Take a tour of Europe in this incredibly detailed driving sim and build up your own continental transport empire.
Developer, Publisher: SCS Software
Release Date: January 16th, 2013; Reviewed on: PC
System Specifications: Core i5-6500, 16GB RAM, GeForce GTX 1070
Get it from: Steam
There are few things that can match the feeling of freedom on an open road, whether you’re on a task or simply driving along. Euro Truck Simulator 2 delivers just that, except with a satisfying level of complexity to all of its elements that create an immersive driving simulator that makes it easy to lose hundreds of hours to. That is, if you’re into the specific type of experience it offers. Driving my american Volvo VNL780 truck, which I know I would have never been able to get away with in real Europe, I move along speedy highways, sweeping back roads and spectacular coasts, soaking in the view while my Spotify playlist is in the background.
Euro Truck Simulator 2 delivers a consistently relaxing driving experience, where you dial back and follow typical roadway rules while hauling any of the diverse cargo options available. If you ever wanted to drive a truck, but don’t want to commit to a full trucking license and drive lessons, this game is the best representation of moving in a heavy vehicle along big stretches of road. The game is easily one of the most relaxing experiences out there, without demanding a lot from the player. Its depth is worth discovering, however, including a simple but in-depth company management element, and many parts that make up a game about more than just driving along a highway. Players can demand as much immersion as they are personally willing to put in, and in the end, Euro Truck Simulator 2 is very rewarding for both casual and hardcore type of player.
The driving experience alone is well worth diving into this game, and there’s a lot to enjoy if you love driving in real life. Setup isn’t exactly complicated: you pick up cargo, the game sets the GPS to drop off city and off you go. Driving a big truck down a fast-moving highway or a quiet back country road is slow and methodical, as you have to follow road rules and speed limits. Euro Truck Simulator 2 replicates the everyday job of truck drivers very accurately, although the experience is still fairly streamlined.
The beauty of Euro Truck Simulator 2 is you can make it as laid back or brutally demanding as you prefer, with an amplitude of driving and gameplay options available on hand. Dial the game back, and there are few things to worry about when driving, aside from monitoring fuel and sleep. It is entirely possible to play the game from the couch with a controller if your PC is hooked up to the TV, although in-game controller support leaves a lot to be desired. I found it more efficient to map necessary controls via Xpadder to my gamepad and enjoy Euro Truck Simulator 2 that way. At the same time, you can set the game as realistic as possible, with a manual transmission, natural driving physics and other settings to replicate truck movement in real world. Pair it with a racing wheel setup, and Euro Truck Simulator 2 turns into a fairly different experience.
Doing menial tasks may not sound like a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t necessarily label the game as that to begin with. However, the simplicity of driving and management creates very relaxing gameplay to unwind from complexity of modern game design. Moving cargo from city to city is straightforward, with Euro Truck Simulator 2 providing every feedback detail through its on-screen interface. You could dial back all game indicators, of course, and still the detailed truck interiors provide all necessary information for players to follow.
The entirety of the European continent is represented in the game map, all major cities included apart from thousands of miles of open road. For best experience, I’d recommend the complete edition of the game, which adds significant content to the base version. With Going East, Scandinavia, Viva la France and Italy expansions, Euro Truck Simulator 2 spans all countries in the European Union, albeit still excluding Spain and Portugal. Knowing SCS Software is still adding content into the game 5 years on, we could very well see the latter two included at some point.
The game’s main focus lies in rendering the detail of the open road, and being a persistent world, the cities are naturally lacking in depth. No matter the size, cities are represented by a few blocks containing cargo depots, truck dealerships, points of rest and repair, and recruitment agencies. While it can feel disappointing for large metropolitan areas, SCS have removed the unnecessary commute by cutting down on city detail, which still includes all functionality players will ever need. Given you spend far less time in city areas than the open road, this isn’t a big shortcoming.
There is an impressive level of detail in rendering the landscapes of various European states in Euro Truck Simulator 2. While the majority of what you’ll be looking at is vast open farm fields, dense forests and coasts that stretch far into the distance, there is some variety to be had. Basically it isn’t anything you wouldn’t see driving in real life, although mountain ranges, small towns and massive bridges spice up the landscape. Graphics aren’t impressive by any means, but an open world of this size is expected to take certain hits on the visual front. For an indie studio, SCS Software have done a good job at rendering the landscapes of Europe, even if a lot of its parts look similar to each other.
It may not be the prettiest representation of Europe, but the world is faithfully recreated with finer detail. Driving past crop fields shows harvesters busily working away, boats move through rivers, and a train crossing can sometimes stop you along a narrow country road. Construction sites litter some roadways, with reduced speed limits, narrow lanes, or sometimes traffic lights to control a single pathway. All these things add more depth to the driving experience, and resemble road features you would normally see in real life. The finer detail is showcased in locales as well, with some differing driving rules. Cross over to Great Britain, for instance, and one has to remember to drive on the left side of the road then, with speed limits displaying miles. Consistent speed limits are present in all states, but travel through Germany, and its autobahns remove any restriction to how fast you can travel.
Of course the experience wouldn’t be this good if the game didn’t feature diversity in trucks you take control of, but Euro Truck Simulator 2 delivers on that extremely well. With dealerships for brands like Mercedes, Iveco, Scania and MAN, there is plenty to choose from in range of truck design. Although there is only so much to be done with European styling, each company offers a distinct look, where Scanias are more rounded off and Mercedes has aggressive styling. The box-cabin design isn’t particularly my favorite, however, which is one of the reasons why I modded my game and I suggest everyone do too for bigger diversity.
Truck customization is very robust, presenting cabin sizes, different chassis, engines, and extensive paint and design options. Base models are more than serviceable, but you get more out of your truck if you spend money on it. Bigger engines are certainly better for acceleration, as low horsepower ratings otherwise make it painfully slow. A 6×4 chassis makes your machine into a big hauler, and increases its presence on the road. Smaller features include light fixtures with a diverse set of lamps, different styles of rims and basic paints. For bigger visual impact, however, one would want to go with design paintworks, ranging from simple country flags to detailed graphics. A lot of more advanced paints have to be purchased as DLC however, and Euro Truck Simulator 2 has its additional content page ridiculously full with graphic designs, but there is a lot of options for everyone to enjoy.
Transporting cargo would also tend to get boring if it didn’t have some visual flair, and while most of the trip one would only see it out their side mirrors, the large extent of diversity can be appreciated. There isn’t anything wrong with moving boxy trailers, but one could make a case that it would get repetitive at some point. As you level up through the game’s simple but robust skill system, newer types of cargo are unlocked. The ADR skill tree opens access to oil and chemical tankers, classified as dangerous freight, although you wouldn’t explode in the event of a crash. Advance into the high value cargo, and standard freight types are expanded, with players able to haul construction equipment, raw materials, cars, and even an odd helicopter here and there.
Said skill system is an effective way to advance the in-game progression, although doesn’t serve as the primary means of it. You start off as a freelance driver working for other companies, and sooner or later you make enough cash to buy your own truck. From there on, bringing in income allows you to expand garages, hire new drivers, and outfit them with vehicles of their own. With enough time invested, one can assemble a large transporting empire, but the only downside is that game time will go in the range of at least 100 hours. Even if you pull in €50K per delivery and have a decent fleet of drivers, high truck costs and garage upgrades can feel like a bit of a drag at times. But many will probably play Euro Truck Simulator 2 for the driving element alone.
Running a company brings in many costs, of course, although Euro Truck Simulator 2 simulates a lighter version of being a truck fleet owner. Apart from having your own fuel costs and truck maintenance bills, the rest of the fleet has to be maintained too, which is thankfully simplified and automatically subtracts from job income. This removes a large level of micromanaging out of the picture, so players wouldn’t have to spend too much time on running their company. Leveling up drivers in the fleet is largely automated too, and you simply set which skill path you want them to advance in, however any of the options other than balanced shouldn’t be forgotten about. Your company also loses money if drivers can’t find work at a certain time period, although it isn’t a particularly high amount. Still, I find it odd that drivers always return to their set garage when empty, instead of staying in whichever city they were last in.
You don’t get to control your drivers’ jobs either, which is where the management system is most automated. It would have been useful to customly set their routes, although that would in the end take too much away from the actual driving. Larger emphasis in Euro Truck Simulator 2 lies in players running their own deliveries, travelling hundreds of miles from city to city to earn money. The streamlined company management element doesn’t feel out of place, however, complimenting the driving well. Either element could technically carry the game by itself, although the aspect of running the company would need to be much expanded.
Euro Truck Simulator 2 is slow and methodical, but therein lie its strengths. The uncomplicated task of moving cargo across Europe is a great way to unwind from complex narratives and layers of gameplay mechanics found in triple A games. Relaxing nature of its driving, paired with realistic rule sets, comes together in a game that can be easily written off, yet once you play it, it’s hard not to start it up every day.
Offering management mechanics that make it more fleshed out than it seems, Euro Truck Simulator 2 is an excellent sim that replicates jobs of truck driving and running a trans-continental fleet.