Euro Truck Simulator 2
Developed by SCS Software & released in October 2012 for Windows and April 2013 for Linux, Euro Truck Simulator 2 is a sequel. The fact that it has the number 2 in its title should have made that quite clear, but let me repeat myself regardless: A game titled “Euro Truck Simulator” warranted a sequel. Let that sink in for a second.
Now then, we move on to the titular aspect of this article. Why is this fun? Perhaps more importantly, HOW is this concept so fun that it sold enough to not only cover its expenses, but generate enough profit to warrant the full development and release of a sequel?
First of all, let’s focus on the simulation part. It does feel like a very accurate simulation of what it’s like to drive an 18-wheeler. It takes time to accelerate, and time to decelerate. Those of you with extensive racing game experience, throw said experience out the window because the physics in this game are going to mess you up. You’re driving something with a ton of mass and not a lot of power, that also has a gigantic free-pivoting growth hanging off the back of it. Attempts to powerslide here are going to lead to rollovers pretty much every time…though not before the trailer acts like a massive sweeper arm and clears a path of destruction through whatever’s between it and its designated tumbling point. There’s no drafting, for you NASCAR fans out there, and even if there was the fact that you are significantly larger than 90% of the CPU traffic you’ll meet means you’re the draftee, anyway.
Speaking of CPU traffic, they generally follow the rules of the road pretty well. They make some boneheaded decisions sometimes, especially when it comes to passing you and then immediately cutting in front of you when they aren’t really going fast enough to safely pull off such a maneuver, but that isn’t a major impedance to your travel. Much like real life, the other drivers on the road are nothing more than decoration most of the time, and an infuriating roadblock the remainder.
As for whether or not it is an accurate simulation of Europe, I cannot say. I’ve never been to Europe and don’t personally know anyone that has. I will note that distances were edited for the sake of game efficiency. There aren’t any noticeable cuts, to the credit of SCS. Everything flows along very smoothly on the roadways. Four real-world seconds equates to a minute of in-game time so there are certainly large swatches removed from every road to account for the time discrepancy. It’s fun, but not four hours of continuous driving to drop off one load fun, after all.
On that note we’ve come full circle and return to the titular query: why the hell is this fun? A few reasons spring to mind.
- With every delivery you are shown a rating for your drive, and a tally of your positive and negative income as a result of your drive. Taking a rush delivery will gain you experience bonuses, while crashing into things will cause damage and cost you experience and money alike. Having set points to review your status & standing really solidifies the RPG aspect of the game; there are a few options for leveling up and with each drive showing you exactly how much closer you got to gaining a level along with how much money you made (and how much your poor driving decisions cost you) proves to be an educational feature to improve your driving for the next delivery.
- Disobeying the rules of the road by speeding, running red lights, driving on the wrong side of the road or hitting other cars will occasionally result in immediate law enforcement fines. Thankfully you never have to sit on the side of the road while the friendly police officer writes you a ticket; your GPS dings, it shows you what traffic law you just broke and the fine for doing so, and the funds are automatically deducted from your working balance. Now there are some loopholes to these laws (for one example, driving on the wrong side of the road or the sidewalk will negate running a red light, leaving you only the random possibility of a cheaper Wrong Way fine versus the guaranteed red light fine) but these are just necessities based on how the game is coded; it’s not possible to account for every way a maniac can drive to evade the law and so some sacrifices needed to be made. This adds to the fun factor tremendously, to be honest; deciding whether you can fit through traffic and clear the intersection without getting hit by another car, all the while barreling towards it straddling the edge of the road waiting for your opportunity, hoping your swerve leads you to continued driving and not a tipped-over rig is a challenge in itself.
- As you level up, you unlock new bonuses for your driver. From an eco-boost that improves your fuel efficiency (granted, not very useful in this game) to increased delivery distances, urgent and just-in-time deliveries, fragile cargo and even hazardous materials licensing, you always feel like you’re making progress towards a greater goal even though you never see it. Heck, from the default cab view you can’t even see your cargo, making every drive the same, and yet I personally seem to drive more cautiously when I’m carrying something fragile versus some tomatoes or something.
- The in-game radio feature works very well. I’ve got rather below-average DSL service where I live, and yet it never lags or buffers at all no matter what station I listen to. You can add your own music to a particular folder within the game directory & listen to that, or you can listen to any internet streaming radio stations. Adding your own streams is remarkably simple, and there are mods out there that’ve taken the liberty of gathering several hundred radio streams for you. It’s gotten to the point where one particular station, EKR Rock Radio, started noticing a massive influx of listeners and began catering to them, giving Euro Truck Simulator 2 drivers a shout-out and even playing a Top 25 Trucking Songs playlist at one point. There’s just something about listening to a rock station screaming in a language you don’t understand, or a pop station’s bubbly, catchy anthems full of words you can’t comprehend, as you’re trucking along the roadway that just makes time pass so peacefully quickly.
- On the topic of mods, the developers are majorly in favor of them. They have made the mod process incredibly easy and intuitive: download a mod, put it in the aptly named /mod/ folder, and once you boot up the game you click once to edit your profile, click one checkbox for each mod you want enabled & you’re off and running. They’ve even begun to implement some of the more popular mods into the game itself; the most recent case being the option to remove the speed limiter from the game. With it on, you can’t accelerate above 60mph in any of the trucks (though the physics will take over if you are going downhill). It adds realism, but turning it off means you can go as fast as the truck’s horsepower will carry it. You haven’t truly played the game until you’ve cruised downhill at 80mph carrying 20 tons of equipment sloshing around behind you as you try to weave through traffic, as far as I’m concerned. SCS have also begun work on additional maps for the game (via DLC due to the additional development time and cost), while several third-party map mods presently exist to expand the driving terrain substantially.
Why is Euro Truck Simulator 2 fun? It’s relaxing during the “boring” sections, and at any minute it can become a hectic mess of swerving and mashing the gas/brake to try to not take out an entire three-lane road’s worth of vehicles as you veer across said three lanes to get to your exit. You get several opportunities to check your progress as you level your driver up, eventually building your own trucking franchise with your own trucks & your own drivers (I haven’t gotten to this point yet, hence why I have no comment on it. It’s doable from a very early stage of the game via bank loans; I’ve just chosen not to take out a 500,000 euro loan on the assumption that it’ll increase my fun having to pay that back) to complement your own contributions behind the wheel. You always feel like you’re making some sort of progress, the goals (both those you subconsciously set for yourself as well as the game-assigned ones) are always within sight, and due to the large number of cities and jobs available to you it’s as easy to lose several hours transporting goods throughout the European continent as it is to hop in for a single 10 minute drive between towns. The $40 price tag is steep, but the game goes on sale for 50-75% off somewhat frequently during big game sales. I paid $10 for it and though I’ve only invested three hours thus far, I feel it’s already been worth my $10 and I’m sure there are many hours of driving ahead of me.