Bus Simulator 18
I’ve not had the chance to play Bus Simulator 18 since it’s release in June last year, So given the opportunity to get behind the wheel and check out the New Map Expansion, I was quite excited. Developed by StillAlive Studios and Published by Astragon Entertainment the new map expansion releases today on the 22nd May 2019. I played using a Logitech Driving Force GT wheel and pedals.
Staring off, you create your very own Bus Company. You can purchase and customise buses, Create your own routes and Hire drivers to help build your Bus driving empire.
There is a sandbox mode you can play, without the limitations of a budget and map size. Although you need to make your way to level 8 of the career mode in order to unlock it.
Initially, you are limited to a small area of the map and the routes are quite small, but soon enough you’re bringing in enough money to purchase more buses and hire more drivers. As the map begins to open up, the journeys get trickier, the routes get longer and the challenges start. You’re faced with parked cars, sometimes even parked at the bus stop! Narrow roads, speed bumps and potholes, all whilst rushing to keep to your schedule.
The mission system in the career mode is nicely done, Giving you tasks to complete in order to build favour with the local authorities, giving you the opportunity to expand through the map, they start off with simple missions of building certain routes, but then begin to become more challenging. Requiring you to have a certain percentage of routes covered by drivers, or making sure certain routes are covered by gas-powered buses rather than diesel.
When stopping at bus stops you’re required to issue tickets to your passengers, This is easily done with the ticket machine to the side of the cockpit. Simply select the ticket being requested then work out any change to return to the passenger.
Occasionally you need to deal with Fare dodgers, passengers leaving valuables or litter on the bus, which are all nice little touches.
How does it play as a simulator? Very well, in my opinion. I really like the little details. Most of the switches on the dash are functional. At first, I couldn’t figure out why there was no music, I later realised there is a radio above your head which when turned on plays the game’s soundtrack. I also discovered whilst looking above my head that you can retract the sun blind/visor, again, A nice little touch if you appreciate the little details.
My only complaints so far are with the way the brakes perform, using a wheel and pedals. I could not get them completely to my liking, they were either too sharp or lacking power resulting in me rear-ending other road users. Whether that was an issue with the game or my lack of ability to set them up properly I’m yet to discover.
The lack of ability to adjust the zoom on the GPS is frustrating. Sometimes, in built-up areas I found it very difficult to work out which road I should take, often taking the wrong turn and having to loop around only to arrive at the stop late. Being able to zoom the map would make it a lot easier to read, you also can’t zoom your cockpit view whilst moving, which would’ve made it a little easier to read the GPS.
The game gives you the option to choose between Simplified or Realistic simulation modes before heading out, Simplified leaves you to concentrate on just driving the bus and gives you warnings and notifications more suited to casual gamers or those playing for fun.
Realistic forces you to change gear (the buses are automatic, but you need to move from Drive/Neutral/Reverse), you need to unlock the doors on the buses before leaving the depot, otherwise, they won’t open from the cockpit buttons, it also disables a few of the helpful prompts, all of this help add a little more immersion and realism to the game.
The new map expansion released today features 2 new main districts and an airport. Kerststadt, Featuring Kerststadt Universirty of Technology, Planetarium, Ministry of Science and Church. Sonnstein with it rural farms and Main square. The addition of these 2 new districts bring an additional 9 new missions and 20 new stops to add to your route, allowing you to connect the existing areas of the map to the airport, Bring tourists to the small town of Sonnstein and transport the students of Kerststadt to and from their dorms, classes and nightlife.
The game is modelled really well, The buses themselves are well detailed both internally and externally. The buildings and landscapes are well designed and clearly represent the different districts, The buildings in the technology and Science distract all look modern, with glass and metal frames and at the opposite end, in one of the new areas, Sonnstein, the buildings all have a very rustic feel, the landscapes as you work your way through the narrow challenging switchbacks and mountain roads to the village look fantastic. The passengers themselves are well modelled too.
The same level of detail has been applied to the vehicle sounds, both the diesel and gas powered buses sound as you would expect, and one of the little touches I appreciated is the way the interior of the buses rattle and clank as you drive down the road, the ambient sounds are recreated well, with traffic sounds and a busy feel to the city areas and a much quieter sound with birds tweeting in the country areas, all building to that feeling of immersion and realism,
As with all simulator games for me, the longevity is in the ability for me to be able to pick up and put down any time, I think I’ll be returning to Bus Simulator often. There is enough challenge in the missions to keep me interested, but also the ability to create your own routes, to drive them in reverse or Loop means that the variation in routes is almost endless. But at the same time, it’s relaxing enough to be able to play without having to over think too much, which to me is one of the biggest appeals of simulations games along with the immersion and realism. The new map extension is sure to add even more playtime with its extra 20 stops and 9 missions allowing even more route customisation.
I feel Bus Simulator 18 caters well to both Simulation fans and casual gamers well, whether you’re looking to play a game that gives you the feel of driving a real bus, or you’re just looking for a relaxing time killer you’d do well with Bus Simulator 18, The new map expansion looks great and I look forward to future updates and seeing how far they can take the map. I feel the game thoroughly deserves the Thumb Culture Gold Award!
Disclaimer: A review code was received in order to write this article