Review: Euro Truck Simulator 2 is, despite its premise, a fantastically designed sim
It would be far too easy for me to dedicate the following paragraphs of this review to nonsensical bashing of a game where its entire premise lies on driving massive trucks from location to location. However, these sim games exist because the fan base for titles like these is out there, and after dedicating quite a while to Euro Truck Simulator 2, I can honestly see why. This is one of the most thoroughly designed sims, that takes into account almost every aspect of 'life on the road' and condenses it into a coherent experience that not only plays great but looks great as well.
The heart and soul of ETS2 relies on driving these big rigs from various locations around Europe. You start off as a freelancer of sorts, taking on various jobs from already established companies to make some extra cash. Amassing enough money will allow you to buy your own trucks and hire other drivers to establish your own trucking company. It's actually quite an addictive formula that makes progressing through the game not only fun, but gives a sense of accomplishment.
What would a simulator be if not for its detail-oriented gameplay. Driving a truck isn't easy in ETS2, so I imagine it's no cakewalk in real life either. After all, you're trying to maneuver a giant vehicle with limited mobility through crowded streets. However, ETS2 does manage to be forgiving in its design, and balances its sim aspects along a fine line to make them realistic, without sacrificing the fun factor.
Though, ETS2 is as realistic as you want it to be right from the get go. Before you even get a glimpse of the inside of your cab, various settings will ensure that your experience is catered to your skill. From various control schemes that either utilize the keyboard, mouse or controller/steering wheel for driving, to the amount of driving assists with various transmissions, from the beginner styled (easy) Automatic, to the fully fledged manual that requires a clutch. It's nice to know that even newcomers to the genre can experience the entirety of the game without having to rely on overcoming steep difficulty curves, and can eventually ease their way in to harder difficulties.
Though the focus is on the driving, there is also a lot to do behind the scenes. The bank allows you to get a loan for various necessities or the purchase of a new truck, that then must be paid off. New dealerships can be found and visited, your hired drivers can be managed, truck damage and diagnostics can be viewed, and even your various cab mirrors can be tweaked so they show your surroundings exactly how you want, to minimize the risk of running into cars or the environment. Once you get your own truck you can even customize the appearance as well as purchase and equip custom parts to truly make your truck unique. Everything from changing your aesthetics to completely tuning your performance, it's all here just waiting to be tinkered with.
The sense of progression isn't just tied town to making money. Your driver also levels up and is able to learn new 'skills.' These skills aren't the sort of performance skills you'd expect, but rather percentage bonuses that have to do with various job parameters, like getting a percentage bonus based on the distance or time traveled.
What's most surprising the staggering amount of locations you'll be able to drive through like England, Paris, Czech Republic, Poland, and Germany to name a few. Each of these locations have various cities to drive through. While the distance of these locations is quite far from each other, the game handles time at a sped up rate.
The authenticity of each city remains intact though. Street signs are all in their respective languages and each country is easily distinguishable just by driving through it (though being familiar with each location in real life helps). What's even more impressive, is that you can directly stream live radio stations from some of these locations. Have your company set up from Prague? Turn your stations to one of the few Czech stations for full authenticity. Beware though, a lot of 80s songs are still quite popular there.
To round out the package is the stellar presentation. From the easy to navigate menus to the gorgeous graphics. You're not getting Crysis 3 level of graphics here but what's offered here exceeds the level you'd expect from a game like this. The environments look gorgeous and the meticulous detail of every button and switch inside each truck is borderline obsessive.
Honestly, the only thing that's missing is some sort of CB radio function that would allow you to communicate with others playing the game. In all seriousness though, Euro Truck Simulator 2 might be an extremely niche game, but its easy to see the appeal. I'm honestly not a huge fan of simulators, nor am I a fan of giant trucks, but somehow ETS2 managed to keep me entertained for hours, without even realizing it.