Unrailed! PC Review

Unrailed! is wacky fun with friends, but infuriating with strangers.

By Fragnarok, Posted 19 Oct 2020

In the world of Unrailed!, the train is always on time. Even in the middle of a stormy night, without any rail tracks, currently on fire, and floating through space. It is up to a band of unnamed heroes including possibly a penguin, dinosaur, and gingerbread man to clear a path, create a safe route, and escort the train to the next station before its robbed blind or derails into the ocean.

Unrailed! is designed as a multiplayer experience where two to four players will need to divide tasks, openly communicate, and coordinate efforts. A locomotive train is automatically heading for the next rail station, despite there being no clear path or even train tracks. Someone will need to chop down trees and collect wooden planks, another carve through mountains to collect stone, and a third person may craft with the materials to lay down actual train tracks. The train itself will overheat as it travels, leaving it up to a fourth person to collect water to cool they train and keep it from exploding. This may seem simple with four players at the ready, but the same obligations are present in even two and three player matches. This can leave the team switching around franticly between roles to cover all bases and prevent the train from crashing or bursting into flames.

Unrailed|Steam|Indoor Astronaut|Daedalic Entertainment|Bilibili

Even with the maximum amount of players, the map’s terrain and layout could play against the team’s effort. A patch of forest might be completely blocked by mountains, requiring the miner character to be busy helping the woodsman. In another instance, an impassable lake may require the track builder to lay down a second land bridge for humans to walk over, or risk the train itself blocking progress. As the map permanently scrolls and prevents backtracking, the train crew may find that the current screen contains no forest, mountains, or water. If their supply of raw materials runs out, it is inevitable that the train will soon derail or burn. To make things even harder, maps may contain animals blocking the road or thieves lying in wait to rob the train of its supplies. The match may turn into night time and obscure the player’s vision, or have other nasty environmental effects like heavy snowstorms. Players can even lose sight of their cutting axe, pickaxe, or water bucket and make it impossible to gather further in the match.

If the locomotive does make it to the station, players will have a moment of respite and a chance to edit the train. This can include adding in more supply carts, crafting carts, water storage, a variety of engines, and more. In certain modes, the team can also be rewarded bolt currency to purchase completely new types of wagons. This can include ones that slow the train’s movement, automatically collect nearby materials, or even makes the train ethereal so that it can be passed through.

Unrailed|Steam|Indoor Astronaut|Daedalic Entertainment|Bilibili

Head-to-head versus mode is also another gameplay method. This divides the group into two teams that must manage their own train while sabotaging the other. This includes additional train wagons that harm the enemy or power up the train. In versus, it isn’t actually required to safely reach the station as long as the enemy team crashes. In case of a simultaneous crash, the train that traveled the furthest east will break the tie. This can at times cause an unexpected loss if one side decided to detour slightly south or north to avoid an obstacle, but later crashed.       

Communication is key in Unrailed!, but the game does very little to facilitate this. There is no in-game text or speech chat, with the only option for players to display vague emotes like thumbs up or material icons. The game does include a prompt to download or open Discord, but leaves it up to the players to organize amongst themselves. It is even better to play in person with local couch co-op. Two players can divide the keyboard, while two more can join in via controllers. Though, buttons cannot be remapped leaving only default control options. Local and on-line can also be mixed together, with two sharing a single game, while others join in on their own. Unrailed! is best experienced with close friends, and will likely be awkward or frustrating as a random pick-up match, especially with those unwilling to chat on Discord. This is further compounded that the playerbase on Steam is low, making it unlikely to be randomly matched with others.

Unrailed|Steam|Indoor Astronaut|Daedalic Entertainment|Bilibili

For players that are truly alone, singleplayer is facilitated by an AI bot companion. They can be issued commands with the same emote menu and they will carry out the task to the best of their abilities. The bot’s only form of communication is other emotes, which can be unclear and confusing at times. For example, they may repeatedly show a wood symbol even when it seems like there is plenty of wood already available. It is up to the player to sort out the issue: is the path to the wood blocked, is the supply cart on fire and wood cannot be placed inside or was the wood axe stolen? This can make managing the bot feel more like babysitting than an actual partner. The bots can also be used in versus mode, allowing two players to try out a somewhat altered and hectic four-character match.

Unrailed! is incredibly fun as a game played with three other friends. This makes purchasing it a catch-22: players should really only consider getting the game if they know someone else that owns it or already plans on buying it. Another option is to use Steam share to simulate local co-op, or know enough people interested to frequently play in person. Unrailed’s singleplayer and public matching is lackluster, making it a hard pass for those going in solo. For the rest, they will be rewarded with frantic and challenging cooperative mayhem.               

Kurtis Seid, NoobFeed

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General Information



Platform(s): PC, PS5, XBSX
Publisher(s): Daedalic Entertainment, bilibili(China)
Developer(s): Indoor Astronaut
Genres: Multiplayer, Co-op
Themes: Trains
Release Date: 2020-09-23

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