Station to Station is a super relaxing railway sim | Hands-on preview

by on June 8, 2023

Station to Station is about as relaxing a railway sim as I’ve ever played. It’s a cute little voxel-art game that tasks you with creating a rail network connecting towns and villages with various production nodes, and it’s about as far from something like Railroad Tycoon as it’s possible to be within the same genre. If anything it’s closer to something like Little Cities, only not VR.

You don’t have to worry about maintaining staff or appeasing commuters; you don’t even have to worry too much about which trains to set on your shiny new rails in the demo I played. Yes, you can choose between light and heavy freight cars, but that’s about it. Station to Station is more concerned with the broad strokes, laying tracks and making sure tiny imaginary people get their bread and milk in the morning.

It’s a world that doesn’t make much sense and doesn’t really need to. Each level begins with a blank map rendered in muted colours. Almost immediately, a selection of little buildings will plonk down onto the landscape and you’ll be given pretty simple instructions: follow the rules of supply and demand, and give the people what they need.

Station to Station

Hitting the space bar will spawn a station which you must place adjacent to a building. The first level teaches you the fundamentals, as you then create track to connect this station to the next. Ideally, if you have a wheat farm, it needs to be connected to a flour mill, and then that to a bakery. When you start to spawn towns, you’ll need to find a way to supply it with everything it needs. Every time you complete a working track, a little bloom of colour brightens the area.

Each level is a kind of logic puzzle, though there’s nothing hugely taxing. You have limited money, but can play special cards to reduce the cost of rails and bridges, or transform a light freight train into a heavy one for free. It’s nothing particularly complex, though the preview only contained 3 levels and it may become more in-depth later.

The fact that there’s no destroy or bulldoze option is frustrating, though. If you make a mistake, you’re stuck with it, meaning repeated errors will eventually lead to a lack of money and a need to restart. More than once, the next set of buildings included on that landed on a stretch of track I’d already built. While the train ghosted right through it, I couldn’t then connect the building to another track or station.

Station to Station

You can only earn more money by creating working supply lines, and those that satisfy two sets of demands at once are more lucrative. Unfortunately you don’t earn money over time, and each payment is a one-off. Again, this encourages you to think of each level as a self-contained puzzle, often with secondary objectives such as finishing with a certain amount of money in the bank.

It’s is a very chill game, though. There are elements of frustration, but they’re minor because you’re not on a time limit or under any pressure, and unlike many management sims there are no constant pop-ups demanding you service this or deal with that. I’ve only seen three levels so far, and while they were pleasant enough and certainly gorgeous, there doesn’t appear to be an awful lot to Station to Station.

Obviously this may change at launch, and even if it doesn’t, it’s kind of the point anyway. Station to Station isn’t intended to be a frantic, stress-filled challenge, but rather a chill, relaxing experience and in that respect it definitely aims to deliver on time.

Station to Station is coming to PC in 2023.