Not really been a fan of all the recent simulator offerings — Train Simulator, Farming Simulator… Goat Simulator… but something about Euro Truck Simulator 2 caught my eye when it popped up in Steam's summer sale. I guess I just wanted to see Europe's highways from two meters above the road, or something. Certainly, you don't get to experience very much of the cities, which is probably just as well, because traffic.
In ETS2, you're a (male) freelance driver taking on relatively short-range (< 250km) cargos, driving other people's trucks. You'll soon arrange for a bank loan to buy your own customizable truck, opening up new and better opportunities. As you gain funds, you can open up your own trucking company and hire other drivers to expand your empire from its humble beginnings to conquer the whole of Europe.
Tanglewood Trucking über alles?
I started my career in Nürnberg, running the Nürnberg to Frankfurt to Dortmund route. After a few fairly traumatic mishaps toward the beginning, I learned how to stay on the road, leave road signs standing, and stop crushing Audis. The distances are compressed in the game, so even 200 km trips only take a few minutes… but the designers ensure every little switchback is left in. The trucks I've driven so far seem to be limited to just 90 km/hr, which, on the Autobahn, seems rather slow, as cars whiz by on both sides. On those switchbacks, though….
I'm just considering a loan to buy my first truck (prices start at about €90K and go up from there; I have about €20K at the moment). Once I have a truck, I'll be able to start on the company management portion of the game. I don't know if there's a point where you can just stop driving and focus instead on the management game, but it seems unlikely. The game is just perfectly tuned to the zen-like driving experience, watching the scenery trudge by as cars whiz past you on both sides.
Every trip ends with the parking mini-game. Trucks and trailers operate on their own, bizarre, kind of physics where turning in any particular direction while backing up turns the trailer into a wildly flailing source of blunt force trauma aimed at the unfortunate trailers already parked at the loading docks. The game lets you bypass the parking game, but really, it's super exciting.
Weather conditions also combine to turn the excitement dial to "11". I accepted a nighttime job… which was okay, really, until I drove into heavy rain and lightning. And then came the switchbacks.
ETS2 supports a number of control schemes (I use an XBox controller) and difficulties (full auto for me; ETS2 supports full pedals, steering wheels and manual shifts, if you've got them). Having never driven an actual tractor-trailer, I can only imagine the real thing is much more terrifying than this simulation… but the simulation is more than enough for me.
ETS2 isn't likely to become my go-to game when I sit down to play, but I imagine I have many more hours exploring Europe from rest stop to rest stop ahead of me. And, they have American Truck Simulator now, in case I run out of Europe before Europe runs me out.