I seem to have been in the driver’s seat of a fair few train games in recent times. I’ve played all the Train Sim World games, travelling across the world and heading down into the London Underground. I have built tracks and created stations in Railway Empire, working through history itself. And now I have spent time living the good life, with Train Life: A Railway Simulator. What does it do that makes it different from the rest?
Well, in a word or ten, instead of the forensic realism of a franchise like Train Sim World, Train Life focuses much more on the management and running of the railways. It’s a more casual affair in terms of gameplay, but that isn’t a bad thing at all.
So the big difference here is that in Train Life: A Railway Simulator you run the railway as well as drive the trains themselves. You get to drive a range of locomotives across ten different countries, covering all corners of the globe, making the most of some 10,000 km of tracks to explore. But you can also set up your own train company, design your trains and hire and fire employees. In amongst that you’ll also need to buy and maintain new trains, all in order to keep the money flowing in.
The career mode is the most sensible place to start with Train Life: A Railway Simulator as it gives you an overall feel for the game and allows you the chance to go through the invaluable tutorials on offer. The big difference here – at least between this game and Train Sim World – is in the driving of the trains. In the latter game, there is a lot to remember and some skills needed in order to get each of the trains moving along. It takes its realism seriously. Here and whilst it still requires some button pushing, it’s a lot more forgiving and casual in its operation of the engine. It almost feels a bit arcadey at times and the way it works with a controller feels very good.
But much of Train Life: A Railway Simulator is found in the management side. When you set up the company you then can start to accept contracts from train-related jobs. Do you take contracts involving delivering passengers, freight, or postage? Whichever you accept, the contract plays out and you’ll be left to fulfil the requirements of the job, all regarding delivery and train driving. You get money after completing a job and experience points. With this money you can get more trains, and then additional staff to employ to help your train empire grow.
As you progress and get more experience you level up, gathering rewards like lower fueling prices for your trains. For me, it’s the best part of Train Life: A Railway Simulator and as you move through the career mode it fast becomes addictive and rewarding in terms of progression.
That said, it’s not all fun and I personally found the constant need to change signals and tracks a bit of a chore; quite a few times I ended up going the wrong way. Most of the time the game is quite lenient with speeding zones and the like, and it’s certainly not as aggressive as you would expect in terms of arriving on time with passengers, freight, and postage.
Train Life: A Railway Simulator isn’t as realistic or as pretty as the big player in the train sim genre. It has quite a basic look to the outside world and at times it’s hard to recognise that each place is different. The cabins look good though, as do the trains and the menus. It’s all quite simple in terms of the soundtrack too.
It’s good that there is another train sim game on the market, giving players options away from Train Sim World. It’s also nice that the development team here have tried something different with Train Life: A Railway Simulator. This forgoes the realism to instead provide a decent job of mixing simpler train movement with a great management system; the addictive career mode gives this train sim its heart. Even though the visual design isn’t overly impressive, coming across as a bit old school, the trains themselves are nice enough, far away from being as detailed as they could be.
On the whole though you should have a decent enough time with Train Life: A Railway Simulator, especially if you’re looking for an alternative take on railway life.
Train Life: A Railway Simulator is on the Xbox Store