The builder sim Railway Empire 2 challenges you to become the trainline-owning tycoon you were always meant to be. The 2018 original was one of those titles that appealed to both strategy gamers and railroad hobbyists. And the second entry chugs along on the same track, only with intuitive tweaks to help keep the trains running on time.
Gamers start out by virtually donning the tailcoat or carriage dress of a male or female wannabe tycoon from the 1830s. Each character has his or her own strengths and weaknesses that will impact early industry and hopefully offer a leg up on the AI competition that is trying to lay tracks and control an area first.
The goal is to build railroad structures, establish economic strategies and construct your railway’s surrounding support buildings (restaurants, market halls, a post office, etc.). The ultimate hope is to create an empire that spans the continent, over expansive maps of either North America or Europe.
Of course, initially the game starts players out small and simple. There are little “cities” to connect, made up of a collection of buildings and a central factory or two. Gamers build stations and tracks between them to aid the communities’ growth and deliver needed resources.
But they also connect those cities to dairy farms, lumber yards, cattle ranches and other local industries that can’t transport their goods quickly on dirt roads or simple waterways. Each farm, township and growing metropolis has an industry it excels in, and this will be the export it offers to other towns and cities along the line.
As mentioned, AI competitors are also trying to build their own well-oiled industry. So, working against the clock, dealing with AI interference and fulfilling resource missions promptly is of vital importance.
The challenges feel daunting at first. You must: establish multiple tracks in and out of a station; choose the right train engine for a given job or jobs; maintain equipment; keep building expenses reasonable; deal with competitors; and link and ship all of those in-demand resources. But Railway Empire 2 has intuitive building and economic strategy tools in place that help players quickly stoke their gaming engines up to full steam.
Gamers can play co-op with up to three friends.
The idea of simply laying tracks and transporting people and resources from here to there may seem to be fairly mundane gameplay to some. But the game’s many missions and tasks are well-balanced and creatively consuming.
Along with Railway Empire 2’s building and strategy challenges, there’s also a very appealing look to the game. Gamers can swoop in from their birds-eye perspective to see the sights, and hear the surrounding sounds, from a train engineer’s point of view. And this rich tapestry of sight and sound is also accompanied by an authentic underscore of music that represents the time well.
Content concerns are fairly light here. The word “d–n” is used in the narration. Cities demand beer and tobacco—and fledging railroad barons must deliver them. And sabotage is part of the struggle between captains of railroad industry. Players not only work against thieves and saboteurs, but they can hire some of their own.
Strategy games such as Railway Empire 2 are, quite frankly, fun, creative gaming pursuits for the whole family. It’s simple to play, but with surprising challenges.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.