• Transroad USA review by Rick Moscatello

    Too many speed bumps.


    The most serious simulation games seem to come from Europe; these guys just seem to “get” that a simulation should at least as much about simulation as about fun—on our side of the Atlantic, “fun” usually is the first and last goal, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Transroad USA is a recent sim game to come to Steam, from European designers. While it is a decent enough sim, it succumbs to just about every hazard possible, while failing to stand out as awesome in any category.

    You can send almost the whole game looking at this map.

    The basic theme is you’re running a trucking company in the USA (big shout-out to the devs here, as there are no language issues or slip-ups that would lead you to think many of the people involved didn’t have English as a first language). In terms of detail, they’ve done a great job—the whole continental United States is represented, from Miami to San Francisco to New York, with all major highways here. You can zoom all the way in to get an up-close view of cities, even watch a truck load and unload if that’s your thing. It’s great work, but ultimately useless, as the game is best played zoomed all way the way out, the better to get a nice overhead view of everything your company can do.

    The attention to detail is less of a wasted effort when it comes to the business possibilities. You can buy a wide variety of trucks, and attach them to every trailer type you’ve seen on a real road, from straight vans to tankers to car haulers, among a few other options. You can even buy these from used or new vehicle dealers. One of the few weird lack of details is while the dealers are all over the country, there are only two names, one for the used dealer, and one for the new dealer. That said, you’ll find yourself shopping around to find the best truck deal in terms of maintenance, mileage, axles, and price, among other factors.

    Your typical driver.

    You also have to hire drivers. Details fall a little short here, as drivers are only rated in terms of weekly pay, pay per mile, and licenses—you’ll need advanced licenses on your drivers to use the more profitable trailers. The “human element” is overlooked here, however, as is the possibility of accidents. The hardest part about trucking in the real world is getting drivers willing to work for you, spending months on the road doing whatever while you collect the bulk of the money arranging the contracts. In this game, drivers are automatons, doing whatever you want whenever you want it. The only realistic aspect to drivers here is they’ll sometimes ask for a pay raise from time to time. Refuse, and they quit. They’re easily replaceable—there really is no difference between drivers besides pay and licenses. There’s no way to train your drivers to get better licenses.

    Another factor I wish the game had was autonomous trucks. Driverless vehicles are likely to be common sights on our highways in a few years…the game ignores this, however, and I think that’s missing a major opportunity to be a unique game.

    It's all about the contracts.

    Once you get your truck/trailer/driver combo together, you need to get and sign a contract for delivery. There are a ridiculous number of possibilities here in terms of what you might transport around: mail, vegetables, cars, cold supplies…no point in trying to list them all, or in trying to list the range of possible customers here. As you do more business with a customer, you’ll get options for more lucrative contracts, and “special deals” pop up from time to time.

    The contract system has a bit of an annoyance in it: it lies to you. It’ll say how many trucks you need to complete the contract on time, but it’s quite frequently wrong. Even tiny contracts of just a few trips in the same city over the course of 2 days will supposedly require “1 truck,” but if you do that you’ll end up losing money as you run late. You generally need at least one more truck than indicated, and after a while you’ll go with double. Because of this issue, you generally won’t have many routes—sign one set of contracts to and from a pair of cities, put everything on it, finish the contract, then go to the next. There’s no efficiency penalty for over-supplying with trucks (even though realistically, clogging an area with all your trucks could cause a few problems). Eventually you can have just one route with auto-renew contracts and put all your trucks on it…it’s just a silly economic model.

    The interface for getting things done is a little clunky for my taste, but the real frustration for me is all the speedbumps that slow down play, for no good reason. You want to have a third truck? Well, first you have to pay for the right to have a third truck. You want an extra trailer? Yes, you’re paying $15,000 a month for a parking spot that’s always empty, but you’ll still have to pay extra for a spot for the trailer…after you’ve paid for the right to have a trailer, of course. You’ll also pay dearly for the trailer (nearly as much as the truck, if you can believe it). Want to use a new trailer type? Sorry, you’ll first have to buy the right for that type (then buy the trailer, then buy the appropriate truck, then hire the driver, after you’ve bought the spot).

    Once you finally get the hang of things, you’ll have money pouring in…and then you’ll wonder what you’re playing for. Unlike, say, a train game where there’s a sense of accomplishment of building thousands of miles of track, nothing really is built here by the player, you never have any impact on the game world. Cities and customers don’t grow as they are supplied, all you ever get for a job well done is the chance to do another job.

    Still, if you’re looking for a trucking simulation, this can get the job done.

    Overall Rating: 70
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Transroad USA review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post