Posted: April 2, 2014
Ok I've spent an embarrassingly long amount of time in this game so I think I can say a thing or two about it. There are really nice things about it and really awful things, the latter being more abundant but I'll still split this into a pros and cons review. I will admit that until fairly recently I thought this was a good simulator until I learned more about how locomotive systems actually work and found alternative simulation programs. This review is based on what I now know. Also I feel I should mention that I almost never run Steam Locomotives, so I can't comment on that aspect.
Here's what this game does RIGHT:
-GRAPHICS: To my knowledge, better than other trains sims in terms of lighting, quality of objects/models, and simulation of movement (head/cab shaking)
-AMOUNT OF ADD-ONS: Yes, I'm counting this as a pro, but only the availability aspect. See below for everything else about DLC. There is a decent variety of content, albeit only for UK, US, and GER.
-ROUTES: Some (SOME!!!) of these are really well made and scenarios from the workshop make them better.
-WORKSHOP: Integrated much better into this game than others (such as a mod made by someone named Garry). There is some really good content on here from users who care about making good scenarios.
Here's what this game does WRONG:
-Complete disregard for quality control. Majority of available DLC should not have been released as-is. This applies mostly to older routes (those have drastically improved lately) and nearly all locomotives. More info on this below.
-Refusal to fix bugs. I don't think ONE problem that I have with my content has been fixed since I first got this game. What does get “fixed” is stuff no one gives a dookie about like the passengers having their clothes change depending on the season and “improving” their AI on platforms. I swear to god this was one of the embarrassingly small number of changes DTG advertised from 2013 to 2014, and even that just broke more things (now passengers will float in mid-air and run around in little circles!). Only other change I can remember them saying was the menu interface. Wow, thanks. So glad that got worked on and not the completely broken air brake simulation.
-Accuracy of simulation. To my knowledge... not so good. Brake systems behave completely wrong. Slack forces between cars are unpredictable and inconsistent. Amperage vs. engine speed often seems off.
-Price to play. DLC is way overpriced (ALL of it), and the base game comes with almost nothing, so you're forced to buy more add-ons if you want to have any fun and be able to play scenarios from the workshop. Seriously this is the worst part. There is no excuse for the cost of add-ons. They cost as much as full games which require 200x more work and testing and NEVER get cheaper. Sure once or twice a year a handful of them will go on sale, but what's the point of that if during this last March Madness sale I saw DLC where the original price was raised before taking the 20 or 30% off. I face-palmed instantly.
While there are definitely some good things here (the base engine of the game is fine), all the problems that are continually piles on top of them completely cancels those few pros out and renders me unable to recommend it to fellow train enthusiasts and simulation fans.
It also seems like DTG has disabled the ability to review DLC (because no one would buy it), so here is a bonus review of the DLC I have been (for the most part) SUCKERED into buying.
-CAJON PASS: Bad. Lack of signage, bare minimum of buildings in towns, no smooth gradient changes, a few turns where the track speed is dangerously high, no track speed reduction for crossovers.
-DASH 9: Absolutely horrible. LCD's in dash display NO info, traction is too powerful, sounds are weak, brake cylinder pressure is always 0 on HUD, dynamic brake is so overpowered it will derail your train at over 25%
-EAST COAST MAIN LINE: Lacking detail in scenery. It's just OK.
-F40PH CALI ZEPHYR: Terrible physics, same dynamic brake problem as Dash9. Luckily there is a 3rd party fix from railworks america. Rolling stock included drags as if the handbrake were stuck on each car.
-LONDON-FAVERSHAM HIGH-SPEED: Short route, but very detailed. Signage is good and dynamic signaling system on CTRL works well. Included stock is pretty good, although sounds for the class 395 are really bad. Overall this one's pretty good.
-LONDON-BRIGHTON: Like this route, class 377 has good physics but no 2-tone horn. Annoying.
-MARIAS PASS: I really like this route, can't really say anything bad about it. This was about the turning point for route quality. The included GE ES44DC is also one of the best locos for the game. It's the only one I have where the dynamic brake works like it should. Other systems work better than most, but still aren't perfect.
-MUNICH-AUGSBURG: Same boat as London-Faves. Short but detailed, PZB/LZB is good. Comes with ICE-3 so you don't have to buy it separate.
-PACIFIC SURFLINER: Route itself is amazing. Very detailed and accurate, the best one I own. The EMD F59PHI included has major problems with physics and air brakes. Exterior sounds are good, interior bad.
-NEC/ACELA: Complete lack of signage, impossible scenarios, unsmoothed gradients, track speed too high at some points. Acela has problems such as auto brake-blending not working. AEM-7 is decent.
-PORTSMOUTH DIRECT LINE: Decent length route with acceptable detail. There are many branches on the route that are unfinished which is very weird. Included rolling stock has horrible physics especially with the brakes. I dare say they don't work.
-CLASS 70: Horrible physics all-around, impossible scenarios, nice model and exteriors sounds though...
-DONNER PASS: Nice and long, detail is OK, scenarios are terrible (some impossible), included locos are really bad.
-HORSESHOE CURVE: No signage at all, no track speed reduction for crossovers, included locos have worst physics ever, location markers are confusingly named, stock scenarios are decent.
-ISLE OF WIGHT: Terribly short for price, impossible scenarios included, no detail on or in rolling stock.
-RURH-SIEG + SEEBERGBAHN: Just bad. Don't get either. Also no workshop scenarios.
-SD70 VOL.2: I was so mad after I bought this. All the same problems as Dash9 plus more! The head and ditch lights don't actually emit light! I don't get why this is so bad when the SD70-M that was included with Sherman Hill was fine.
-SHERMAN HILL: This route's pretty good, signage is decent but not much detail in towns. Included rolling stock and scenarios are pretty good. Lots of workshop support.
-SP GP20: Hands down the best locomotive for this game (probably 'cause it's 3rd party). Physics are great on traction and all brake systems, sounds are nice, startup procedure emulation, engine overheating, etc. all adds more realism than any other add-on. This is a must-have if you want real simulation and proves that the base game system CAN support good simulation; just that no effort goes into the content!
-SP/UP SD45: Physics are okay, offers more in-cab interaction than most, sounds are bad (except exterior engine). Needs more scenarios, barely any in workshop.
-WEST COAST MAINLINE NORTH: This route is pretty good except one major problem—the track speed on most of it is DANGEROUSLY high. Like so high I feel I'm going to derail when going 30mph under. I don't know if the curves are supposed to be banked or if the speed is just wrong. Class 86 is one of my favorite locos to run because of the tap system.
That's all the DLC I own. I've been afraid to buy any more since the last two I bought were really bad. And that's too bad because I really do want some of the new routes and locos that have come out recently, but I would hate myself if I gave DTG any more money and would probably go crazy if they turned out to be bad, which there is a great chance of that.