Published by Iceberg Interactive, (who brought us fantastic titles such as Tech Support: Error Unknown and Pax Nova) Railroad Corporation is the very first game developed by Corbie Games, released in late May of 2019, and so far retaining a Mixed feedback.
Railroad Corporation is a base mix of strategy and management that aims to simulate the golden era of railways, across 19th century North America. It is above everything else an Early Access title, and developers do warn everyone that changes may and will happen, to a point where even the User Interface may suffer revisions. The current build delivers a stable and entertaining experience, however, not everyone might be up for it.
You can probably compare Railroad Corporation to Sid Meier's Railroads, but it retains a very unique feeling, one of a “closed ecosystem”, and clearly needs further improvements to become even more enjoyable.
The Fundamental gameplay, is what I call of the Search and Demand, where players must build railroads to accommodate each town’s needs, and successfully trade goods between them across the map. The lack of difficulty to choose from when starting a new game is a feature we would gladly like to see and the Tutorial mode feels somehow rushed and not properly executed when it comes to gameplay mechanics.
The overall experience centers around money, with a limit of debt, and the goal being to earn as much as possible. Some side-missions may have other objectives, and sometimes those aren't required to complete. There are strategic elements to save money, and one of the most pleasant experiences is to project the rails on the terrain, and calculate how much you’ll spend. There are ways to save money, such as the number of rails, the terrain excavations, bridges and tunnels needed, which all adds to the bill. It’s nice that players can come up with simple but real gameplay mechanics to cut costs.
Ultimately, players must use their profit to extend the town’s economic power, and develop new research offices to improve the trains efficiency. Some game mechanics are automatic, while others require action from the player. For instance, trains require manual mechanical maintenance, but railroad signals are placed automatically. This further emphasizes my point on the game’s prime focus on the strategic economic element as you will create and upgrade new facilities, while controlling a railroad of trains transporting material cargos and passengers as well.
At each completed “chapter”, new skills will be unlocked to further extend the players' abilities. SandBox mode is not yet available, leaving a campaign that has a time limit, with some minor bugs to be fixed. But progress is being made, so let’s hopefully wait for fixes that consistently improve the game.
Visually, it has a very traditional color palette, which can become repetitive over time. I’m not sure if we’ll have more design options in the Sandbox menu in the future, but it would be interesting to have them. The world looks pretty good, with buildings that are loyal of the time. Train animations are kind of basic, and railroads sometimes give out an illusion of being under the ground, but still entirely visible. It’s a weird effect when one zooms up and close.
In Railroad Corporation players can zoom in to the train, but it’s not possible to have a first person camera, such as riding the train itself while enjoying the view. This is not that type of game, and its structural design, is definitely more oriented towards a real-time overview of the map. As it stands, the user menus and interface are well designed and pleasant to the eyes, even when clustered with dozen of trains!
Music is available, and consists of a very friendly and classic tune that takes you immediately to the time in question. It’s very reminiscent of the era, delivering a smooth experience, very relaxing, and quite suitable for the learning process if one desires to maximize the game’s potential.
Unity Engine is known by its rough optimization when comes to delivering user settings, and in this case, we don’t have any graphic options whatsoever. Just the resolution and its respective Windowed mode. Hopefully, we will see some improvements regarding this, and in-game settings made available. Nonetheless the game runs perfectly well, reaching stable 60fps at 1080p, with my GTX 750 Ti, and only drops to 40 when I zoom in and out quickly.
Railroad Corporation is a good experience. As a strategy game, we’re used to bending the tides at our favour, but here, I see it more like challenging and high calibrated strategic title, where to succeed, all my actions needed to be telegraphed. It’s not a negative annotation, though, I personally feel the game should become more balanced, and once it does, Steam User Reviews will easily reach a “Very Positive” feedback.