Posted: May 27
This sounds like such a dull game. Simulate driving trains...pshhh. So this is what? The digital equivalent of model railways for people who are too lazy to actually build model railways?
It SOUNDS like such a dull game. That is, until you actually play with it. It took me watching some YouTube videos by Nerd^3 to decide to buy the game, and I don't regret it, because while it DOES sound dull, it's anything but. If you have even the least bit of a passing interest in rail transport of any kind, there's much to love with Train Simulator. I found myself starting out just by intentionally crashing the trains, seeing how fast I could push them before they derailed and such, and was quite tickled with that facet. Eventually, though, I began to take on a genuine interest in learning how the trains all functioned, what made them different, what all the different signs and lights meant... and what I discovered was that the world of the locomotive engineer is a complex and fascinating place that Train Simulator replicates in a very detailed fashion. In a word, it does one thing that other modern "simulators" rarely do in the past few years: successfully simulates what it claims to simulate. I feel that this program could actually be used as a training aid in learning how to drive locomotives.
Some general features of the game include the ability to drive the trains with an XBOX 360 controller (or, presumably, any other USB controller), a scenario editor that will allow you to create your own scenarios including any content you own (more on content later), extremely detailed control environments that allow you to interact with all important train controls, and many secondary ones, a pretty decent career mode that scores your performance, a quick drive mode where you just pick a loco and a route and drive on a clear line to wherever you like, futzing about with whatever you like as you go, and a rock-solid community that is extremely supportive when you inevitably have questions.
There is a pretty steep learning curve with some facets of the game, particularly when it comes to how signals work. However, the tutorials largely do a good job of covering it all, providing you take the time to do them. This is a bit of a task, as there are many, especially if you have the Academy add-on.
Full disclosure, I bought the Summer Edition, which includes quite a bit of DLC, and here-in lies my one serious critique of the game. Having spent the money for the highest-tier edition of the game, I still notice that I have only one Steam Loco to drive. There's also one for the academy, but it seems like you cannot use it outside of the academy. Even with the most expensive edition of the game, it feels like the game is kinda light on content. I can only imagine how sparse the base game is, as I don't believe it comes with the excellent Academy. Looking through the DLC store for TS15 shows a laundry list of content: Locomotives, Routes, Liveries, and Scenery packs. The most important content is obviously the Locos and Routes, as these are the things you actually play with in the game... and the cost A METRIC BUTTLOAD OF CASH. The average cost of a loco is $20, and the average route seems to be $40. To top this off, most Locos are designed to work with a specific route, and nearly all of them are DLC routes, while the Routes include scenarios that are mostly specific to one to three DLC locos. Meaning, if you want to buy 1 DLC, to get all of the content actually available to that DLC, you would really need to buy AT LEAST two, and up to FOUR DLCs, at an average of about $100 total. This is unacceptable, and really makes an excellent game look a lot like a shoddy cash grab. Why on EARTH are the Route DLCs more expensive than the base game?? Who thought this up??
My recommendation is this: IF you are interested in the game, buy it on sale, and ONLY buy the highest-tier version available. The Summer Edition was $57 when I bought it, which is actually an excellent value, considering it comes with about $300 worth of DLC (though sadly, seems to be missing the "Steam Edition Exclusive" locos). Then, figure out which DLC you want, do your homework on exactly what you need for bang-for-your-buck, and buy those when they are on deep discount as well. The game is definitely worth your time and money, but it's worth your time and money after doing a bit of homework to get the most content at the lowest price you can. I honestly wish they offered some kind of season pass for each iteration for about $100. You would ultimately save money, if you actually play with the content available. Lastly, I have to mention that the game doesn't work particularly well with laptops. I've got a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo with 4GB RAM and a nVidia card, and I have to play at the lowest resolution with all the gfx settings turned to minimum, and even then, there are times when it hangs loading a scenario. On my Asus G53SW laptop, it runs great at full resolution and full detail, but don't expect much on any laptop that isn't designed specifically for gaming.