Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Curse You, Roundabouts! - My Adventures in Euro Truck Simulator 2

Onward to adventure!  Or at least to the chemical plant.
I'm very late to the party in playing Euro Truck Simulator 2. It's not as though I was unaware of the adulation being heaped on the game, or even that I wasn't curious about it. I was, but, for whatever reason, I just kept on procrastinating on giving it a shot. That's all changed now and like countless others have stated already, it's quite surprising how much this game can grow on a person. Never would I have thought I'd be having such a good time hauling nitrogen, furniture, and tractors across Europe. Yet here I am, blasting down the highway, slowing only because of the speed cameras, dead set on getting my load to its destination as fast as I can just so I can start the process all over again.

It's been slow going early on, which seems appropriate given the large, lumbering vehicles at my disposal. I didn't even have a truck of my own at first, and had to take quick contract jobs from other companies when doing deliveries. They didn't pay a huge amount, but gradually I was able to start earning enough to buy a truck of my own and get the higher paying jobs of the freight market, which require owner-operators for what they have on offer.

You can see plenty of city skylines,
but you'll never drive to the city center.
As it turns out, you can only buy trucks from stores you've actually driven past and discovered first hand. Apparently none of these dealerships like to toot their own horn (pun intended!) and send fliers to my London-based garage to tempt me with their wares. This came as a surprise because the bank sure as hell didn't waste any time getting a hold of me with loan offers of hundreds of thousands of euros.

Thankfully my travels took me to a number of locations, including a Volvo dealership in the Netherlands where I bought my first truck. Of all the vehicles I'd driven while doing quick jobs, the Volvos left the best impression. I really liked their acceleration. At first I'd given some thought to a DAF, as there was a lot just over in Scotland with them for sale, and I figured they may have something with a right-side drive, which seemed like the right choice to make being UK-based and all. However, when I got there, all of their trucks were left-side drive, so I figured I might as well just get the Volvo.

I'm quite pleased with the purchase too, as it's got a lot of umph for what I paid (just under 100,000 euros). Also, I'm happy that I didn't take out a loan to get it, instead simply scrimping and saving the money. Not sure if that's the most efficient way of going about things, but I've always been very adverse to debt, and don't even like going that route in virtual game worlds. It just rubs me the wrong way.

There's an outside view.  But any perspective other than
inside the cab just feels wrong.
Now, at the wheel of my own big rig, I'm able to roam around, taking all sorts of freight jobs. It's fun and requires quite a bit more thought than the quick jobs that I was taking before. With those, I just answered an ad, and presto I was at the company's yard with one of their trucks ready to go, trailer already attached. With these freight gigs, I actually have to look up who's hiring, drive to their yard, confirm the job, back into the trailer, attach it, and take the thing where it needs to go.

So, I need to consider what city I'm in, what jobs are nearby, how much they pay, where they'll be going, and whether or not I think I'll be able to find another run in that city quickly or will I need to drive to a neighboring town for work instead.  Sometimes it can be tricky too depending on where you want to go.  After finishing a run, the only nearby jobs may go to relatively close towns or other cities you're not interested in.  So, you may have to do some smaller jobs and work your way to a hub city where you think that you might find a jobs that will take you to the part of Europe that you're interested in visiting.

One of the few times I don't haul hazardous materials, but only because it's ice cream.
The driving element, the part players will spend the most time on, is as relaxing or as exciting as you want to make it. I lean heavily toward the exciting side of the spectrum. I'll keep that truck topped up at 55mph whenever possible, only slowing for radar cameras, or if traffic is so bad that I have no other choice. Even then, I'll try riding the shoulder, or going into the oncoming lane temporarily to get past slowpokes, which I find myself doing fairly often on small country roads. As mundane as it may seem, driving big rigs all over Europe, it can be a lot of fun trying to get your haul to its destination in one piece when showing blatant disregard for all traffic regulations or the safety of those you're sharing the road with. I'm really glad there isn't a "How's my driving?" sticker on the back of my truck.

So far I've swallowed the occasional speeding ticket and only been in a few accidents, and their cost hasn't been too bad, especially now that I'm doing jobs that pay in the 15K+ euro range. The only thing that I try to be mindful of is damage since the cost can add up after a while, and I want my truck to stay in top form. Besides, if I'm going to blow money on my ride it'll be to doll the thing up with horns, blinkers, and all the fixings. It's especially nice to have a pair of big 'ol air horns now. No truck is complete without a few of those!

Night driving is best driving.
I'm also slowly leveling up, now. (Hurray for RPG elements!) I've been putting an emphasis on distance and being qualified to haul increasingly volatile substances, because if I'm gonna drive like a nut, I'd better be pulling the most explosive, corrosive, or flammable goods I can get my mitts on. It's also starting to feel like I need to improve my Eco skill which basically gives me better fuel economy, because it costs A LOT to fill up the tank. Last time I popped by the petrol station, the tank was two thirds full and it still set me back over a grand to top the thing up. Outrageous!

Up to this point, I'm quite impressed by how much Euro Truck Simulator 2 has gobbled up my time. I could be a safe, sensible, conscientious driver, but that's no fun. For me it's got to be pedal to the metal all the time, skirting the law, and hopefully not killing anyone. The strategy elements of being an owner-operator are icing on the cake. It's nice having to give some thought to the routes that I want to do and how I want to go about expanding from a one man operation into a shipping empire. Really, this game could wind up being the one that I play most this year in terms of sheer hours logged if I keep going the way I have, and that's saying something given my usual aversion to simulators.

- Jeff Nash