Games publisher Kalypso Media has had a strong track record with strategy / tactical/ building simulation games. Their resume includes such classics as the Commandos and Tropico series. Now I’ve never considered myself a model railroad nerd or expert in any shape or form. I have grandsons whose other grandfather is heavily into model railroading so I always considered that to be their thing. Taking a chance on reviewing Kalypso and Gaming Minds Studios’ port of Railway Empire seemed like the opportune chance to join in on some of my grandsons’ fun. Unfortunately, not being a train enthusiast might have ruined this current attempt for me. Welcome to our quick-hit review of Railway Empire – Nintendo Switch Edition!
The original Railway Empire was released in 2018 on Steam PC and we reviewed it back then to mediocre fanfare, unfortunately. So with a new port to console and a new “edition” hope springs eternal. I had originally planned to submit a full review on the Nintendo Switch Edition but you’ll find out why I didn’t shortly.
For those new to the series, Railway Empire – Nintendo Switch Edition is a train empire-building management simulation game. I know that’s a mouthful but this game, even on the Nintendo Switch, is packed with features. Not only is the game a filling simulation game but it also packs a lot of historical industry history in itself as well. The game is set in the United States circa 1830, considered to be “The New World”. It’s a time of an “Industrial Boom”. You as the player partake in a push to establish the most dominant and powerful rail empire in all of North America.
“Crazy, But That’s How it Goes”
The game has several game modes as you can see in the Start menu pictured above. We dove into the campaign mode right away and were led into a voiced tutorial. It seemed to be an encouraging start. The tutorial is quite extensive, content-wise. It does a good job walking you through the basic techniques but stops short thereafter.
The tutorial tells you what to accomplish in the next step, e.g. build a new train and a new rail line that runs from the rural train station through Omaha to Norfolk. The problem is the tutorial doesn’t provide feedback or help on why something is not correct. Accomplishing several of the tutorial steps felt like too much trial and error plus guesswork which led to much frustration. There is some basic overview initially but when left to finish it becomes tough to remember all the fine details. So much so it takes several trips to the “tips” help section to dig for an answer.
In the tutorial example loosely interpreted above the game would show me that “Omaha cannot be reached” but being a novice I have no idea why. I tried adding a second parallel track with a loop around and it still did not satisfy the objective. It got to the point where I was on the internet searching for help for tutorial missions! This resulted in so many frustrating hours within just the tutorial. It seems that maybe the team didn’t completely learn from history as several old comments posted on the Steam forum for the game were by other players that ran into similar stumbling blocks.
Things That Are On The Right Track
For as much as I saw there are several things to like about Railway Empire – Nintendo Switch Edition. The hand-drawn artwork is beautiful. History is taken seriously and the game makes sure you learn something along the way. The game has several gameplay modes including sandbox and free modes. As far as a management simulation goes there are plenty of details here to micromanage, which in this context is a good thing. This Railway Empire – Nintendo Switch Edition also features the additional content of Mexico, The Great Lakes and Crossing the Andes. This includes new scenarios on regional maps, additional soundtracks, and locomotives as well as introducing the night and snow modes.
The game plays well in undocked mode. There are several tiny text-filled dialogues that the Nintendo Switch’s zoom function definitely helps with.
Going into this game I had hoped it was a game I could also enjoy with a seven-year-old grandson. But even being the model train expert he is might result in frustration. If you’re an overall railroad enthusiast perhaps you’ll fare better than I did.