It was 3 am when I pulled into Paris. They call it the city of lights. Home of culture, of art, of history.
Not to me. To me it is just a few blocks holding warehouses and freight depots. Truck showrooms and repair shops. A place to sleep for the night.
I find the depot I am heading for and back the load of car parts I am carrying into its assigned loading dock. A probably bored supervisor somewhere notes the delivery and marks it complete, a chime indicating my payment for the run has been deposited into my account.
I decide to rest for a few hours until dawn then pick up another shipment, probably heading eastward deeper into Europe. I’m not here in Paris to sightsee. I’m here to work.
This is Euro Truck Simulator.
I’m not totally sure why I picked this game up. A couple of people on the Gamers With Jobs forums started talking about it in a positive way. I downloaded the demo from Steam and tried it and, when the demo expired, bought the game.
The game is actually quite simple. You are a truck driver. Initially you are simply a driver-for-hire driving trucks for others. Once you have earned enough money you can buy your own truck and start carrying loads from the open freight market. Eventually you can buy garages across Europe, buy trucks and hire your own drivers to create your own trucking business. But even then it is still a driving simulation at its core.
It’s hard to describe why the game is so addictive. It’s not as complex as a flight or racing sim but it isn’t something you can just put on “cruise control” and lean back. The simulation of Europe contained in the game is compressed by about a factor of 30 (and is really more representative than accurate) so long straight stretches of road are rare. You are constantly having to maneuver, change lanes and roads, negotiate traffic jams and toll booths and deal with weather and road conditions. You are constantly engaged but at a lower level. This isn’t a life-or-death firefight. It’s just traffic.
And the roads you are driving along are interesting places. There is other traffic of course but other things are happening as well. You will pass construction on the roads themselves. Farm equipment and timber harvesters toil beside the roads. Trains pass by and planes and balloons sail past overhead while windmills spin in the distance. The world is dynamic and interesting.
But the game has RPG elements as well. As you drive you gain experience based on the type of load you are carrying and the distance you travelled. You can use the experience to improve your character. You can give your driver the ability to drive longer distances, carry heavier, hazardous or more valuable cargoes or take on jobs that require rapid delivery. These tend to pay more and give more experience.
Getting paid lets you earn enough to buy better and more powerful trucks to drive yourself or to use to expand your trucking business.
One other feature I find enjoyable is the ability to stream various European radio stations as you drive. Listening to a French Europop or German Metal station while driving through the European countryside just adds to the immersion.
So what is the magic mix here? It’s an experience that requires constant but non-frantic attention. It has RPG elements that lets you improve your character and gives you goals to strive for. It has economic simulation elements that let you grow your trucking empire. And it puts all of this together in an immersive package that is solidly grounded in the real world.
Try the demo. The demo is free on Steam and is the complete game; it just cuts off after you have visited 8 different cities or travel over 3,000 kilometers. You’ll know by then if the game is for you or not.
Me? I’d say more, but I have a load of forklifts that need to get to Frankfurt and I have a delivery deadline to meet.
As I leave Paris I see the TGV train pulling out on a track parallel to the road. I look at it for a moment, then shrug. An amazing machine, but it can only go where its rails will take it. Me? I have all of Europe to explore. I switch on the radio and take the exit east towards Germany.