The main problem with the mainstream world of gaming is that one cannot simply just ‘game’. Immersion in the entire fictional world is required whereby countless hours must be clocked until we ache with carpal tunnel syndrome. There was a time where I could play a video game to relieve stress and not cause it.
Another issue I have is that the releases are very… safe. Ideas are continuously recycled, with expansion packs and sequels being released with only minor gameplay upgrades. It is as if the bucket from the well has run dry and gaming developers are unknowingly drawing material from the nearby septic tank. But, in the end, it does not matter because people buy these products regardless.
The Greenlight community offers a relief to the mass pile of tainted water with many anticipated titles that offer delightfully obscure concepts combined with simple yet creative gameplay. Euro Truck Simulator fits into that theme quite nicely.
The title reflects the game quite well; you are a trucker who drives around in Europe making deliveries. The game opens with a fairly basic setup. You can chose to add additional controlling tools such as a gamepad or steering wheel. Unfortunately, I was limited to my keyboard and mouse. If you could apply other control methods of some kind I would strongly recommend it. Holding down the arrow keys or ‘WASD’ does become boring quickly and takes away from the simulative aspect. However, what is good is that almost every key on the keyboard is occupied. Even the function keys serve a valuable purpose. The driver can turn on his/her hazards, turning signals, high beams, horn, toggle the side mirrors and even control the lighting on his dash. These little addons are quite charming and reflect the term ‘simulator’ very well. You will also find the need to use most of these keys as the game progresses.
The player creates their own trucker and company by selecting a portrait, a truck, and a logo. I was disappointed with the selection of characters to choose from. The trucks are also quite limited, but you later on buy, paint and upgrade your truck as the game progresses. As for the portraits, there is very much of the same. Male and female, all of the faces seem to merely resemble the blue collar, red neck trucker stereotype. And while this could ring true in the real world, it’s slightly offensive. That’s like playing a game called Cab Simulator and having all of the characters visible minorities. The easy solution to this would be to upload your own photos and logos, but the game does not have this option. It is strange because you can upload your music files into the music gaming folder and play your favourite tunes while you cruise. Since my experience already felt ungenuine and limited because of my keyboard and mouse control system, I playlisted “Bachman Turner Overdrive Greatest Hits” for a sense of authenticity. You’ll find this necessary because the game’s repetitive and irritating music rarely comes on and the sound of the diesel engine becomes annoying quickly. Enjoying to your favourite tunes, whatever they may be, is vital.
After the creation process, you are given a map of Europe and have to select which city to begin building your reputation and bank account. The goal of the game is to build your own successful business delivering the best goods across Europe. I decided to start my quest in jolly ol’ London. My first task was to deliver sawdust to a factory as a hired gun for another company. The driver needs to do some work before he/she can get their own truck, warehouse, offices, etc. Before I pulled out of the sawmill parking lot, I spent an overly committed ten minutes to mastering the cameras and developing a good feel for my truck. I have never driven an actual truck before, but the mechanics due seem quite accurate. The biggest challenge I found was reversing the vehicle when needed. The cargo area continuously gave me difficulty but I managed to figure it out…or so I thought.
Being Canadian, it was my instinct to drive on the right side of the road. Well, in jolly ol’ England, they drive on the left side and my instinctive North American habits continued to be my downfall. I kept turning onto the wrong side of the roadways and causing damage to my truck. I had to continuously reverse to try and to put my truck back into a good driving position. This is not as simple as it seems, particularly when you are driving up on-ramps and have come to a halt. Gaining momentum while trying to go uphill is very frustrating, especially when you are hitting guard rails every three seconds.“OK, no biggie! I made it out alive without considerable damage”. Well, here’s the issue. The player receives deductions for traffic violations and quite consistently as if a ghost cop is always following you. Speeding tickets, wrong side of the road offences (which happened quite frequently), and damages to other drivers are all taken into account and subtracted from your paycheque at the end of the mission. Even running red lights merits you a considerable thrashing on your bank account. That’s right! You have to wait for the greenlight if you want to play this game (pun intended). At least people on the road didn’t get out of their cars and scream at me. In fact, all characters, including myself seem to be at ease even when their vehicle has flipped over.
Moreover, the realism of the game is very much intact in certain areas, but raises question marks in others. Along the way, the driver may need to stop for gas and sleep for obvious reasons. You may even have to stop to pay for toll roads. Pull up to a gas station and fill up your tank and watch your hard earned money drain away – just like real life. However, unlike real life, if you don’t sleep you get an ‘avoid sleeping offence’. I even got a ticket for not having my headlights on – during daylight hours, as if the ghost cop is trolling me with oppression. By this time, I had created a female character and began another journey in Italy. Are these common road laws in Italy? Upon brief research I discovered that they were not.
Eventually, the driver begins to doze off and you end up crashing your truck, which in turn leads to damage and more repairs needed. Would that have not been enough? Seeing ticket after ticket becomes very discouraging. My complaint is that while there is a gas gauge, there is no indication of any kind as to how tired the driver is. To top it off, I found myself miles upon miles away from a resting stop. Apparently, there is not a single motel between Milan and Torino. Because of this design flaw and a GPS that does not a have point-of-interest feature, I found myself continuously falling asleep behind the wheel thus collecting damage and tickets.
At the end of each mission, you are graded based on delivery time, condition of the truck, and condition of the cargo. For reasons already mentioned, I received a hurtful deduction because of the damage to my truck and for countless road violations. You receive experience points which you can apply to specific skills as you level. You can specialize in heavy cargo, delicates, and even eco driving if you are a hipster. These skills then determine what types of deliveries your driver makes and also the payout.
The main menu screen is very intuitive. You can check emails that inform you of various business opportunities as well as a complete profile on the right side. Social media is integrated along with a quick link to the official website for the latest news. A delightful part of the game is when you take a bank loan and purchase your own truck. The trucks are all different on the exterior and interior. You can customize over the hood and under the hood to improve the overall experience and quality of your truck.
You gain access to your garage after you are able to purchase your first truck. This is where the game greatly opens up as you are now officially managing a business. As the game carries on, you are able acquire more assets such as trucks, other drivers and garages to further grow your business and cover more ground across Europe. This extension of the game becomes the motivating factor in continuing. Once you’ve paid of bank loans and generate decent income, the game becomes steady and less frustrating.
Last thing to mention would be the artificial intelligence which seems to be very well crafted. However, there was an instance where I was trapped behind a fellow trucker who was turning left on a single lane street. I was running late as it was because I had to take a long nap since you cannot buy speed pills anywhere. Despite constant honking and bumper kissing, I was unable to motivate him to make his turn after several minutes. I am still confused as to if this is poor programming on the developers behalf or brilliant AI that emulates the types of drivers I see on the road every day. Either way, I ended up slowly pushing him forward out of my way. I was better off blowing away yet another $400 on damage reductions as opposed to wasting more time and subsequently losing more money at the end of the mission.
Having not played the original simulator, I cannot give an opinion on the improvements of the sequel. The business aspect can become somewhat addicting, but this game can be very enjoyable if you pace yourself correctly. While I did not have the full simulator experience with a wheel, I am still satisfied with the overall controls and flow. I do believe that games such as Grand Theft Auto have desensitized me, so perhaps I’m being punished with countless speeding tickets, crashes, and red light tickets. Having said that, the frustrations that came along on every truck ride I deserved with very minimal exception. I tried rushing through everything. The key to success is patience, and it will be a virtue that shines throughout every single delivery you assign and make. Driving fast and recklessly will end up costing you big, so you can’t be too ambitious of a gamer.
+ Creative idea and pretty well executed in general. ‘Delivers’ what is expected.
+ Awesome variety of trucks, parts, skills, cargo, job offerings, and paint designs.
+ Great attention to detail with options; adjusting to your mirrors to a specific angle, for example.
+ Good graphics and décor
- Discouraging gameplay at times. Player can fall behind financially very easily
- Driving gets boring quickly. Everything outside simulator mode becomes the ‘driving’ aspect
- Bad selection in the character creation process
I would recommend this title to keep on the back burner and pick-up every so often, particularly when you need to relax after an intense game of Dota.
Have you had a chance to play Euro Truck Simulator 2? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!