Though The Luxe Review Towers stands in the heart of London, we haven’t been on the London Underground since before lockdown. In one of the more unexpected side effects of the pandemic: we’ve discovered we really miss the tube.
So, when we were invited to enter the world of simulators and get an early preview of Train Sim World 2, we were more excited than we’d usually be for a morning trip on the Bakerloo line.
Made by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts, the upcoming game is developed by Dovetail Games, which specialises in crafting simulators to perfection. The latest addition to its respected train series adds, as well as a new Köln route which will allow you to travel the fastest anyone has ever gone in Train Sim World, the Bakerloo line to the mix. So, knowing our city like we do, we thought it only right to see how well it recreated our beloved TFL.
Following the previous Train Sim World, this sequel is a brand new game, with new routes and features, and a new engine (though not a steam one) Dovetail Games’ marketing director Mike Richardson tells us. “We believe it’s the best simulation we’ve ever made,” he says.
Here’s what you need to know about choo-choo-choosing the new germ-free (dependent on the state of your keyboard) commute…
Train simulator fans really want to ride the Bakerloo line
The route, which runs from Harrow & Wealdstone in north west London, via the West End, to Elephant & Castle in south London, is “the most requested experience ever, by far, from fans,” Richardson tells us, with the route ranking number one on their community polls. And that’s a big, passionate community – more than a million players this year have played the current game.
We know the west London tube so well, we could ride it blindfolded. Though we wouldn’t advise it. Apparently, Train Sim World 2 does, too. “Every station on the Bakerloo line has got its own unique character which we tried to capture,” says Richardson. The art team did that by spending a huge amount of time reviewing photography to make each station authentic: “Fortunately, the London Underground is incredibly well-photographed,” explains Richardson.
From the tiling on the ground, to the colours of the posters and walls, care has been taken to make sure it all feels as real as possible. We particularly liked the iconography of Sherlock Holmes, as you’d find on the wall tiles at Baker Street – and the team even got permission to use the distinctive red and green tiles of Piccadilly Circus’s Bakerloo platforms.
It’s the next most immersive experience to having the carriage rattling round you
The authenticity of the design all adds to the immersiveness of the game – which even has working clocks in the stations, too. Extra care has gone into making the tunnels feel dark, so you really feel the contrast as you burst into the light of each. Meanwhile, vehicle dynamics have been upgraded, so you’ll be able to better feel the effects of adverse weather, which will affect your weight and breaking point to get precise stops into platforms. It’s a real science.
But if that sounds tough, don’t panic. Care has been taken to balance that detail with making it easy to pick up and play, too, doing away with any unnecessarily complicated controls. “We’ve taken an incredibly complex thing and retained the challenge that rail fans expect, while also making it easy to pick up and play for the more casual gamer,” explains Darren Potter, executive producer. To do that, there are tutorials throughout, so you should never meet something in the game which you don’t understand. Meanwhile, experienced players can manually pick a journey through the ‘explore’ menu and get straight to grips with the cab.
New ways to customise the way you play
You’ve got lots of freedom to play this game however you like. As well as customising things like the lettering on trains, the scenario designer allows you to create multiple services to play, choosing where your train will run from, to and stop along the way. This is where you select your train, too. By default you’re shown trains which are appropriate to the route (Bakerloo line trains, for example) – “but if you want the craziness, you can turn the craziness on,” says Potter.
You can go off the rails. Literally.
We need to hear more about said craziness. “If you want to bring in the craziness, enable ‘Off The Rails’ mode,” advises Potter, “that will enable any train on to the route. We’ll magically make it work!’ From driving huge American trains on the London Underground, to driving the Bakerloo line carriage up a mountain, “If that’s the experience you want to create, go for it,” he adds. Both traffic and physics laws be damned.
Next stop: multiplayer…?
There’s no multiplayer option on the game, yet. But, multiplayer “was thought number one when we first made Train Sim World back in the day,” reveals Richardson. “We’ve got lots of design thoughts about multiplayer, and there’s lots of discussion online about what a multiplayer world would be.” It’s clearly something the team would be keen to do, he adds, “There’s tons of opportunity for multiplayer in a train simulator.” While it’s not in the game right now, “It’s something that’s very much in the back of my mind, that I definitely want to do,” the producer tells us.
- Train Sim World 2 is out today on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.