Railway Empire - France DLCby Adam Dileva
I’ve played a handful of train sims before, even recently reviewed one, but I never got around to trying Railway Empire. Not all sims are created equal though, and Railway Empire proves this fact with its strong gameplay and deep mechanics. I usually become impatient with sim games after some time once my cities start to spiral out of control, but Railway Empire has as relaxing feel to it, even with its loud locomotives. There’s been a handful of DLC packs for Railway Empire already released, but now it’s time to travel to the land of wine, croissants, soufflés and crepes – France.
Napoleon III has been exiled and the French monarchy has crumbled once again. France will be shaped by your decisions by choosing to side with a general that wants to strengthen its borders in anticipation of an oncoming war, or to help the Minister of public work by backing the controversial “Eiffel Tower” project. While sim games generally don’t tend to utilize much story narratives, relying instead on its gameplay and mechanics, at least there’s some historical accuracies that set a framework as to what you’re doing here in France.
So you’re already a Railway Empire emperor and want to simply know what’s new with the France DLC? You begin with a new scenario that plays out between 1874 to 1890, a new map (France obviously) that’s available in Sandbox and Free Game modes, nearly a dozen new engines, 31 new cities, updated characters (though they seem to simply be reskins of original characters for the most part), 12 new tradeable goods (who doesn’t love some wine and cheese?) among a few other surprises.
Being that this was my first foray into the Railway Empire universe, I struggled quite early and often with the controls. Yes, I eventually became accustomed to it and learned, but it still didn’t feel natural even after a handful of hours into a Sandbox game. There are many menus and you’ll need to zoom quite far in to place accurate railways and buildings exactly where you want them, especially when you need to start merging railways and setting stop lights.
You begin with creating a station, then laying the track between two cities. Based on how you want to design your layout, and the difficulty, you’ll also have to plan ahead, as you’ll eventually want to expand for more lines, locomotives and intricate intersections. On the easier settings you don’t have to worry about setting merge lanes, stop lights and other utilizations than the more difficult modes do, as trains can freely pas through one another. Decide to play on a more realistic setting and you’ll have to design more intricate railways, complete with directional lanes, stop lights, refill stations and much more.
Easily my favorite part about the gameplay is setting down the track when building between two points. It’s very simple an intuitive, as you pick your starting and ending point, then can freely add nodes and pull track in any direction before deciding to build it. If you go over a waterway, it’ll automatically create a bridge (and be more expensive), and will always try and create the most efficient route between points.
From there you’ll start to connect your lines, dictating which trains are going to go from point to point. This is how you set up your connections, and there’s a lot of strategy that comes into play if you want to be successful. My first few games was simply trying to learn the intricacies of adding lines and locomotives, but every city has certain wants and desires, so you need to take that into account. Maybe one city wants wheat and another wine, or maybe you’ll want to bring supplies from one city to another on its own dedicated engine so that a new item can be crafted. There’s a lot that goes into the planning of railways, and much more than simply connecting point A to point B.
As time progresses in game, you’ll also earn research points. These are used in a skill tree-like system that allows for bonuses like new trains, more efficient engines and a ton of other perks that will be welcomed. I do wish there was an option in game to allow for more than 100% game speed, and a higher starting bank roll, but this also forced me to learn and be patient with slow and steady growth of my cities.
While the $16.99 asking price does seem a little high for a new comer like myself, Railway Empire fans will surely find enough value here with all of the new additions, even if it doesn’t necessarily add any new game changing mechanics. I’d still recommend you to choo choo choose this DLC if you’re looking to take in some French scenery while playing with some locomotives.