connect major cities to each other, allowing for the transport of goods and people. Each city has its own table list of demands and also a collection of manufactured goods, all of which are fueled by the industries located in them. For instance, one city might produce fabric while another has a lot of clothing stores. So, by connecting them together, you will allow the fabric factories in City A to supply the clothing stores in City B with resources to continue production.
Of course, raw materials are needed to create resources, which is where rural areas come in. Just as there are several different industries, like meat production, sawmills, and furniture factories, there are several different rural businesses that supply the raw materials to produce manufactured goods out of. So, your tracks will also play a critical role in allowing there to be a flow of the raw materials into the cities, such as connecting a cattle farm to a city with a meat production plant.
Connecting the right cities and rural areas together is essential to making sure the flow of goods is efficient and that your railroads are being put to good use. For instance, if you’re supplying wheat to a city that mostly needs logs, your train will not be profitable. Just like in real business, advancing in Railway Empire is all about strategy. And that’s essential to completing your “Goals.”
Goals are basically mission objectives that are listed in every chapter of the campaign. These Goals often involve things like increasing the population of a city, supplying resources to a specific project, and other things that tie back into the idea of societal expansion. Like any tycoon-style game, Railway Empire features a calendar system. An in-game day passes every few real-world seconds, so you’ll finish an in-game year in under an hour. The aforementioned Goals are yearly. So, while you may start a chapter with a Goal that’s about 10 years away, it won’t be long before the time creeps up on you. As long as you’re getting a decent flow of cash into your bankbooks from your railway, completing the Goals isn’t overly difficult. But that mostly depends on how you play the game.
As you would expect, building your railway network does require a bit of skill. However, you get to decide just how much skill you want to put into it. The actual tools are simple — it’s literally just clicking different points together like a model train set. But you can decide if you want simple or complex rails. Simple rails will allow multiple trains to run along the same stretch of track and basically ignore the presence of each other.
Complex rails make things more realistic. Under these conditions, you’ll have to learn to build logical railways that allow each train to run efficiently. This means learning how to take advantage of the signal system to separate tracks into sections, so trains won’t be blocking one another or waiting for each other for too long. Parallel and sidetracks will also help with this.
The complex tools are good for those who want a challenge, but it really does up the ante. For the sake of time, I opted to stick with the simplified tools, as it allows you to focus on just the business side of things rather than trying to juggle both.
Feeling it out in Railway Empire
Regardless of how you build your tracks, the trains in Railway Empire do always operate realistically. For instance, weaker trains will have a harder time going up inclines, and the number of cars in a train will determine the top speed. As each in-game month passes, you earn Innovation Points that will allow you to unlock more modern technology and more advanced locomotives.
I shouldn’t have tossed the manual
Even though the track building can be adjusted, Railway Empire does have a few mechanics that are a bit complicated and cannot be altered. For instance, I mentioned how each city will tell you what its demands are. However, it’s not immediately clear what icons represent what’s needed versus what’s being shipped out. Also, the Goals are all written in a straightforward, terse way. While they’re generally easy to figure out, some have specific conditions that are not detailed.
For example, sometimes a goal will be to transport passengers from one city to another without stopping. The “without stopping” part means the train cannot stop to any additional station or wait on signals. But I had to research that (which was only possible because Railway Empire has been out on other platforms for a while).
While Railway Empire does have its own Tips menu, there are still a few things that aren’t explained as well as they could be. More labeling in the (many) menus this game has would’ve made it all the more simple to process the admittedly large amount of info that you have to keep track of.
In addition to paying attention to own rail network, you also have to worry about your competitors that will also be building their own stations and industries across the map. They can even interfere with your business, albeit to a minor degree. You can also work along with them by purchasing shares in their company and eventually even merging if you’d like. They’ll give quips throughout your gameplay session, and that does get old. Thankfully, the frequency can be lowered (but not disabled), and the audio dialogue can be turned down to 0.
Looking the part?
On Nintendo Switch, Railway Empire fares pretty well. While the textures are a bit muddy and the resolution isn’t the highest (especially in handheld mode), for a tycoon game it looks good enough. The frame rate can chug along (no pun intended) when zoomed in, but that’s to be expected. It’s still playable enough, though the environments are admittedly not that visually interesting. The Great Lakes, Mexico, and Crossing the Andes DLC all come along for the ride with Nintendo Switch Edition as well.
A train tycoon for (fans of) the history books
Railway Empire – Nintendo Switch Edition is definitely a tycoon time-sucker. Seeing your profits go up as your trains steam and roll is satisfying, and watching a tiny bit of history play out is interesting if you’re into it. While this is not the most complex tycoon sim out there, it does have some harder mechanics for those seeking a challenge while also sill being accessible for anyone.
A review code was provided by the publisher.