A little over a year ago I took a look at Train Valley 2. Despite being an early access game I loved the game as it was a really satisfying combination of a train game and a puzzle game. Basically the goal in Train Valley 2 is to build tracks between cities in order to supply the required goods to each city. On top of this you had to control the trains so they wouldn’t run into one another. I bring up Train Valley 2 since as soon as I saw Railroad Corporation it immediately reminded me of Train Valley 2. As I enjoyed Train Valley 2 so much I was excited to try out Railroad Corporation. Railroad Corporation may be a little light on content at this point, but it already has the framework in place for a good train business strategy game.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Corbie Games and Iceberg Interactive for the preview copy of Railroad Corporation used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to preview, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this preview. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this preview.
After playing Railroad Corporation for a few hours I have to say that I still couldn’t shake the Train Valley 2 comparison. This is not meant to be an insult especially when you consider how much I enjoyed Train Valley 2. The main reason why Railroad Corporation reminded me so much of Train Valley 2 was because the basic gameplay of both games are quite similar. In both games the goal is to create train routes between cities in order to deliver goods between them. You are responsible for placing the tracks and guiding the trains to their destinations. Both games even have advanced goods which require you to deliver basic goods to a station which are then turned into more advanced goods.
Where the two games diverge is on what the two games emphasize outside of delivering goods. Train Valley 2 is kind of a puzzle game as you micromanage moving the trains to deliver the goods in time without having the trains crash into one another. Railroad Corporation doesn’t force you to micromanage the trains. You just have to create their travel route and then the trains move by themselves without any worry of them running into one another. Instead Railroad Corporation has a much larger emphasis on running the business side of the company. You need to take advantage of your train routes to make money and avoid going bankrupt.
While the campaign mode has objectives that you have to accomplish in order to move onto the next level, I would say that successfully running your business is more important. If your business goes bankrupt there is no way you can complete the objectives after all. In this area I think the game does a good job balancing between having enough detail and not giving you too much detail. Outside of building tracks between towns, you need to run the other operations of your business. You need to manually create trading routes which includes choosing what you will pick up and drop off at each station. You also have to pay for your fuel as well as occasionally repair your trains or they will break down. You can also purchase factories and other buildings in order to produce goods for cheap which you can then transport to other cities to make money
To pay for all of this you need to create trade routes that will generate you a steady profit. These routes may do nothing to help you reach your end goals but they are critical to keep you from going bankrupt. While you can go a little into debt, it is highly discouraged as debt is really expensive in the game. At the beginning of each level you need to slowly build up your business. Build a few easy routes that will quickly become money makers. You can then use the profit from those routes to expand to more cities and eventually make progress towards completing the objectives
Another interesting mechanic in Railroad Corporation is that you are responsible for developing your company’s technology. Early in your first mission you will build your first research station. This gives you access to the research mechanics of the game. Basically you need to continue to advance your technology if you want any chance of advancing in the game. You can research advances that speed up your trains, increase their durability and lifespan, increase their power and pulling capacity, and even create new types of trains. What you decide to prioritize in research will have an impact on future missions. After completing each mission you are given an opportunity to use rewards you received from completing the level to purchase unique upgrades that will help your company.
As Railroad Corporation is currently in early access, it does not currently feature all of the final mechanics or game modes. At this point the game only has a couple levels to play. A sandbox mode is planned to be added at a future date. While some people would prefer the sandbox mode, I had quite a bit of fun with the levels. At the beginning of each level you are given a set of objectives to complete within a given amount of time. Some of these objectives are optional and give you bonus experience that you can use to purchase upgrades between levels. Other objectives are required in order to beat the level. In addition to staying in business you need to complete these objectives in order to move onto the next level.
For the most part I liked how the levels are shaping up. The levels are far from a cakewalk as the time limits can be tight. You need to figure out quickly how you are going to approach completing the critical missions since if you wait too long you will fail and have to restart the level. You likely will fail quite a few of the missions on your first attempt. If you have a plan though and don’t waste too much time you should be able to complete the levels. I do think the game needs to include some some of difficulty levels though. I would say the time limits are a little too short right now where you need to really know what you are doing in order to succeed. If the game were to add difficulty levels you could get more time/unlimited time for easier difficulties and less time for harder difficulties. You could then get more rewards for completing a level on a harder difficulty.
Railroad Corporation might be an early access title but I have already had quite a bit of fun playing the game. At this point in its development I would probably say that Train Valley 2 was better, but I see a lot of promise for Railroad Corporation. The game already has the framework needed to become a really good game. There is just something really satisfying about the gameplay. If you have played Train Valley 2 or another similar game and enjoyed them, I think you will enjoy Railroad Corporation unless you hate the business aspects of the game.
Despite being an early access game I have to commend the game for being quite polished. The game already looks quite good visually with some really nice details that add to the experience. You can tell a lot of work has already been put into the game. It seems like a lot of the mechanics are already in the game. A few of the mechanics might need a little tweaking but for the most part they work well.
In particular one mechanic that works well is building train tracks between towns. It is a surprisingly easy process. If you want you can just drag the tracks between two towns and the game automatically connects them. If you want to take a more nuanced approach you can lay sections at a time which gives you more control over the path of the tracks. The game makes it easy to snap different track pieces together so the process is simple to use no matter which option you choose.
I honestly only had one issue with the track placement mechanics. When placing tracks you pay for the tracks themselves as well as other costs dependent on additional features that have to be created. It is pretty obvious when a bridge or tunnel has to be added. It is not so obvious when you will have to adjust the soil due to differences in elevation. If you run track over an area that requires a lot of soil movement it can add a lot to the cost of placing tracks. The problem is that in its current state it is hard to see areas of the map where you will have to pay additional costs to adjust the soil. When trying to save money you want to avoid these additional costs but it is hard to see them when there aren’t really any indications of which parts of the land will add the additional costs. Hopefully the game can find a way to show players when they will incur these costs so players have an option to build their tracks to avoid these additional costs.
The next issue Railroad Corporation needs to address is that the game has some small bugs. Occasionally I would try to select something and the game didn’t recognize it. I think some the train pathing could use some work as well. Trains would wait to use a track that another train is on even if that train is far away. When there were two tracks connecting two cities trains would occasionally wait to use the occupied track instead of using the unoccupied track. There are also a few other minor issues.
I also think the game could use some optimization. I didn’t encounter any framerate issues or slowdown while playing the game. This was probably due to playing the game on a computer significantly above the game’s minimum requirements. I could tell the game was pushing my computer at times though especially when trying to place tracks. This is not all that surprisingly though as Railroad Corporation is in early access. As it continues through the early access process these issues will hopefully be resolved. If you have a powerful PC this shouldn’t be a problem. If your PC is closer to the minimum requirements though you may encounter some framerate issues.
I would say that the biggest issue with Railroad Corporation is that there isn’t a lot of content at this point. It seems like a lot of the mechanics are already in place but there isn’t a lot to do in the game at this point. As I said earlier the game only has a couple levels in place right now. Once you have played through those levels, all you can really do is replay them in order to try and complete them quicker/better. At this point there is only a limited amount of stuff that you can do. I can see getting five to ten hours out of the game at this point depending on how many times you fail the levels. You will probably have to wait for future updates to get more content though.
At this point I think the early signs for Railroad Corporation are encouraging. I found the game to be quite fun. People who enjoy train games where you create train routes and deliver goods between them should have fun with the game. This will especially be true for people who are looking for more business mechanics than a game like Train Valley 2. There is a small learning curve to the game, but the mechanics are well designed and work well. For a game just released into early access I have to say that I was surprised by how polished the game appears. As it is an early access game though it does have a few issues. I wish the game had a few more tools regarding the terrain and there are some occasional bugs. The biggest problem with the game is that there isn’t a lot of content to play right now.
If you aren’t really into train simulation games, Railroad Corporation is probably not going to be for you. If the lack of content currently worries you, I would maybe check back after some more content is added. People who like the game’s concept though should still be able to have quite a bit of fun with Railroad Corporation. I know I have enjoyed my time so far with the game and can’t wait to see where it ends up.