Train Simulator 2014 – Preview

Title   Train Simulator 2014
Platform  Windows PC
Genre  Simulation
Release Date  September 26, 2013
Official Site

When I saw Train Simulator 2013 at last year’s Gamescom, I fell so completely in love with it that I walked away with a huge smile on my face and immediately declared it my game of show. So when I was invited back to see their new 2014 edition, I knew I was in for something good. But how much can change in a year, exactly? Well, a lot, as it happens.

The most immediate difference you’ll see is the new, cleaner and sexier (their words, not mine) user interface which, to use a quote I have to agree with, drags the game forward about ten years. It is certainly a far better looking game because of it; rather than dealing with a list of options in plain text, you’re now presented with a gorgeous, modern menu with images and big boxes to click. It seems like a minor change, but it’s actually a huge leap forward, and goes some way into drawing in newbies who may have been put off by the old menu style.

In another effort to entice newer players, the game now features a much improved Career mode, which will give you scenarios to play out, increasing in difficulty as you go. You will also have your stats tracked throughout your career, and can compare and compete with your friends to see who’s the better driver. Even better than this, however, are the improvements being done to tutorials. While in previous releases the tutorials were buried way down in the scenario list, something which was very off-putting to those who had no clue about trains (myself included), in this edition tutorials will be brought to the forefront, so you’re not having to battle with menus to avoid struggling with unfamiliar controls. It’s nice to see so much focus on drawing in a new, curious crowd rather than focusing purely on the hardcore fan base they’ve already acquired, and I hope it works out well.

The current fans shouldn’t feel too left out however, as they’re getting their own improvements, in particular to the “Create” section of the game. Apparently, around 30% of current players also create their own scenarios and tracks using the built-in creation tools, and RailSimulator want to reward these fans by giving them the professional tools used by the team themselves in order to make the player creations even better. And if you think your new train route is something to shout about, you can even sell your creation through Steam and get some cash for your hard work. I imagine the developers will still release their own official content, especially in the form of new trains and official routes, but it’ll be interesting to see how this takes off and what the community make with the new tools.

Community is definitely the correct word here, as RailSimulator are trying to foster even more community spirit with their newest and most interesting feature – Engine Driver. Presented as a social network for fans of both real and simulated trains, Engine Driver will allow those with a passion for locomotives to connect and discuss their area of interest alongside articles written by the team and other enthusiasts. These articles may be about trains in general, or they may even be further tutorials and tip-sharing posts to help newcomers along with the struggles of handling a train. It’s not exactly going to be a Facebook-beater, but Engine Driver is certainly a novel way of engaging the community and bringing them together, as well as keeping them updated on new pieces of content, and possibly even showing off the creations that fans have made.

While I didn’t get the chance to see the new edition in action, what I learnt about Train Simulator 2014 definitely piqued my interest. The sexier UI and improved Career mode look set to draw in a new crowd of curious onlookers, while the beefed-up creation tools and social hub that is Engine Driver will please well-established fans. RailSimulator see the base game as a starter kit of sorts, bolstered by their huge array of additional trains and routes to download, so purchasing Train Simulator 2014 grants you access to ten trains and three routes to play with from the off. That said, if you already own an earlier edition of the game, you’ll be instantly upgraded to the new edition for free when it hits Steam and retail stores on September 26th.

Oh, and I had to ask, but there are currently no plans for a Trains Vs Zombies 3. There’s plenty of time until Halloween though, so fingers crossed!

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