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Transport Empire: Windows Phone and Windows 8 review

Every game publisher has its strengths, and many of them have their niches – particular things they focus on as well. European publisher Game Insight practically owns the city building genre on Windows Phone, having released numerous entries like 2020 My Country, The Tribez, and Big Business Deluxe. Of course they all vary in theme, and sometimes quality.

Lucky for fans of the genre, Game Insight has just released one of its best city building games on Windows Phone and Windows 8: Transport Empire. In Transport Empire, you'll manage a network of trains, ships, and airships (but mostly trains) as they travel across a fictionalized Europe to deliver goods and reap profits. If you like trains, this free to play title is worth a look.

Strangers on a train

Transport Empire unfolds a little more story than we typically see in city building games. Players take on the role of Lynn Skytell, a young woman who dresses skimpily and is determined to carve out a business empire of her own in a new land. Along the way she'll interact with her brother, uncle, a rival businessman/suitor, and many more characters. The dialogue is too dry to be of much interest, but the character art is just gorgeous.

Lynn starts out with access to a small portion of land, but she'll unlock new areas as the player levels up. Each location has several places for players to build things, such as mines, lodges, and other buildings. After building or renovating these locations, they'll start producing resources like coal, wood, and iron. These provide the ingredients needed to build new structures or send trains, etc. out on jobs. They can also be sold for silver when your warehouses get too full.

To actually harvest resources, you'll need trains (and later steamboats and airships). The game offers several trains to buy, each based on real-life classical trains. Sending a fleet of trains out and watching them zip along the tracks is actually pretty entertaining, if you like trains. Each run takes a different amount of time to complete, ranging from a minute to several hours. City builders are meant to be played in short spurts throughout the day, after al.

Those trains must also be equipped with carriages to hold passengers or goods. Different carriages are suitable for different resources. If you don't equip the right carriage for a run, the run will take longer or bring back less of the resource (I'm not sure exactly which). But buying a fleet of carriages takes time and money, so some players might just ignore the "inefficient carriage" warning and send the trains out anyway.

From city to city

Although you're not tied down to a single sprawling city in this game, cities still come into play. Players will open paths to various cities as the game progresses.

These cities are much smaller than the genre norm, with only around 5-7 things to build in each one. One of those, the factory, produces steel. Steel constantly runs dry (annoyingly), so putting the factory to work is really important. Warehouses also provide a necessary storage location for resources.

The cities have their own reputation system that regulates when new upgrades will unlock. Earning a particular resource will fill up a city's reputation meter. Get it up high enough and you can build something new or upgrade an existing structure.

Missions and events

Like any city builder, Transport Empire constantly gives players one or more quests to complete. These add a little to the story, but mainly just keep players busy. You'll have to complete specific types of contracts at different locations, harvest a certain resource, and more. The rewards tend to consist of silver, experience, and sometimes resources.

As your trains and ships move across the map, they'll sometimes encounter a random event. You might need to clear trees from a track, help a traveler in need, or even just take advantage of a fishing opportunity. Accepting a random event always costs either silver or a resource, but it usually pays off with something valuable. Sometimes the vent is a bust and you lose whatever you spent though.

Random events are designated by exclamation marks on the map. If you don't select one quickly enough, it disappears. The system encourages players to stay with the game and pay attention to it for a while rather than just checking in and leaving.

Mapping your empire

The game map where you'll spend most of your time is colorful and finely drawn, retaining a satisfying amount of detail even when fully zoomed in. It could use some animation beyond player vehicles though, such as water movement or swaying trees.

Although the map screen is mostly well laid out, it does suffer from a UI issue. The quests that players receive all pop up along the left side of the screen. Frequently players will need to tap buildings, random encounters, and other map elements along that same side.

Far too often the game misinterprets my map taps as me selecting a quest, making it tough to collect resources or do whatever I intended to do. You can hide some of the quests by tapping the clipboard icon, but the main quest will remain to block whatever might be behind it. Allowing players to scroll the map farther over so that the intended object would no longer be under the quest description would be the best solution.

Resources and in-app purchases

Transport Empire's primary currency is silver. You'll constantly earn silver from completing quests, collecting it from buildings, and other tasks. Every job you take costs some silver, and usually another resource too.

Many trains, carriages, and other important items can be purchased with silver. But the best ones cost gold, the premium currency. Players never need premium vehicles, but they provide advantages like better reliability (less need for repair) and cargo capacity.

Traditionally, gold would be the sole resource for speeding up tasks like jobs and building upgrades. The cost of speed-ups in Transport Empire varies by the actual task, though. Some things cost gold to zip through while others cost silver or resources instead. That's a plus in my book.

The game does have a random drop mechanic that encourages players to spend gold, however. New structures on the map such as mines often require a manager before they start producing resources. You can find these managers as random drops when you perform jobs involving that resource, such as finding the logging site manager while collecting logs.

The final option is to hire a manager for 25 gold. Players who are determined not to make in-app purchases can probably get by without reaching for their wallets, but it might take a while to grind for managerial drops.

Facebook and cloud MIA

Other platforms allow players to invite Facebook friends to act as managers instead of grinding for the manager drop or spending gold. They also allow cloud saves via Facebook login.

Disappointingly, the Windows Phone and Windows 8 versions of Transport Empire don't have Facebook integration. That means we don't get the social features like hiring managers. And worse, we can't save to the cloud and/or hop back and forth between the same profile on Windows Phone and Windows 8.

The missing Facebook features are difficult to excuse, given that several other Game Insight titles for Windows do support Facebook. Hopefully the publisher adds the integration soon. And in the future, games shouldn't launch without relatively basic features that they have on other platforms.

As a workaround for the cloud saving issue, you can visit the settings menu and take a screenshot of your Support ID. Using that ID, Game Insight can recover an account if you ever need to reinstall the game. But it's a hassle.

Overall Impression

Missing Facebook aside, Transport Empire is one of the most distinctive city building games in Game Insight's oeuvre. Free to play city builders are often aimed at women, but this one's suggestive character art and focus on trains indicate a game designed for the dudes.

You do need some patience with this one, as much of the game involves sending trains on missions to collect whatever resource you're low on at the moment, and then coming back later in the day to collect. But setting up a bunch of jobs for your trains and then watching them zoom around the map is actually pretty fun on its own.

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

30 Comments
  • Clash of clans with moving targets?
  • Donno why people have set the benchmark as clash of clans
  • Agreed 100%. Its such a slow game. Boom Beach is slow too. I tickle them along, but I don't feel very engaged. Eventually when you are at war in clash I am sure its good, but getting to a decent level is a slow tedious grind, or money sink. (Could explain why they make 1 billion per year!) I feel much more engaged with Plunder Pirates on iOS, and Star Wars Commander (all platforms) Age of Empires has unit control, which looks nice but I am stuck at a sort of mid way point at the moment with no progression. Its werid, not sure why - unless its expecting me to now pay. But I cannot seem to progress. I get attached, lose money, make some money, get attacked (rinse, repeat) Cloud Raiders is cute, Troll Wars is cute, I am just looking at Royal Revolt. But anyway I agree, Clash of Clans is not that exciting albeit a very polished experience.
  • +1020. Agreed, Abhishek. I tried Clash of Clans on my Android tablet, and I got SOOO bored with it. It was deleted before I even finished the tutorial!
  • Cloud saving in these types games is a must. A lesson I learned the hard way.
  • Game Insight support is also a bit brusk. I had excellent support from Disney with Star Wars Commander, the lady even thanked me and said if I "felt any more tremors in the force" to contact them right away. I thought it was a nice touch, and I got great support. I think these games should have some form of Xbox / Microsoft save anyway. I don't really use Facebook, so have no interest in using it as my game save service.  
  • I played Star Wars Commander for many months on iPad and it remained in my playlist while some were removed along the way (because storage is limited on the precious 32GB). When SWC was launched on Windows, there was no linked support and I had to continue playing on iPad. Until next week, I decided to delete the game. Was at Level 8 HQ and the grind was becoming harder. I enjoyed spending $10 on IAP while playing, but it was becoming boring. Never played Clash of Clans but I still have my Boom Beach because my boss is playing. But I've stopped being active. Just mining for resources.
  • Mostly aimed at women? I must be more feminine than I thought. I play all their titles. Except the detective one coz it bored me and I couldn't see any of the items coz it is too small on my 1020
  • Yeah, I guess I turned into a woman YEARS ago, considering I always loved playing Tomb Raider for Playstation 1 (the first, original game). Oh wait .. *looks down inside his pants*. Breaking news, this just in: I am a male after all. The games did not, after all, change my gender. I am still a male, despite playing even Tomb Raider II, The Guardian of Light, Tomb Raider remake from 2013 and other female-hero games. Does that not make any sense? Neither does the article. When it comes to Game Insight, the game dev, I am disappointed about Big Business Deluxe. I have played the game regularly for months now and there are way too many in-app purchase "sales" and "act now" messages. The money they want you to pay for progressing in the game is not balanced or even close to reasonable. At the same time, trying to buy buildings on free money collected over time simply isn't worth it either. I have noticed that you get basically 1% incremental profit when you buy new buildings with higher return in money. At first glance, 8500 in profit might sound higher than 2210 or so, but the amount of time and resource spending you are required to put in for those 8500 in profit is not worth 8500. Actually the resources can take literally 12 hours to produce and their value can be like 2000. Then, you wait 30 minutes (plus those 12 hours that is) to make 8500-2000 in profit, meaning you get 6500 in actual profit. So long time to wait! 2210 in profit can be made in 30 minutes, all in all! With everything accounted, in total. So, 4420 per hour .. 44200 in 10 hours. Well, waiting 12 hours for what, 4 resources to complete and then run them through 30 minutes at 5 times of production .. *thinking*. You get a profit of 6500 * 4 = 26 000. That is way off. There is LESS requirement in terms of Player XP Level to get your hands on the production buildings that make you 44200 compared to 26 000. Does not make any sense. Why do I keep playing it? I have come too far to quit. I still expand the profit over time, even though it is frustrating as ..... (Hint: rhymes with "well").
  • That's a stretch to say Tomb Raider is aimed at females because it stars a female. The series has historically been aimed at males (hence objectifying Lara), although lately they've been trying to make it more gender neutral. The comment in question relates specifically to the free to play city building genre, of which this and several Game Insight games are a part. I've talked to the publisher, and those titles have a large female audience (over half). Doesn't mean guys can't or shouldn't enjoy those games.
  • I really like game insight, I lost my saved game of the tribez after a phone reset and in a day they restored it after sending a request
  • Railroads or Railroad Tycoon for dummies
  • I play this game and the only thing that I hate is the history popping up... The game play is fine so as the graphics. Would be great to have Facebook integration or saving to the cloud but not having doesn't means the game won't worth a try :)
  • I might check out out.
  • Looks fun I will check this out.
  • I dont like game where I play for 5 minutes and then wait for 5 hours for something to get built. I'd rather pay for the game.
  • Hello, I just signed the petition, "Snapchat: Make Snapchat for Windows Phone!." I think this is important. Will you sign it too? Here's the link: http://www.change.org/p/snapchat-make-snapchat-for-windows-phone Thanks, Daniel
    Xx
  • i think snapchat shud hatch eggs.
  • At this point I'm like, fuck them. They obviously dislike MS for some reason and refuse to make an app for the platform. I'd rather have MS make their skype qik better than having an snapchat app.
  • Is it really that graphic intensive that requires 1 GB ram?
  • I think they'll optimize it for 512 MB eventually. The art is fairly high resolution but it should be possible.
  • Has Game Insight ever gone back to optimize games before? Mirrors of Albion is another title I'd like to see for 512 MB devices.
  • I asked about both titles. I'll let you know if they provide any news.
  • Wicked! Thanks!
  • Game insight forgot to address a huge bug (maybe they don't want to!). Playing online for gamers is almost everything nowadays. I experienced many positive support and a permanently bad support from Game insight. Playing big business deluxe, phone reached its freeze point (climbing mountain in 3600m height, last month). phone touch freezed!?!  I went back home, when playing or working for more than 2 minutes touch had stopped working. For releasing this issue cold reset (vol- & power). time was changed to its latest update time. So, the relation was to the game, it showed a message means as you are cheating your online experience banned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!? Their answer to this problem was: this is system that blocked you and noone can do anything. Game insight games are highly online dependant and if you are unable to play online, you won't be able to truly progress the game. instead of easily ban the gamer for a regular task as I do always in business trips(set my time to the destination city), it's better to punish those who do so. Game insight was gone, as I'm unable to keep my wrong time, thanks to playing such time wasting games.
  • How to exit game???
  • Age of Empires Castle siege All the time!!
  •    Not my favorite genre but I am happy that the game is available for the platform. Hopefully, they will Xbox achievements in a future update for players that are interested.
  • Why​ is it that there are always missing features in the Windows versions of these games and versions on those other platforms are feature complete? Its getting tiresome. I am really hoping that the next Windows version will give developers incentive to stop bastardizing the Windows versions. It isn't fair to us, as users, to be left with the crappier versions.
  • When it comes to 512MB windows phones???