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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Euro Truck Simulator 2: My Trucker Life


I am so glad that I got exposed to Euro Truck Simulator 2 by SCS Software when it showed up on Steam last week. The whole idea of transporting cargo back and forth within the confines of Europe immediately intrigued me because of several important factors:

1) I love racing games and I always dream of driving on a really, really lengthy race track. You can consider Euro Track Simulator 2 as a time trial racing game.
2) I love driving in general. I love it so much that I always try, unsuccessfully, to convince the spouse to go on a road trip versus flying on the airplane.
3) I will probably not be visiting Europe in real life and this game will at least give me the illusion of being there.
4) Well, someone has to fulfill the promise that Sega failed to deliver with Eighteen Wheeler: American Pro Trucker on the Sega Dreamcast...

Slowly moving up in the trucker world...

SCS Software has an obsession with trucks apparently as evidenced by all the previous truck simulation games they have worked on in the past. Well, they are not the only ones for I am now a true believer in the trucker lifestyle myself. After selecting the most handsome trucker picture and naming my company "Worthy Move Agency", I started taking contracts from other companies to build up enough money to eventually buy my very own sweet truck. Since the game doesn't actually teach the player how to properly ride a truck, the first few hours of the game were rather frustrating for me. It didn't help that I actually chose the United Kingdom, Birmingham to be exact, as the location for my first garage because they drive on the left side of the road... And as if it wasn't bad enough that I could barely get myself out of the tight spot of the first delivery client, it took me about 40 minutes to park the cargo at the specific drop off spot at its delivery destination. There is an option in the game where you can drop the cargo automatically but then you will lose extra experience points - yes, this game has XP and you level up and gain skill points - but I was very determined to do things right. Then, I had to actually abandon my next two deliveries because I missed my turn and I couldn't seem to find a way to turn around. I lost so much money from these that I was in the negative and had grossly overdrafted my account!

So where's the local electronic store?

Yes, Euro Truck Simulator 2 can be a bit cruel before you start to understand the game a little better like you know, making sure that you are really paying attention to your Route Advisor. It didn't take long before I manage to get better at my driving and after several more successful manual drop offs, I don't even have to switch out of the interior camera anymore to help me drop off the cargo. Since I was confident of my skills, I then decided to loan some money from the bank so that I could get my truck immediately. This the point where the game really opens up. Though I could still take quick contracts, I decided to focus on building up my company. The difference here is that I now have to actually travel to the pick up location with my truck instead of being automatically transported there. My trucker life had suddenly become a lot more involving as I specifically looked for opportunities to visit different areas of the large European map. As if the prospect of that wasn't exciting enough, the company could be further expanded with additional garages as well as employees but since I am now a little bit more careful with my money, I haven't explored these expansions yet because I don't want to borrow more money from the bank to unlock them. This means a lot of driving before Worthy Move Agency will become the largest, most successful transportation company in all of Europe!

I am all about the long-distance driving because I am a real trucker!

You have probably realized by now that I have taken my role play to a new level with this game but of course that is easy to do when the game is quite fun. The company building gameplay works really well with the truck driving because it gives you a reason to keep playing and to perform perfectly with each delivery. The actual driving is also very good though I am still confused over the whole 12-gear thing - you can always choose automatic transmission however if you don't want to be bothered with that. You may think driving trucks is uneventful but you actually have to watch your speed and yes, you will be making very, very wide turns. Those other drivers on the road? Oh, they will cause troubles too when you least expect it. Though you can't fail a deliver when you get into an accident, you will damage your truck which is expensive to fix and more importantly, you will damage the valuable cargo which you will be financially penalized for. Those who are serious about the controls can actually use a racing wheel to play the game. I use the X-Box 360 controller and it works just fine but I really don't see how people can play this game with the keyboard and mouse setup. Graphically, this game looks amazing. There's hardly any pop-ups and fade ins. Time is sped up in the game - so the distance is not a 1:1 scale of the real thing - but the day and night transition is very convincing. For the most part, you are basically just looking at the European countryside but every now and then, you will see something eye-catching in the distance. To help with the long drive, you can listen to your own music in-game or connect to a selection of European live radio streams listed in the game that can be added to with your choice of live radio stream. My personal favorite is the France Bleu station.

Shamelessly hoarding both lanes for the turn.

Euro Truck Simulator 2 is a great new game to kick off my 2013. It's a unique simulator that is surprisingly engaging despite its niche subject matter. The longest delivery I have made so far took me a full hour to complete and I did it in one sitting - yes, I actually drove a digital truck for one full hour and didn't get bored doing so. Of course, you don't have to be hardcore in your approach to the game since the game does allow you to save at any time if you want to take a break but what's the fun in that, right?

FIRST IMPRESSION: 5 out of 5

The game is available for purchase on Steam and the developer's website.

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