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Railway Empire 2 Switch review – all aboard the 2:19 to fuzz town

Our Railway Empire 2 Switch review tries its best to be nice to a foundationally solid train simulator, but the whole rotten business is too hard to overcome.

Railway Empire 2 Switch review - a wide shot of a massive grassy plain with a steam train flying through it below a massive sky.

Our Verdict

Railway Empire 2 is almost definitely a good game on any other platform. But for the same price as beefier competitors, you can get it in a version that looks three decades old. And you wouldn’t know it until you bought it. That sucks.

I like funiculars. My sister used to live in Lyon and there’s a really good one there. I’ve ridden it at least six times. I like the way Richard Ayoade always clings to the word “funicular” when he rides one in Travel Man. I’m also a big fan of buses, especially ones that go long distances. I’m also a big fan of trains. I like to sit at the Anchor & Hope in Clapton and look at trains going by on the bridge by the canal, drinking a pint of Guinness.

What I’m saying is, I like to look at things. Marvels of engineering are entertaining to look at. It’s part of the reason why I play a lot of Bridge Constructor games and have an obsession with the sort of playset aesthetics you get in Civilization and Total War. It’s really fun to look at stuff doing its clockwork thing, like in Cities: Skylines; some sort of coin-operated playground for the anoraks out there who don’t have floor space.

So, when I heard about a new train game, I was thrilled at the idea of having it on my Switch ready for some on-the-go action. I thought to myself about how I could make a joke about playing the train game while on an actual train. Wouldn’t that be funny… Well, I didn’t get that far. Because Railway Empire 2 on Nintendo Switch breaks down all my love for looking at stuff at the first hurdle: it’s just really, really ugly.

The best way to start then, is to watch the cinematic trailer down below. If you watch that and get excited, then you’re like me. You get why these games are fun. Building out barren land with networks that behave as they should based on inputs and decisions you make is just a good time when it all looks pretty.

YouTube Thumbnail

If you look at Railway Empire 2 on the Nintendo Switch eShop, you’ll notice that there aren’t any proper in-game screenshots. There’s one from the home screen and two from menus. So, assumedly, the minds behind Railway Empire 2 – Nintendo Switch Edition (the “edition” moniker I assume can only mean it’s the only version constantly in “big fuzzy mode”) know that the game is the opposite of a sight for sore eyes. So, this then feels dirty. Almost like something a robber baron would do, eh? Maybe it’s meta.

The game costs $49.99 (£45.99) on Nintendo Switch. You can’t see any screenshots from the game online before release. Oh, and the game is out now, the same day my review is allowed to go live. It boggles the mind that this version and the PC version can cost the same, and for that reason, it feels incredibly gross. Especially when the game froze my entire Switch on two occasions in less than an hour of playtime, forcing a hard restart — not even the home button responded.

So, while I would love to review the game on its own terms and sit with gritted teeth through the godawful graphics so as to do my due diligence as a game reviewer, I can’t. I bristle at the idea of giving it its due diligence. There is a very interesting and solid game underneath it all, but it just feels like such an underhanded con that I don’t have any interest in extolling any of that. Guess I’ll just leave you with some screenshots and hop aboard the 2:19 out of here ASAP.

If you’d like to play a good portable train game that looks quite charming, check out our Sid Meier’s Railroads mobile review to see if it’s for you.