Don’t judge a book by its cover. This saying, along with the ability to be patient, should be kept in mind when it comes to World Train Royale, a new game by developer versus-software. The combination of match-3, time management, and tycoon elements surely sounds promising, but as always the mixture of different genres can be a tricky case. While the game is far from perfect, players who enjoy details and a real challenge might still get hooked on it easily.

Your basic task in a nutshell is to collect various resources like milk, gold, silver, wood and stone by matching those resources on a grid, which resembles those of classic match-3 titles, except for the fact that you are able to swap every tile, no matter if this move actually creates a match. This means that you can rearrange the grid to your own liking, thereby possibly creating four- or five-tile matches to boost your resource income. Early on you will face obstacles on the grid, such as clouds, moles, golems or frozen resources, which will complicate matters a bit, but without getting frustrating.

But the match-3 part of the game is only one aspect of World Train Royale. In each level you have to fulfill one or more objectives, such as transporting 300 resources in a certain amount of time, or transporting resources worth $1000. This sounds pretty easy, simple, and maybe even repetitive, but it is anything but that. You can transport your resources to various cities in the surrounding region, and each city pays different prices for different goods. Unfortunately, it takes some time to understand which symbol represents which resource, in how far the prices of goods differ and in which way you can maximize your profit. Some clear tables instead of just images would have been more helpful in this respect.

Apart from that it is also crucial how you compose your train(s). You can choose from a growing variety of engines, which differ in their speed and the number of wagons they are able to carry. The wagons in turn can carry different goods, and various number of goods. So the choice of engine and wagons always depends on your current financial and strategic situation, which adds a refreshing complexity and depth to the game. Throughout the campaign, new resources, engines, wagons and opportunities will be added, so that every level feels absolutely different and requires its own strategy.

On top of that, it is possible to construct factories that can also be upgraded later on. Those factories will produce more expensive goods from the basic resources you collect, but those luxury products require more expensive wagons at the same time and are often demanded in cities that are far away from your current city. If you are able to finish some levels with even harder goals you can also earn so-called cards, which offer small advantages such as cheaper engines, bonus money at the beginning of each level, or more time for any mission. One card may not influence the gameplay that much, but collectively they can really help you out in the end, so that replaying levels is actually worth it.

All in all the game falls a bit short of proper instructions, which is a serious letdown especially considering the somewhat cryptic font and graphics, both of those aspects not exactly simplifying the gameplay. The characters who are trying to help you to get familiar with World Train Royale are definitely charming, but their help could have been extended for sure. Because of the way it’s presented, a lot of players might miss out on what’s actually a good game, simply because they lack the time and patience to really get into it. On the other hand it is really a great feeling when you’re finally able to beat a very hard level by applying your own strategy, which definitely goes way beyond mere clicking.

Apart from the high difficulty and the unusual graphics of World Train Royale, there is not much to be criticized. The gameplay feels unique, and due to the complexity, the reward for finishing missions successfully is really high. The game has an very good length, with over fifty cities to visit, from which you will have to and want replay the majority at least twice. The elements of different genres fit together perfectly, and particularly fans of the match-3 genre might like a new approach to the genre. 

While the graphics of World Train Royale will definitely be a major turnoff for a lot of players, along with the unfamiliar complex gameplay mechanics, it is without a doubt a very challenging and unique experience if you invest some time to get into it. PC gaming veterans especially will be delighted to play a new Railroad Tycoon-type game wwith twists. Give this daring and quirky game a whirl and you might find yourself hooked on it for a few days, calculating transport time, profit margins and resources on a grid.

For similar games, try Loco Mogul, Wagons Ho!, or DinerTown Tycoon.