The game now approaching Platform 4 is the 12:30 service to An Extremely Specific Power Fantasy, or, to give it its actual title, Train Sim World – Dovetail's latest rail simulator and your chance to step into the cabins of a number of passenger and freight trains to press and pull a bunch of buttons and levers without fear of being arrested. It might seem like a niche concept, and it is, but that in itself is a little strange. Pretty much every racing game lets us slide behind the wheel of an exotic sports car we'll never be able to afford, but that cost factor is effectively the only barrier between fantasy and potential reality. Here, confronted with a deck of switches, panels and levers so abstract to most that it might as well be the controls of an alien spaceship, we're presented with an experience that most will never have in real life regardless of wealth, and one that is only seen as less attractive due to decades of pop culture telling us that all fast cars are cool. Meanwhile, the only famous trains of note in the same time period either have creepy faces or depart from non-existent fractional platforms to take kids to a pretend magic school. We're not saying it's Ferris Bueller's fault, but it's definitely Ferris Bueller's fault.
On Rails Gaming
Actually piloting these giant metal contraptions, on the other hand, proves universally captivating at first whether you fall at the enthusiast or novice end of the spectrum. Tutorials for each train run through their unique start-up procedures and operational differences, a going-through-the-motions checklist for the experts who know their way around these machines, sure, but a surprisingly daunting process for the less-informed who may have previously assumed that trains had two buttons labelled 'go' and 'stop'. With the more complex vehicles in particular, even the simple act of getting the thing moving is rewarding due to just how many steps are involved, and each class of train brings its own gameplay permutations. Freight work has a lot of precision movement in carefully shunting, loading cargo and coupling, for instance, and is best saved for once you have better control over these powerful engines, while even the seemingly dull stop/start loop of the passenger services is actually a series of extremely tight time trial stages. Every second saved with perfectly gauged deceleration, stopping, and signal clearance pushes you once step closer to reaching your destination on time, avoiding the ire of the (few) people waiting on the platforms or in your carriages. This is the real meat of the game, and we'd be lying if we said we didn't end up oddly enjoying it at times once we started to get a handle on the dashboard controls, which can themselves be a little fiddly with a controller instead of the mouse and keyboard this type of sim is usually designed for.
Leaves On The Line
It's certainly an acquired taste, then, and as such, it's rather tough to pin a numerical value on in assessing it – the game's value to train enthusiasts is naturally much greater than to anyone just looking for a new and different experience, and the impressive authenticity with even minor details that it displays can help gloss over the shortcomings so long as you're able to appreciate them. As such, you probably already know if this game is going to be for you, although we'd certainly encourage anyone on the fence to give it a try, at least – it's certainly a unique colour in the spectrum of modern console gaming, and the sedate pace and technical nature might just end up being the breath of fresh air you've been looking for in a new game. Maybe. Still, it could be worse – at least it's not Replacement Bus Service Simulator.
- Great attention to detail
- Routes are realistically recreated
- No other console games like it
- Only has lasting value for train lovers
- Where are all the passengers?
- Lacking in polish
Train Sim World Review (PS4)
Its relatively narrow focus means it's never going to enjoy the wider appeal of broader simulators such as flight (with greater vehicle diversity and much more open maps) or even rising star, farming (which places a much greater focus on player choice in terms of what crops to grow, how to manage plots, and so forth)... it is, literally and figuratively, on-rails compared to the freedom of other sims, and that can only harm its long-term appeal for all but a very small niche of players.
It's good at what it does, as you'd expect from a team with this much experience in the field, but what it does is just inherently extremely limited.
Those with a passion for trains should hop aboard without delay, but most average players will likely find that once the initial novelty wears off, the experience quickly runs out of steam.
Our Review Ethos
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