Keeping the Trains Running on Time in Rail Route

Rail Route
Reviewed On
Steam (PC)
Available For

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks in my household, so I found myself in dire need of the relaxing rhythms of a simulator. There’s something amazing about a good sim as you’re able to control most of the variables and therefore the outcome in a way you aren’t in life. Add to that to my fondness for trains, and Rail Route was the perfect antidote for a season of chaos.

Plot Ahoy!

Rail Route isn’t really about construction, so if you’re looking to build a rail network, this is not the title for you. I mean, yes, if you unlock the construction elements, they are there. However, most of what you’re going to do involves signaling. If you are unfamiliar with how train stations work, they employ traffic controllers, not unlike the people in the fancy towers at airports. These controllers route trains to clear tracks based on where they need to go. That’s mostly what you’re going to be doing. At first, you’ll perform these tasks manually, but as you move through the game you’ll be able to automate more and more routes and tasks.

Rail Route does offer a tutorial based on the Prague map in which you shadow an employee named Jozic as you learn the ropes of getting folks from one point to the next. Jozic will offer charming anecdotes about the places you’re sending trains to and from, and generally it’s a great tutorial. However, it’s entirely skippable if you just want to jump right in and start managing the rails.

Review Notes

Rail Route is one of those ostensibly easy titles that ramps up the difficulty pretty quickly, depending on how you plan out your contracts, especially in the early stages when you’ve got to keep in mind not only the different schedules each train has to keep but also remembering which train has to use which track at what time. Like I said, that sounds easy, but the more trains and tracks you add, the more you’ll have to think two or three steps ahead. No matter how carefully you’ve considered that new upgrade or expansion to your network, your carefully calibrated machine will experience hiccups, so be on the lookout for those.

The way the game drives upgrades is a familiar mechanic. You complete contracts, which result in funds being credited to you, and you apply those funds to different upgrades, including faster trains. Players have the option of choosing between various maps, many of real places, and there’s an option to create and share your own maps with other players. Rail Route offers nearly endless possibilities for gameplay and is perhaps one of the purest sandbox games I’ve seen in recent memory.

Rail Route’s art style is beyond minimalist. On screen, you see your railways represented as lines with various stops labeled, so it almost feels as though you’re building a circuit board. In essence, I suppose you are. However, the clean visuals make it playable as a more cluttered screen would have made for vastly less pleasant gameplay. In terms of sound design, the developers opted for a calming, monotonous soundtrack, which can quickly get old. When there is voice acting, it’s well done, but the noise Rail Route makes when you forget to let the train onto a platform is just terrible.

If the title has a downside, it’s that gameplay is slow. Rail Route offers a speed up button in the UI, but you’re still going to have to wait for the trains to get where they’re going. Plus, in the event you see a crash on the horizon, there’s no rewind option. You have to watch the disaster play out. In addition, some of the mechanics aren’t well explained, but Rail Route has an incredibly active and helpful Discord should you become bogged down with something.


If you’re looking for a fast-paced Railroad Tycoon clone, you won’t find that in Rail Route. However, if you’re interested in trying a new spin on the genre, take a serious look at Rail Route.

Rail Route retails for $24.99 on Steam.

Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard

  1. Rail Route can become a memory hog, so be aware.
  2. It also has the occasional glitch, but the developers are very reactive.
  3. If you don’t like Jozic, don’t worry. There are options. Muwahahahaha.
  4. The UI is unique enough that getting used to it will contribute to the learning curve.
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