Railway Empire

Game review by
Michael Lafferty, Common Sense Media
Railway Empire Game Poster Image
All aboard solid simulation of the rise of the rails.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational value

While Railway Empire uses historical settings to launch different modes of play, the game stays true to the time frame, even has information about era, what was happening. This presents a nice way to learn a little history. 

Positive messages

Goal is to build a viable, profitable rail system. Positive messages occur mostly when creating a rail line within budget that can turn a profit, lead to more revenue, which in turn sustains efforts to grow rail line. 

Positive role models & representations

No overt role models. Success measured by making wise choices that create a sustainable company. Players can choose to perform corporate espionage and sabotage in-game competition, but can also take the high road and focus on creating a good business model without resorting to industrial foul play. 

Ease of play

Although there's a tutorial, some elements (such as seemingly simple task of laying sidetrack) can feel awkward using a mouse to draw tracks on uneven terrain. Navigation is kept on the easy side, though. 

Violence & scariness

Apart from sabotaging corporate competitors by disrupting rail lines, no violence in game.

Language
Consumerism

Features names of actual railroad companies. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Railway Empire is a downloadable simulation game based on historic railroad elements. It contains true historical elements based on the establishment of railroads across the U.S. While there are multiple difficulty levels and many options to customize play, the imprecise mouse controls could frustrate some players. Apart from the option to perform industrial espionage, there's no violence or inappropriate content. Players will be exposed to some actual railroad companies, but that's about the only commercial entity in the game.

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What's it about?

RAILWAY EMPIRE is a train and railroad company simulation that features a variety of campaigns and scenarios that start in 1830 and roll into the year 1910. Players create a network of train tracks and are responsible for buying and maintaining the 40 different engines available in the game. They'll also build stations and maintain buildings, factories, and even tourist attractions to keep their railroad company one step ahead of the computer-controlled competition. Railway Empire also features more than 300 technologies ranging from mechanical improvements to workplace infrastructures and advanced amenities. With four game modes featuring five campaign chapters, 11 scenarios, and seven sandbox regions with five time periods in each region to choose from, players have lots of options. 

Is it any good?

Grab a seat on an entertaining ride across time in a railroad simulator that features something for everyone. Railway Empire is a solid game that features many gameplay options based on historical time periods as well as actual environments and technology. It also sprinkles in a dash of history to give the settings relevance, and then challenges players with creating, maintaining, and building an empire in a manner that will attract gamers of all ages. The graphics are terrific, up close or from a distance, and the sound is a solid supporting cast member that drives the theme home. Perhaps the biggest element that Railway Empire boasts is the variety of settings you can play with; the campaign has five chapters that touch on time periods from the early 1800s through the Civil War. The Scenarios mode has 11 time periods and difficulties ranging from medium to hard, and the Sandbox mode features 35 time periods spread across seven regions from coast to coast. 

If the game has a failing, it might be in the control scheme and initial tutorial that fails to fully relay the mechanics of a game element like laying down side tracks. When it comes to fine motor skills, such as meticulously creating side rails, the game controls feel like trying to draw fine lines with a brick. Railway Empire requires clicking on rail heads that are sometimes buried inside towns and can be tricky to catch just right to activate them. Sometimes when you think you've created additional tracks within the parameters of what's asked for, the dollar sign fails to light up to actually initiate the construction. The tutorial instructions are cursory and may be a stumbling block for younger gamers. But all that notwithstanding, Railway Empire still delivers the goods as a sim that not only challenges, but is big on entertainment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the history and importance of the train and how it figured into the economic and migration of settlers across the country. How did the train system help evolve the United States? What were some of the hurdles that it had to overcome?

  • A discussion can center on simulation games. What makes them entertaining and what relevance do they have in teaching players about important concepts such as fiscal planning and management? What about problem-solving? What's intriguing about the genre? What can be learned?

  • Talk with younger players about balancing appropriate amounts of time playing games or watching TV or movies with an active lifestyle. How can time be shared between screen and recreational activities? What real-world games does the younger player enjoy?

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