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Railway Empire (Xbox)

Developed by Gaming Minds, Railway Empire is available now on PC (Steam) for £39.99, PS4 for £49.99 and Xbox One for £44.99.

Railway Empire is a simulation game where you can build your very own railway industry across different parts of the United States of America across a span of 100 years of locomotive history from 1830 - 1930. The first of its kind on consoles, you’ll be pleased to know that this just so happens to be an Xbox One X Enhanced title!

Railway Empire is a great looking game with a huge amount of detail being included, even in the contour lines. Incredibly, you are able to experience the game by first-person riding your trains which just gives you an even better view of the journey along the tracks you have placed. The sound effects are on point, especially when riding on the trains and the background music is pleasant without becoming annoyingly repetitive. As far as actual gameplay is concerned, the game runs smoothly without any framerate drops and I haven’t experienced any crashes.

There are so many elements to Railway Empire aside from just growing the railway industry. At the beginning of each month, you are awarded technology points which you can then use to unlock upgrades such as better trains or better train parts from the tech trees within the research section. As you grow your empire, people will start applying for jobs to work for you either in the office or on your trains which will give you additional bonuses, be careful though as you’ll have unhappy employees if you hire people with conflicting personalities!

When playing against the AI you can try to outbid each other at auction when trying to purchase businesses or other perks which will benefit your company. Depending on how aggressively you want to play against the AI, you can spy on their companies, sabotage their trains and cities and if you have a lot of cash, you can even buy enough of their company’s stocks to force a merger! Of course, its all much easier said than done and it will take a lot of play time before you reach the ability to do these things quickly.

There are four different game modes available to play through including:
  1. The campaign which has a total of 5 chapters to play through, each with 10 challenges to complete.
  2. There are 11 scenarios to play through, again each having a number of challenges to complete. Completing scenarios quickly and efficiently will earn you the top rank of “Presidential”.
  3. ‘Free Mode’ where you are given some challenges to complete and the ability to customise the era,  location, number of competitors and how much of a budget you begin with.
  4. Finally, there is ‘Sandbox Mode’ which is essentially where you are given unlimited funds to play however you want to, without competition and with all of the research points unlocked.

The first chapter of the campaign is fundamentally the tutorial where you are introduced to the workings of the game. I encountered a few issues with the campaign mode, unfortunately. I found that during the first chapter when you are being told how to go about placing tracks, side tracks and signals if you completed the tasks quicker than or before you were told to, it would glitch the progress and not tell you what to do next. Progress would also stop completely if you didn’t manage to place the signals in the exact position marked on the map so it took a few restarts for me to finally be able to make some progress.

Frustratingly, the issues aren’t confined to the first chapter. Progress has also stopped during the second chapter where the tasks didn’t update. After completing the first two tasks, no further tasks were added to my clipboard and on completing the overall requirement of the chapter, I was told that I had failed because no other challenges had been met. the game also failed to teach me quite important features of the game, such as how to go about spying or sabotaging other competitors. it is quite disheartening when you're being sabotaged by your nearest competitor and are clueless on how to retaliate! 

There is a tips and tricks option in the menus which will give you more information but personally, I found that reading large blocks of (rather small) writing was difficult. I would prefer more visuals alongside the writing to make it clearer. At the moment, the images are quite vague so you find yourself having to guess which parts of the game or menu that it is referring to. 

There are six characters available to play as when building your empire, each with their own unique personality and bonus for playing as them such as a discount when purchasing tracks or higher income from tickets to name just a couple. The characters have been voiced well and add some company in an otherwise lonesome game.

A rather irritating problem I have found is that when playing against AI they seem to have been set to play on “easy” difficulty where you are not required to use side-tracks. Instead, they are able to forego side-tracks completely and ghost through any other trains in the way. This is particularly troublesome when you realise that they are essentially able to save a lot of money by not having to buy extra tracks! So, whilst playing against the AI should be a fun experience, adding an extra challenging facet, you’re immediately at a disadvantage if you don’t ensure that you’re playing on easy as well.

Sandbox mode has been my absolute favourite mode to play on, purely because I found it the least troublesome and I was able to learn everything for myself as I went along. With every hiccup I stumbled upon, I could find the answer and rectify it accordingly. I would love to see some kind of co-op or indeed, versus feature to be added to Railway Empire as I think it would work incredibly well but I understand that the cost of being able to implement this will likely prevent it. 

Overall, I have a bizarre love for games where you are able to micromanage everything and so it is no surprise that I fell in love with Railway Empire. A calming yet addictive experience that would have warranted a perfect score from me but unfortunately, a few grumbles alongside the tutorial issues previously mentioned, prevented it! If I had to give it a score it would be 7/10.

Railway Empire has 55 achievements available for a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. A sizeable achievement list here with the majority of achievements unlockable by playing all aspects of the game including getting the best results from the scenarios as well as completing the campaign available. There are also a number of achievements which could take a little skill and patience to unlock! If you need any help or guidance, then head over to True Achievements where you will find plenty of useful information.

A game code was provided for the purpose of this review. Thank you!
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