Finally! They did it right.
And this is not me being facetious. This actually seems like they made an effort.
But first, some history.
The re-release of Train Simulator for every calendar year has become farcical a while ago. A worse cash grab than EA Sports games. Incidentally one of the founders of the developer was formerly VP of EA, but I digress.
Did you know that the game they sell as Train Simulator even now in 2022 on Steam is derived from Microsoft Train Simulator, a game that came out in 2001? Yes I'm still hundred percent serious. When you buy Train Simulator 2022 what you get is essentially 20 year old technology, with some attempts for modernization.
So it was high time for Dovetail games (formerly Rail Simulator Ltd.) to actually do something new. Which they took their sweet time with. Their first attempt Train Sim World after a tumultuous beta period was released in 2018. A brand new spin on the train simulator idea based on the Unreal engine. Except the game was initially a total failure. It was not just bad, but buggy, glitchy, with limited content available. But most annoyingly it had terrible physics, or rather a complete lack of physics. Trains drove and accelerated completely unrealistically in it, which was pointed out in the beta by many, but they didn't address it until it was too late.
Needless to say original fans of Train Simulator were not happy with the game, and would rather play the old fossil. After all why would you play a worse simulation game?
So when TSW2 was announced and released, I didn't even take note of it, I thought of it as another cash grab like they kept doing every year with Train Simulator. So I completely ignored it until recently when it was deeply discounted. And it has mostly positive reviews on steam. So with the power of refunds behind me I gave it a go.
But the refund window has gone by fast, then 5 then 10 hours. Train Sim World 2 is an entirely new experience, it is more interactive, with much better guidance and tutorials than previous games. It's not perfect, you still sometimes have to seek 3rd party help, but a huge improvement.
My biggest surprise was that the content I had for Train Sim World carried over to Train Sim World 2, so whatever routes I owned for that game are now available in this one. Totally unexpected.
The graphics is improved, but the detail of routes is still fluctuating. Some look like they were just converted from the old game, I mean the old old game, with not much improvement, apart from what Unreal engine brings and maybe higher resolution textures. But it's still good enough.
The experience is much more interactive now, you have to walk around yards throw switches, start the engine, set up the train for operation. And they even include some silly collecting games, where you have to find hidden locations around the routes, this is more an easter egg than a real game mode.
The biggest improvement is certainly the physics, it seems much more accurate even than the original, which was no slouch either unlike TSW1. But this is accurate to a point where it even gets somewhat annoying at times. For example if you have a very long freight train it takes 10-15 minutes before you can set off with it, because that's how long it takes for the air brakes to build pressure for the entire 2 mile long train.
Also the scenarios have much more action. I always missed the Japanese route from MSTS, where you had to stop at every station. Now they include the London underground for a similar experience. I'd still prefer the Tokyo line though over these dreary tunnels.
That said, of course there are issues with the game still, but only smaller ones. Some timetables are literally impossible to keep even though you do everything perfectly. Some stop locations are marked incorrectly on the map, so the game expecting you to stop halfway into the platform. So what do you do, comply and loose immersion, or ignore the marked position and loose score?
Some of the scenarios also give incorrect instructions, or give one instruction but expect a slightly different action from the player. For example one scenario says set throttle to 20%, but it only accepts the instruction as completed if you set 25%. And if you don't set throttle to 25% before the trigger point of the next phase of the tutorial you end up with an unfinishable scenario.
The tutorial for each route always goes through the basic controls and functions of the game first, which becomes completely redundant once you are on your second route. You can't skip them, and you need to go through the tutorial as every train type has different quirks and controls you need to learn before you can drive them.
But once you get over these issues, the game becomes quite addictive. Don't get me wrong, this is still not some action packed shooter, being a railfan is a pre-requisite for this game. A lot of your time will be spent trying to keep the train close to the speed limit without going over it, and trying to stop at red lights and stations without braking too soon, or overshooting them. It's quite challenging actually, judging when you need to start slowing down, one lapse in attention and you end up going through a red light. Or down the slope with a 10.000 ton runaway train not being able to keep the speed in check.
The game beyond the scenarios offers tons of timetable runs, which are just as good. So there is hundreds of hours of activities. Unfortunately there is a certain lack of diversity in the available routes and engines. For example there is no official Steam content for the game, so if that's your thing you're out of luck. There is one announced, but with no release date as of yet.
Rule #1, however for this game is always wait for a sale! As the Downloadable Content is extremely overpriced normally. One individual locomotive is sold for €13.99 and one route with one or two trains included will set you back €29.99.
Comparatively I purchased the game plus one extra route for €14,99 during the last sale.
The list of pros and cons:
- Much improved physics
- More interactive scenarios
- Most levers switches and controls on trains are functional
- Graphics effects looks great especially after the old game
- Lots of scenarios
- More useful tutorials than before
- Some errors in scenarios
- Clipping and placement issues
- Repeating tutorial elements
- Graphics quality of routes varies
- No steam content available, even as a DLC
- The tutorial sometimes fails to mention important things
- There is such a thing as too much realism, like 15 minute wait for brake pressure
Overall impression: 8/10
This is hands down the best train sim game out there right now.