Railway Empire: The Great Lakes [DLC] (PS4) Review

Gaming Minds Studios are back with another DLC add-on for their very popular game, Railway Empire, only this time we see ourselves not in the United States but further North within Canada. Complete with a new scenario, map, engines, goods, and even weather system, Railway Empire: The Great Lakes offers many hours of additional enjoyment for this brilliant resource management sim.

However, not everything is ‘peachy’ in this new DLC, it contains some great new features and content, but there’s one major crux which I’m hoping isn’t going to be the start of something new – its difficulty. So, let’s don our train driving caps once more and check out the second DLC for Railway Empire…

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The solo scenario included in this pack.

This review presumes you’ve played the base game and/or the other DLCs. If not, click on any of the titles to read our reviews: Railway Empire | DLC 1: MexicoDLC 3: Crossing the Andes | DLC 4: Great Britain & Ireland

The Great Lakes sees us crossing North of the border as we wave goodbye to the United States and venture out into the unknown pastures of Canada – nice, sunny, hot, exotic Canada… Okay, maybe not! Here lies the first major change within the new DLC, in Railway Empire: Mexico we got the ability to switch between night and day, The Great Lakes enables a new climate for us to ‘enjoy’. That’s right, within this scenario, and any other map in free-play which is up north, at any point you can be presented with a rather hectic snowstorm.

The snow doesn’t only cover your whole map with beautiful white frozen water particles, it also slows down trains which aren’t well-equipped, disrupts your efficient lines by causing them to break more often, and even affects certain crops/cattle replenishment rates. Unlike the night and day mode, which you have to manually adjust, this new weather effect will occur at random and can/will catch you completely off guard.

You’re only given one new scenario within The Great Lakes, a twenty-year event in which you must “Bridge the distance between the British colonies and reach economic independence by creating a track infrastructure for the Great Lakes region”. I would love to say that this scenario is great, like I’ve found with a few of the other DLCs, but I can’t due to its difficulty. Speaking of which…

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That’s the name the game gave my character – I obviously kept it!

I don’t have time!
Usually, time limits within strategy games aren’t that bad – you have plenty of time to complete a few mundane tasks which you have to purposely screw up in order to not meet the demand required. However, in The Great Lakes, it’s quite the opposite – one wrong placement could lead to a lot of wasted time and a failed scenario. I personally found the time limits within this DLC to be far too harsh and almost impossible to meet.

As the scenario only takes place over one twenty-year period, almost every new task you’re given must be completed within 12 months – which isn’t very long in real life. Even at the beginning of the scenario, the time starts ticking by as you listen to the introduction, look at the tasks, and work out what you’ve been tasked with doing – I found that I had missed around two months before I’d even started my task, a task which must be done before the year ends in order to remain an active company!

I’m not going to lie – I never managed to complete the scenario when playing it officially with its story. I’ve played it about six or seven times and I always reach around the same point – a task which I find impossible to complete within the time it gives me. It might just be me – I imagine if you enable the option to pause the game whilst still working on things (which I don’t like doing as you lose points at the end) then it’ll be more bearable as well. As it is though, this DLC wasn’t my ‘thing’.

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The snow is more than a visual aesthetic!

Silver lining?
As stated previously, the weather effect this DLC adds was probably worth the asking price alone as, just like the day and night mode, it doesn’t only affect this scenario/map, it affects all others which are based in the north. Also, just like the Mexico DLC, we have a load of new items to transport around the map – this time there is a heavy focus on fur and ‘warm’ items – and there are two new locomotives for use to use in any mode, the Achilles (0-4-0) and Canadian (2-8-0).

Also, don’t forget that you aren’t limited to only play this new map within the scenario mode, you can opt to play in ‘Free Game’ if you wish. This is a mode which lets you pick your time period and you have to acquire as many points as you can whilst the game throws random tasks at you every few years. Alternatively, you can opt to play the entire region within the Sandbox Mode – as you’d expect, in this you can go crazy and set all the pre-game options yourself to fully customise your play and basically do whatever you want with unlimited money and all the research items unlocked. 

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Riding along with your trains in the snow is great!

Technical
Please see my original review for Railway Empire – nothing has changed as far as I can tell. The snow doesn’t affect performance and the game still looks stunning – even in full 4k on the PS4 Pro. One thing I’m still campaigning for is the addition of a photo mode within the game. The PC version seems to have one added but the console version never got one! Hopefully the developers can put it on their roadmap for future consideration?

Personal Opinion
Personally, if it wasn’t for the snow (which I don’t think you get with any of the other DLC packs) then I would find it hard to recommend this pack to anyone other than those who know the game inside out and are super efficient at what they do. The ramp in difficulty over the base game, and the other DLC packs is apparent and while not impossible, it does offer a lot more challenge than you’d expect. Thankfully, the developers seem to have corrected this in the subsequent DLC packs they brought out, but this one will forever remain a scenario I don’t complete.

I can’t disregard a game or add-on for its difficulty though, people did that with Darksiders III and Vampyr, yet I personally loved both of those and found them easy. As such, if you’re efficient and know what you’re doing within Railway Empire, then The Great Lakes will be a great addition with its new map, new goods, more challenging scenario, and brilliant snowy weather.

Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Railway Empire: The Great Lakes is the second DLC pack, one created to challenge the hardcore fanbase. I personally found the time limits set to complete certain tasks to be too short for my liking, but if you’ve been playing since day one and are proficient in all the mechanics then I’m sure you’ll have no issues. You get a new scenario (for the mission, free play and sandbox modes), an awesome snowy weather visual and mechanical effect, new cargo, new cities, and new locomotives. What’s not to like?

If you’ve played through the base game and any of its other DLC packs and thought it was too easy – Railway Empire: The Great Lakes is for you.

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A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Railway Empire - The Great Lakes

£6.49
7

Final Score

7.0/10

The Good:

  • - The new snow effects are great
  • - A brand new region to play in multiple modes
  • - New locomotives, Cargo and cities to play with
  • - Offers a lot of extra gameplay for fans of the base game

The Bad:

  • - Quite challenging with it's short task-completion times
  • - Only one scenario to play (even though it is quite long)
  • - Very unforgiving with certain tasks

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