While I am somewhat a newcomer to the train subgenre of video games, it has quickly become one of my favorite subgenres. I don’t know exactly what it is. There is something oddly satisfying though about creating a well run train network to transport goods between locations. In the last couple of years I have looked at quite a few different train games. Probably my favorite in the genre so far has been Train Valley 2. When I saw Railgrade I was intrigued as it seemed like the type of game that I would really enjoy. Railgrade is a fun puzzle style train game that is a blast for fans of the genre.
In Railgrade you play as a engineer sent to a mining colony on a planet far from Earth. You have been tasked by your employer the Nakatani Chemicals Corporation to fix the colony. The colony used to thrive, but it has fallen apart due to the collapse of its infrastructure.
For those familiar with the train game genre, Railgrade is going to feel pretty familiar. The goal of the game is pretty simple. It is broken down into levels. In each level the goal is to transport goods through a rail system from one area to another. Usually you will take a raw resource to a manufacturing facility to be further refined. This facility will produce another good which you will either further refine, or transport to a city or export location.
The production side of the game is quite straightforward. The buildings basically generate/refine resources over time. You just need to supply them with the proper resources and take away the finished products. Because of this a large emphasis of the game is put on creating an efficient rail system. Your rail system will determine how successful you will be.
Placing track is quite simple. You just select the rail tool and then drag and drop rails onto the map. The game even has a helpful assist tool that helps you connect sections of track together. Then at each building/facility you need to place a station. Trains will then be able to pick up and drop off resources.
Then you just need to place trains onto the tracks and tell them where to go. Train construction is as simple as picking the locomotive(s) that will pull the cargo and the cargo containers that it will haul. The train will then start moving along the rail that you place it on. The game will try to automatically find the planned route for the train. It is pretty good at figuring this out based on what cargo containers you add to the train. If it messes up though or you want to choose a different path, you can interact with each junction on the route and tell it to go a different direction. Later in the game you get the ability to add automatic switches which will tell trains to take alternating paths.
Once you place a train you can basically ignore it and let it do its job transporting goods/resources. Unlike some train games you don’t have to worry about crashes. Trains usually wait for one another, but should they collide they are not destroyed. One temporarily becomes invisible while the other passes through it. The only punishment for two trains “crashing” is that they are slowed down until they no longer intersect.
In a lot of ways Railgrade plays like most games from the train genre of video games. I would say that it falls more into the puzzle side of the genre rather than the tycoon/business side. A lot of this has to do with the game being broken down into levels. Generating revenue is also not the most important element. You need to make money in order to expand your rail network. The ultimate goal is just to transport the required goods as quickly as possible.
This requires you to figure out what to emphasize first. Then you need to find the most efficient way of moving cargo around. Of all of the train games that I have reviewed I would compare Railgrade the most to Train Valley 2. This is because that game also had a bigger reliance on the puzzle aspect of the genre. I would say that it actually has a bigger reliance on the puzzle element than Train Valley 2. This is because you don’t have to worry about directly controlling the movement of the trains.
Due to what type of game it is, Railgrade is not going to be for everyone. If you have no interest in a train game where the objective is to move goods around as quickly as possible, Railgrade is naturally not going to be for you. The subgenre has its audience that loves these type of games, but it definitely isn’t for everyone. If you are looking for a more tycoon style train game, you may also be a little disappointed by Railgrade. The game has more in common with a puzzle game than a tycoon game.
With that out of the way, I have to say that I have been really enjoying my time with Railgrade. I haven’t finished the game yet, but I have had a lot of fun. The game emphasizes the elements of the genre that I enjoy the most. In particular if you are a fan of Train Valley 2, Railgrade will be right up your alley. I think the game works so well for a couple of reasons.
At its most basic level Railgrade is quite simple to play. The game slowly introduces new mechanics as you play through the levels. The early levels are basically used to teach new mechanics. Ultimately the game is about placing rails between two locations to transport goods between them. This is really straightforward where you can easily jump into the game without having to overthink what you need to do.
The game embraces this simple to play aspect with its difficulty. Maybe this will change in the later levels, but it is not all that difficult to beat each level. The game is pretty generous with the amount of time that you have to complete your objectives. This allows you to avoid stressing out about having to perfectly optimize every element of your rail network.
This doesn’t mean that Railgrade doesn’t provide a challenge though. While it is easy to beat the levels, to master the levels is a different story. Basically the game rewards you based on how fast you finish each level. The faster you complete a level, the more rewards you receive. These rewards can be used to unlock additional buildings to refine goods, new locomotives, and other goodies. None of this is necessary, but it always helps.
There are some levels where it is still pretty easy to get the highest rating. Others require a great plan if you want to have any chance of completing the level in time for the highest reward. I have played a lot of these type of games. There are levels that I will likely have to play several times in order to get the best time.
I think this is the area where Railgrade succeeds the most. Like the best games in this genre, it is oddly satisfying creating an efficient system that works flawlessly. You don’t need the most efficient system in order to succeed. It is really satisfying when you come up with a system that allows you to quickly transport goods between locations. The game is not going to be for everyone. People who generally enjoy these type of games though will likely have a lot of fun with Railgrade. While it might not be the best train game that I have ever played, I would say that it is one of the better ones.
While I enjoyed my time with Railgrade, there are two things that I think could have been a little better.
The first is that I just wish the missions would give you all of your objectives from the very start. Most of the missions have two or more objectives that you have to complete. You only get one of the objectives at a time though. This makes sense as you usually have to complete the objectives in order.
I wish the game gave you all of the objectives at the same time though. Not knowing the future objectives can really affect your odds of getting one of the better times in a level. Knowing the future objectives allows you to start working towards some of them ahead of time. To get some of the best times you basically need to start working on these things before you even know about them. You basically need to figure out what you have to do next based on what resources and buildings are available to you. Otherwise you need to finish the level once to find out what the later objectives are. Then you need to play the mission again with this information to improve your time. I would have preferred the game just give you all of the objectives from the start of the level.
The other issue I had with Railgrade has to deal with the track system. For the most part the track system is actually great. It is really easy to place tracks, and the game does a good job connecting two track sections together. The game even finds the best route for your trains to complete their task.
The problem is that sometimes this system works against you. You will occasionally have to alter a train’s route as the game will make a mistake. While the suggested track layout is usually good, sometimes the tracks refuse to do what you want them to do. The only way around this is to place one or two sections of track at a time. You will have to keep doing this until you get to a point where the game figures out what you want to do. This is far from a huge issue, but it can be a little annoying at times.
As I mentioned earlier I haven’t completed all of the levels in Railgrade so I can’t give a definitive length. I am pretty impressed with the amount of content you get in the game. Railgrade has over 50 missions which is more than I expected. 50 levels might not seem like a lot, but you should get quite a bit of time out of the game. The length of levels can vary some. I would say that you can expect each level to take at least 15-25 minutes to complete as that is the fastest time for most of the levels. A lot of levels will take longer than that as well. If you want to get the highest rank in each level, it could take even longer. I honestly can’t see you not easily getting your money’s worth out of Railgrade if it is your type of game.
As a fan of train games with an emphasis on puzzle mechanics, I had a lot of fun with Railgrade. The game is not going to be for everyone as the train game genre simply won’t appeal to everyone. Railgrade pretty much gives you everything you could want from the genre though. It has a greater emphasis on the puzzle aspect than the tycoon aspect, but I think this works well for the game. The game is easy to play as laying down tracks and transporting goods is simple. Mastering the levels can be quite a challenge though. The game really excels at giving you a sense of satisfaction when you create a well run system of trains. There are a couple minor inconveniences, but there are no significant issues with the game. On top of all of this, Railgrade has quite a bit of content giving you plenty of bang for your buck.
My recommendation for Railgrade is pretty simple. If you don’t like train games or are looking for more of a tycoon style game, Railgrade may not be for you. Fans of the genre that are looking for more of a puzzle experience though, will likely love Railgrade and should seriously consider picking it up.
Release Date: September 29th, 2022 | Systems: Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: Minakata Dynamics | Publisher: Epic Games Publishing | ESRB Rating: Everyone
Genres: Indie, Puzzle
- Easy to play and yet it is challenging to get the best times.
- A fun and satisfying puzzle train game.
- Likely won’t appeal to those who don’t like the genre.
- Has a few minor issues that are more of an annoyance than serious issues.
Recommendation: For fans of train games like Train Valley 2 with a greater emphasis on puzzle elements than traditional tycoon games.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Minakata Dynamics and Epic Games Publishing for the review copy of Railgrade used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.