Railway Empire Xbox One review: Growing a business on steam, wood and steel

Railway Empire blends history with addictive gameplay in a title that is accessible to newcomers to the genre.

Railway Empire is a business simulator similar to the Sid Meier's Railroad franchise. While the game may not be as expansive as even Sid Meier's Railroads! from 2006, it's still a joy to play especially on Xbox One. Instead of adopting a modern approach to the industry, Railway Empire focuses on 1830's America. During that time, industry was booming and the race was on to establish the most dominant and powerful railroad empire in the country. The goal is to overcome the competition and successfully lead your company into the near future.

Gameplay and mechanics

The goal of Railway Empire is to create an elaborate and expansive rail network by building tracks, stations, signals, and other buildings. However, it's not just about becoming the greatest railroad tycoon America has ever seen. The growth of your company is directly tied to the growth of cities. Initially, you have to discover what the people of a particular town desire and provide them with that resource. This promotes growth.

The growth of your company is directly tied to the growth of cities.

Growth is accomplished by connecting settlements to nearby farms, mines and ranches. However, as the city grows, you have to build better stations and even invest in schools and universities to encourage migration to a particular region. Structures like tourist attractions also bring a lot of visitors to a particular town. The more people there are, the more the transportation requirement. This means that you'll be the beneficiary at the end of the day. Railway Empire is also a basic city builder coupled with a business simulator.

The game is complicated because it goes into aspects of train maintenance and supply management. That's not all though, there are other competitors out there who can sabotage your company. Players must hire and manage their workforce to ensure an efficient train service. The most detailed aspect of the game has to be the process of developing hundreds of technologies — ranging from mechanical improvements to advanced amenities — as you progress through various eras of innovation.

Campaign and history

One of the best aspects of Railway Empire has to be its historical accuracy. There are over forty trains to choose from and they look stunning especially if you ride them and admire the scenery. While buildings like railway stations and maintenance sheds look great, they pale in compare to the attention the trains have received.

Railway Empire slowly peels away its layers revealing a rather complex game.

The campaign places you in various scenarios during 1800s America. Most of the tasks revolve around building stations, connecting various cities together, and transporting either passengers or cargo. Once you've done this, you complete the mission. Unfortunately, these are quite dry and the best way to experience Railway Empire is to let your creativity run wild in "Free Mode". This allows you to experiment with the game without being burdened by financial constraints.

The campaign also serves as a tutorial of sorts. You're taught the very basics and go from there. Eventually, you'll be required to build and research your way to the top. However, just like the events which transpired during the time period, you can also sabotage your opponents through raids and industrial espionage. Railway Empire slowly peels away its layers revealing a rather complex game.

Learning curve

Railway Empire might not be as expansive as other business simulators in the past, but it does a great job of introducing players to the mechanics. The tutorials are some of the most in-depth we've experienced in any game, but they could be clearer. It seems as though that a basic understanding of how tracks function is necessary for success.

Sometimes trial and error is the best way to learn the game.

Luckily, the "Tips & Tricks" section does a great job of filling many gaps in your knowledge. Unfortunately, sometimes trial and error is the best way to learn the game because the explanations are confusing. This is mostly due to the fact that the narrator in the campaign doesn't really tell you how to place signals properly or how to make rail switches. Even adding a new rail line can be somewhat of a chore early on because you have to confirm various options. This whole facet of Railway Empire could've been much tighter.

Performance and visuals

Railway Empire features Xbox One X support and it looks incredibly sharp on a 4K display. The game appears to be running at native 4K resolution given a preliminary pixel count. While the visuals are clear, the title is locked to 30 FPS on Xbox One X unlike its PC counterpart. This is a curious decision, but one that is understandable given the fact that the standard Xbox One version also runs at 30 FPS.

The game appears to be running at native 4K resolution on Xbox One X.

This doesn't detract from the experience because it's a slow-paced game which revolves around selecting trains, placing stations, and planning routes. However, it still would've been nice to see the game look smoother in motion especially when you want to ride on one of your trains.

Railway Empire review conclusion

Overall, Railway Empire is a good game which should appeal to newcomers more than seasoned veterans of the genre. While there is a slight learning curve, the rough patches can be solved with some trial and error. The game would've benefited from a longer time period, but focusing on the early days of the railway industry in America has an undeniable appeal. Railway Empire is a good foundation for a franchise, but it needs to expand into many more eras if it wants to take on the titans of the genre from yesteryear.

One of the biggest flaws in Railway Empire is the lack of a multiplayer mode. While it's always fun to take on the computer-controlled enemies, playing with friends on a larger map would've offered a greater challenge. The developer should've included the ability to play online because it would've offered a deeper experience. Multiplayer adds to the replayability of a game so its omission is a curious oversight. Given the fact that the game has an experienced publisher behind it, multiplayer should've been a priority like other modern strategy games.


  • Great visuals.
  • Strong Xbox One X support.
  • Easy to learn.
  • Slowly reveals complex mechanics.


  • Limited focus.
  • Some tutorials are frustrating.
  • Needs stronger campaign.
  • No multiplayer mode.

Railway Empire went on sale for Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4 on January 26, 2018, priced at $59.99.

Keep an eye on WindowsCentral.com/Gaming for all the latest in Xbox and Windows 10 gaming, accessories, news, and reviews!

Asher Madan

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.