There are many types of train fan from the casual fan who has maybe a few Hornby models or just likes to go and look at train museums to the more extreme hobbyist who creates elaborate displays in their loft and knows train numbers off by heart. Railway Empire is certainly leaning towards the latter camp but has a foot in the more accessible casual side, too.
If there’s one word to sum up this game it’s ambitious. The sim world is getting quite crowded, even on Switch, and this is yet another city building game in the same vein as Cities Skylines. The tutorial is full of text and pointers and helps you build your first fully working railway lines between US farming towns that find their new connections invaluable in order to grow.
The campaign is the meat and bones of the game and is pretty huge in scope. Most of the time it does well at guiding you with regular challenges but it does occasionally cause issues when you’ve built something in slightly the wrong place. Another issue while playing through this mode is that the text in some of the information bubbles that pop up to help you along are far too small to read on a handheld screen. They work fine on the TV but on a Switch Lite or undocked Switch they need decent eyesight. Hopefully this is something the developers will patch.
Whether this campaign is historically accurate or not is debatable, but I found those initial stages of Railway Empire so interesting in the way you could see exactly how trains helped those small next-to-nothing towns flourish and grow into the huge cities, farms and industries we see today.
It’s a huge game and the art of building a new line and then zooming in for a close up to watch several trains steam past never gets old. The challenge of keeping everything running well will certainly appeal to those who favour the more detailed sims.
Free Roam mode allows you to just build and is a great addition to an already hefty game. It gives you plenty of freedom to make your own railway. so should appeal to those who love a bit of tinkering with their own trainsets or who don’t have space available for a real one.
There’s also a Scenario mode that puts you in certain situations and gives you smaller tasks to perform. It’s a good way to get a short but focused game if you want a break from the campaign mode.
Overall, Railway Empire does exactly what it sets out to do; provide a comprehensive historical simulation of building a real, functioning railway system that works for every town and city, growing and expanding your world as you progress. It’s complex but rewarding for any train fan.