Train Sim World: Great Western Express Review

Train Sim World: Great Western Express Review

Spurred on perhaps by YouTube gamers and parodies like Goat Simulator, you can find simulators for everything from driving a garbage truck to performing zero-gravity surgery in space. Quality for these kinds of games runs from so-bad-it's-funny (*cough*Underground Mining Simulator*cough*) to arcade (Bus Simulator 2016) to super in-depth and highly detailed (OMSI 2). Train Sim World sits comfortably somewhere between the latter two, leaning slightly more toward arcade-like.

Train Sim World: Great Western Express has one massive advantage over Dovetail Games' last entry, Train Simulator 2017, and its competitors: stunning graphics. (Oh, and the switch from a proprietary engine built on 2001's Microsoft Train Simulator to Unreal Engine 4 that makes such graphics possible.) The difference in graphical fidelity and realism between Train Simulator and Train Sim World is astonishing; and from a technical standpoint, it's impressive that, even on medium-spec computers, frame rates and performance are so much better and more stable despite the much more detailed lighting, particle effects, reflections, and higher-resolution textures. And, honestly, by any standard these graphics do look pretty good: I absolutely commend the team at Dovetail Games for their work here and its predecessor, Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul, which is the base needed to play Great Western Express.

And speaking of CSX Heavy Haul, you'll need to buy that first to be able to run Great Western Express. Although there is, at time of writing, a bundle that nets you both on Steam at a discounted price, it is kind of a disappointment that—because GWE needs Heavy Haul for, presumably, art assets and coding—one needs to spend $39.99 on a base game that they might not really have any interest in.

For a game that calls itself Train Sim World, it lacks anything approaching the 'world' part. Dovetail has stated that the new engine allows for stability with much longer routes, and the very name of the game conjures up an image of some sort of continent-spanning network of rails. Unfortunately, that just isn't the case: Great Western Express only covers about thirty-six miles of track, directly from London Paddington out to Reading. (The Great Western Mainline is 118 miles, out to Bristol, not including other lines that share some of the track, like the Heathrow Express and Connect lines, the Greenford Branch Line, or to western England out as far as Penzance.)

Despite having six scenarios (the successor to the older Train Simulator games' career missions) and over two hundred services (which allows you to spawn in at any station and take over almost any train running between London Paddington and Reading) you choose, the actual amount of stuff you can do is fairly limited. Sure, there are 194 services for the Class 166 -- but ultimately, they're all local runs from Paddington out to Reading (at the furthest), with a few that you have to bring in or out of the depot at Acton Yard. And anything involving the HST is even more limited: once you hit the 125 mph track limit, the route just flies past, and since the only two stations you can ever stop at are the two ends of the line that Dovetail have mapped out, in about an hour you've covered every variation you can possibly do with it. The problem is that you get up to speed and... that's pretty much it until you start to slow down for the stop, and then you're done -- I'd really like to see the route extended to Exeter, or even to Oxford, so you get to spend a little more time on the route. (Extending the line to Exeter would also allow for the Class 57 to be added, to run part of the famous Night Riviera route.)

Although Dovetail hasn't really made their plans for future support clear regarding GWE, they have implied in replies to comments and video blogs that they may bring the Class 386 (an electric multiple unit) to the game -- and they haven't completely ruled out the possibility of expanding the route in the future. Plus, when mod tools are eventually made available, it's possible that intrepid modders, and potentially third-party developers, may expand the route, including bringing content that Dovetail couldn't negotiate a commercial license for, such as the Heathrow brand (including the Express and Connect routes that share some track with the Great Western Main Line) or the London Underground (where the District and Central Line trains that should run alongside Ealing Broadway are noticeably absent).

Other future updates should include passenger service announcements (at the moment, display boards on the trains are just blank) and hopefully better passenger routing. One of Dovetail's promises for this 'future' incarnation of Train Sim was that passengers would actually board the train and find their way to an empty seat instead of just fading in and out on the platform as they did in Train Simulator. Well, that's only partly true at the moment: they'll board the train, but then they'll still disappear and reappear in a seat. I'm hoping that issue, an the issue where AI will open doors on the wrong side (dumping passengers onto the tracks instead of the platform), and problems where passengers will get stuck on each other in doorways and not be able to enter or exit, will be solved in future patches.

Until such a time, though, Train Sim World: Great Western Express is beautiful and I'm impressed that it runs so well even on mid-range computers. But, just as Train Sim World: CSX Heavy Haul did, it doesn't really live up to the "World" part of the Train Sim World brand-name. I really hope that Dovetail won't repeat their thousands-of-dollars of DLC model from the Train Simulator 20XX series.

I don't think I ever won a single fight in Soulcalibur II. Thankfully, I'm marginally better at reviewing than I am at fighting games.