As any good simulation fan will know, the market is expanding all the time. Whilst Microsoft Flight Simulator is probably the most well-known of all the kinds out there, the simulation genre has spanned countless different industries and styles. From the likes of Theme Park and SimCity that allowed you to take on management properties of corporations and cities to the individual simulators out there like flight simulations, you’ve got so much to choose form that takes you a little bit further beyond “the norm” for what a gaming experience typically delivers.
Like any good simulation experience, you want to get realism – it needs to actually feel like you are openly involved within what it’s supposed to be simulating. Flight simulators have always made a good job of making this the case, and helping you to settle in and feel comfortable in the environment that you choose. However, other simulators haven’t been able to do so – traditionally, the train simulation environment has been similar.
There have been many different train simulators over the years, and the latest iteration to hit the market looks to be a nice change of pace from the usual. Whilst you might not imagine that a train simulation has a huge amount to do, you’ll be pretty surprised if you ever actually turn this on and give it a shot. There is far more to it than hitting a few levers and having a coffee – you aren’t going to like Homer Simpson on the Monorail, that’s for sure!
Instead, what you’ll find is that the latest offering from Dovetail Games, Train Simulator 2015, is a nice improvement on its predecessors. The series changed its name to the RailWorks branding in 2009, following on as the official successor of Rail Simulator. Rail Simulator was probably the most impressive of the train simulator selections out there, so the fact that Dovetail has been able to keep one of their most beloved releases going is very nice to know indeed.
But what does Train Simulator 2015 bring to the table? How can it differentiate from its predecessors outside of looking sharper and giving you even more trains and lines to run? Well, you’ll be quite surprised about what can be added into such a traditionally tranquil topic! What you will find awaits you when you first log into this product is a fantastically exciting release that gives you plenty of energy and enthusiasm without ever falling short.
Its new ideas are well put across and it gives you plenty of time to get to grips with the unsurprisingly punishing gameplay. The learning curve can be a bit steeper than you might expect, but it’s a streamlined process that with enough hours becomes easier and eventually can be second nature to you.
Trying to get into the railway industry? Then you’ll find that Train Simulator 2015 might be the best practice yet!
About Dovetail Games
Dovetail Games have been around since 2008 and was founded by Paul Jackson, a former EA VP as well as Tim Gatland and Charlie McMicking. Between them, they founded the massively popular RailWorks franchise which has since become the ever-popular Train Simulator. This is their main life and blood product, and the company has helped establish a lovely little niche for themselves.
The predecessor to RailWorks was created by Kuju Entertainment, who had been the face behind the Microsoft Train Simulator series many years ago. After this project finished, though, there was a gap in the market – and this is where Dovetail have swooped in so promisingly. They released plenty of support products for their initial game engine, and since then have gone on to create RailWorks. Its spawned total of six new iterations since it first arrived on the scene and has helped to establish the company as a bit of a player within the simulation market. Their work is clean and simple to play, and gives you a nice level of satisfaction as you get to see just how much attention to detail their 100+ staff put into each version of this dominant train simulation.
They’ve really cut open the market and established themselves as the go-to guys within the industry. But how does their game actually stack up? Is it as big an improvement as previous installments or is it just another train simulator that adds very little new experiences to the simulation engine?
The first thing that you need to note is that whilst the attention to detail is very impressive it’s not exactly going to be up there with the latest releases that you’ll on see on consoles in 2015. It’s a new release, but its not something that puts its heart and soul into the graphical side of things – the graphics are good, for sure, but they aren’t mind-blowing.
If you are looking for a way to drive trains in stunning detail and with a realistic, alive city around you all the time then you might want to pick up Grand Theft Auto or something. This is a simulator first and foremost, and whilst they are improving all the time very few simulators come with outstanding graphics for the year that they were originally released. However, this does have a minor upside to it. Despite being released in 2015, the graphics are fairly low spec and this means you can probably get closer to the highest settings than you could on some other simulators out there.
It’s less processor intensive too, despite still looking more than playable. The cities around you will feel fairly vibrant and the attention to detail on each train is very impressive – you’ll be able to recognize any train that you decide to use fairly easily if you’ve ever seen one in real-life before. The shape of the trains is bang on and the overall quality and attention to detail put into the environment around you is more than good enough.
You might not get some detailed, intricate remake of the town that you live in and all of its associated points but you’ll find that Train Simulator 2015 comes with a high level of overall detail in the map and the surrounding area. It looks neat and it’s pretty simple to use – you just need to get used to deal with the fact that it’s not going to have next-gen graphics and super emphatic cities all around you quite yet.
Even things like the sky can look fairly dull – but, in reality, it doesn’t drain from the experience too much at all. The actual graphical quality is simple enough to push right up and with things like anti-aliasing possible you can smooth out those rough edges.
One complaint we do have about the graphics, though, is the quality of the models of the people. They look rather stick-like at times and whilst it’s not exactly something important that is going to make or break the game, it would have been nice to see the passengers – the lifeblood of your business – get a little more detail. Again, though, this isn’t something that you need to make Train Simulator 2015 work for you, it’s merely a “work on this later” for the developers.
Whilst it’s commendable that the overall quality of the simulator is more or less impeccable in terms of reality, it would have been nice for the world that you drive in to have equal realism.
The Realism Factor
As mentioned above, the overall quality of Train Simulator 2015 comes from the realism factor. For a start, it’s fairly brutal to get used to – for anyone who is used to watered down simulators that still add gamey features and additions, you will be in for a shock here! It’s brutally efficient and makes sure that you really get pushed for every last function. You won’t get any big flashing arrows telling you what to do next – it’s the definition of a “pure” simulator. However, the level of realism that is attached with the actual operations you undertake is hugely impressive – if you’ve ever driven a train in real-life you’ll probably start to see just how effective this is at making the simulator stand out from its various competitors over the years. It might not have that same outstanding shine that you’ll be used to in other simulators graphically but in terms of staying faithful to realism, few can get near Train Simulator 2015.
Again, you might be expecting that “realism” is something along the lines of hitting a few buttons and enjoying the ride only having to pay attention when a stop is coming up. This couldn’t be any further from the truth, obviously, and instead you’ll find yourself taking on a hugely enjoyable experience that is every bit as challenging as it is exciting. The fantastic new addition of the TS Academy helps newcomers to the series start to find their feet and avoid the agonizingly difficult learning process that many go through.
If you’ve ever played a pure simulator before then you’ll know that the hints are pretty minimal and you’ll be expected to learn as you would in the real world – by doing. This means you can definitely start to see a tangible difference to your long-term development as you’ll need to pick up pretty much everything on your own. It can be a deflating experience at first as you struggle to get the train moving as you intended or you keep overshooting stops, but it’s this realism that keeps it alive for so long.
If it was as easy as somebody with no interest or experience in train simulations assumed it probably wouldn’t even exist anymore – they’d be very boring. What you find is that the challenge of learning your cockpit and the protocols of a professional train driver goes far beyond the basic features you might have been expecting to come across. The Career gives you realistic objectives that will observe how you get on just as you would expect to be observed in the real thing, too, so you can get that brutal difficulty if that’s what you are looking for from your experience.
Either way, this is a hugely rewarding experience purely because of how attentive it is to the little details that make flight simulators so exciting to use – they can be hard work at times, but once you get there then this can become a fairly addictive use of your time!
Presuming that you are a fan of simulations, then you should find everything that Train Simulator 2015 has to throw at you very interesting indeed – particularly if you have never had anything to do with the series. If you are just signing in for a few minutes of fan and trying to run a train off the tracks you are in the wrong place – this is for those who want to genuinely enjoy everything that there is to be enjoyed about driving a train. For that purpose, though, this is easily the best train simulator that has been released to date.
The game still carries some of the best audio that you are likely to come across in a simulator, as well. It’s realistic and it’s very expansive in terms of what you’ll be hearing as you thunder along the tracks. This adds another nice layer of realism to the whole thing and can make it much simpler to get involved in if you aren’t quite sure what you should be expecting from the train simulator.
Not only will these noises become very nice for ambience, they help you work out just what is actually going on with the train itself!
It’s additions over Train Simulator 2014 are quite minimal, but these changes are effective. The main change has been the addition of the tutorials, the Academy, and this alone is something that makes the entire series far more accessible. In the past, it was incredibly easy to get overwhelmed by everything that this simulator could throw at you – with the help of the Academy; however, these problems simply cease to exist.
It gives you all the information that you could possibly need to become a more effective train driver, and start to learn all of the advanced maneuvers that can make your life so much simpler. It takes a bit of learning and patience to get your head around but, in reality, it’s very simple once you get past the basic tutorials that can give you a real understanding. Once you get the basics down then the more advanced things you’ll need to learn are a lot simpler to take in.
It makes it much easier, then, to get involved in the realism of the whole thing – which is more accessible than ever before. The interface is clean and easy, just as it was in 2014, and it makes actually using the train much simpler. It’s responsive and realistic to use, and the trains all feel nice and different in their own way. In terms of new additions, the Academy and some new tracks and trains are all that you really get over the last release in 2014.
If this does not sound like much, then, and you have been a fan of the Train Simulator series for a while, you’ll be pleased to hear that 2015 is available as a free upgrade. All you need to do, if you own 2014, is install the upgrade files. Because it’s essentially an improvement on 2014 – but still runs in the same world and same engine – you don’t need to buy 2015 if you already own the previous iteration.
Add in the fact that the train simulation community is positively thriving with great ideas and unique products you can install into your simulator to make routes and trains even more realistic, and you can get a simulator that has hundreds of hours’ worth of travelling and learning to be had. It’s got so much in there from 2014 that it’s no surprise that 2015 is quite small, but it’s worth having if you’ve never had the pleasure of using the series in the past.
The bad thing, however, is the fact that there is really is nothing new outside of this. The three routes that have been added in, and the new trains, are all readily available for 2014 and have been for ages. This takes away from the fact it’s a new release quite considerably, so if you already own the 2014 version you don’t need to pick this one up – you can just add it on, as stated above. This does take away from the fact that we had to wait a year for the next release, but it’s to be expected considering the massive amount of changes that took place in 2014.
However, it does leave you with very little else to do – if you are a veteran of the series then the Academy won’t be of much use to you. It won’t give you anything new or exciting to do, so it can take away from the entire process a little bit for some. Whatever you were hoping to see as new additions and refinements since 2014, you won’t be finding them here. Add in the rather comical Sean Bean introduction video that was added as “content” and you’ve got a rather underwhelming release in terms of new modes, new features or even new routes.
However, we are more than willing to give Dovetail the benefit of the doubt as they’ve been steadily improving the franchise for quite some time. As touched on above, too, the graphics aren’t going to have you falling over yourself like 2015 releases such as Evolve or The Order: 1886 but it’s got plenty of character for a simulator.
The bad side of things could be put down to the difficulty if you are trying to get used to the new game, but this has mostly been resolved by the Academy. However, you might find that even they can be a bit of a challenge at first as you’ll need to learn how to do things like deal with amperage directions and dealing with the brakes properly – this isn’t just a simple case of click here, hold this button. There’s far more to it than this and it certainly adds another challenge, but for some it can be a little bit too much and therefore become quite off-putting until you get to a certain point.
Another common complaint, and we found this ourselves, was that the speed limits seemed to just magically appear. Whilst in real-life you’d be expecting some kind of warning to let you know when to start slowing down, in Train Simulator 2015 you can find it’s a bit of a jack-in-the-box that pops up on you when you least expect it. Especially if you are going to take on the career mode, this can become a significant problem as it’ll leave you with docked points at the end of a route you may have dealt with perfectly otherwise.
The bonus is, however, that there is an incredible wealth of train simulator content out there for you to pick from. Anything that was made for 2014 is fully compatible here, too, so it becomes really easy to jump in and include just about anything that you were looking for. The DLC that is out there gives you new trains and new routes for just about anywhere you can think of, so if you feel like you’ve made a nice saving by picking up 2015 as the free update, you’ll be able to spend that saved cash in the form of hugely convincing new updates and mods!
This can make development more fun than ever, giving you a change to build a massive catalog of DLC that can give you a whole new feel to the game. If you feel like you are beginning to run out of things to do in the vanilla edition, then you might want to take a look into the various DLC that is available for the simulator – it can make a massive difference to your overall appreciation at just how much attention to detail there is within the trains themselves.
Basically, more new content! We were hoping to see the game produce some awesome new trains and routes that would have kept the 2014 edition alive for even longer, giving you even more content than ever before. Instead, you get access to some routes and trains you might already own anyway if you’ve delved into the DLC side of things. Overall, though, the quality of the products that you are getting is very good indeed – if you don’t already own 2014 then you are getting a lot of value for your purchase.
Additionally, because there is no real scope for an online mode there’s not exactly much to do outside of just roll along the countryside - so it would have been nice to get some extra content to beef this up slightly and give you more to do. However, what has been added – such as the tutorials – have been very well received.
Overall, the quality of this train simulator is quite impressive. It might not add too much if you’ve already played the last edition as we’ve already covered, but it’s certainly got nice kinks and introductions into how to actually drive the thing. For anyone who has picked up a Train Simulator game before and turned it off after frying their brains with the difficulty, you’ll find that this picks up the pieces pretty well. It’s simple enough to play and get into, and makes sure that a newcomer to the series can get their teeth sunk in pretty much right away.
If you already own the previous version and have an army of DLC then you’d be as well just downloading it and adding it on for the changes to the coding and the engine, but that’s about it. If you’ve never played a quality train simulator before then you’ll find that this is probably the finest entrance into the series that you are likely to get. The addition of the academy means that newbies can get involved in the series quickly and easily and ensure they are able to really feel like they are grasping something.
Despite being a pure simulator that will push you all the way, this is easy to start learning and progressing with thanks to it’s dedication to the new Academy. This is arguably the best feature they’ve brought in for many years and this can be the perfect solution for people without an idea of what they need to do. Add in a solid career and a strong attempt to make the simulator look the best that it possibly can – avoiding the horrible “dated” tag that many simulators wind up with – and you’ve got a very strong product that you can learn from as well as enjoy using until the next release in 2016.
You can pickup your copy over at Steam.