Title: Railroad Corporation
Developer: Corbie Games
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Genre: Tycoon Simulation
Available On: PC
Official Site: http://www.railroadcorporation.com/
Release Date: November 18, 2019
Where to Buy it: Steam
Railroad Corporation is an interesting experiment. It’s a game where you play as the manager of a corporation in the golden age of railroads, working your way to the top. With a modest loan of $50,000 and the choice of 3 corporations to choose from- each with their own unique talents- you’re tasked to manage trains, railways, and stations to create a trade network across the country. But is Railroad Corporation an accurate simulation, or does it derail itself on its way to the station?
Gameplay in Railroad Corporation is intuitive and straightforward. Using your home station, you’ll connect to other stations by building railways, forming a network that will bring supplies from one station to another. The challenge comes from setting up efficient routes between the stations; for instance, one city might be set up for producing forged iron, which will require iron ore and coal from two other cities. You could set up a single train that runs between the three cities, which would be the cheaper option but would result in a slow production of the forged iron and extra wear and tear on the locomotive. Alternatively, you could set up two trains to deliver iron ore and coal, which would be faster and would result in a much more efficient production of forged iron but would be the more expensive option.
Eventually, the idea is to set up an entire network that can efficiently convey goods from one city to another while being profitable, while also completing a series of objectives. Those objectives award experience that you can use to unlock skills between missions that will lower costs and make your future goals slightly easier. You get more experience for finishing the objectives faster, which will help speed things along a bit. On the flip side, take too long, and you’ll have to start the mission over and try a different strategy.
Take Me On Out of This Town
One of Railroad Corporation’s most significant flaws, however, is how rough the control over the placement of tracks can be. With a little work, you can route the tracks to where you need them to go, but the automatic placement of tracks can be fiddly at best. This is unfortunate, as the more track you have to place down means that the tracks cost more than they should, meaning that other objectives will be more difficult as you won’t have as much money to use. Another issue I’ve had is how strangely the game handles the management of cargo– more than a few times, a train has picked up cargo from an order that had been canceled. Still, since there was no station scheduled for delivery, the train just went from stop to stop, fruitlessly, as there was no room for more cargo. This ended up costing me not only time but also money, as the train still came in for repairs and again took up the track so other trains couldn’t take the same path.
Another frustrating bit that I came across early on was that you could buy a production facility to earn more money from delivering those goods- for example, a clothes manufacturing plant- but the facility would cost more over time, rendering it nearly impossible to afford. This was unfortunate, as one of the objectives in the mission was to purchase said facility. Another strange thing is that you cannot see all of the objectives in a mission in any place aside from the mission briefing screen, and some objectives are nested underneath their prerequisites, making your ultimate goals for each mission unclear- especially when you save mid-mission and come back the next day.
In fact, the game as a whole is a bit too obtuse with its mechanics. The tutorial is sparse and shows you the most essential of mechanics and then leaves you to figure the rest out, and I found myself struggling to keep up until I read a Steam Community guide written about the game by a player. This is unfortunate, as the game itself does have some depth to it that isn’t revealed by the tutorial.
A Midnight Train to Memphis
Railroad Corporation is a fun game, with some excellent and addictive mechanics. It’s a game you could spend 10 minutes and feel accomplished, but it’s also one you could spend all day playing and enjoy yourself. There are a few downsides to the game, like the fact that Sandboxes don’t unlock until after you’ve cleared the mission in Campaign mode, but the game still has its hooks in me. It’s fun to try to figure out the problems in your supply chain, and it’s fun to try to play the levels all over again and do it faster each time. The music and graphics fit the aesthetic and help you get absorbed in the world without distracting you. The developers are attentive and are continually fixing problems and bugs that the community points out on the official Steam forums for the game as well as adding in more content- including a special holiday mission called “Christmas Rush” that went live on December 20th.
Verdict: Railroad Corporation will keep most strategy gamers entertained, though it’s not one of the deepest and strategic games available. Fans of Civilization might feel a little bored, but this game offers a few twists on the Tycoon genre if you’re willing to put in the work to learn the systems and mechanics on offer. With a little more work to the train pathfinding and track management systems, it could be a solid title with a long shelf life, something that would be irresistible.
- Consistent visual aesthetic
- Easy to jump in and start playing
- Engaging gameplay
- Confusing railway placement
- Lack of fine control over train pathing
- Tutorial leaves a lot to be desired