Train Life: A Railway Simulator – Preview
Follow Genre: Simulation
Developer: Simteract, SIMTERACT Sp. z o.o.
Publisher: Nacon
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

Train Life: A Railway Simulator – Preview

Good: Realistic in-depth mechanics
Bad: Awful voiceover
User Score
8.0
(1 votes)
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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

A couple of months ago, NACON and Simteract brought their upcoming sim game Train Life: A Railway Simulator to Early Access on Steam. The game has received a plethora of content updates since those early days, as well as the obligatory bug fixes and tweaks based on player feedback. Although the full launch of the game is still some time ahead, we’re taking a look at what Train Life already has to offer. Join us as we attempt to figure out whether this is a train worth jumping onto or if you’re better off waiting for the full version to arrive at the station.

Right off the bat, it’s clear that Simteract’s aim is to deliver the best and most in-depth train simulator ever. The game goes beyond simply putting you in the cabin of a locomotive and driving from point A to point B. The meat of the gameplay is still in doing that, but you’re not just a train driver but also the manager of a train company, which adds an interesting dimension to the game. As a manager, you’re tasked with managing your train fleet, hiring staff, and taking on contracts. Admittedly, it sounds more exciting than it is in practice, as the management system is delivered through a series of menus reminiscent of similar systems in NACON’s racing games. If you were hoping for a mode that has you managing a railway company similar to Railway Empire, then Train Life probably isn’t your game.

However, if your aim is to feel like you’re actually driving a train and performing the day-to-day tasks of railway staff, then Simteract’s offering is right up your alley. Even at this early stage, we were impressed with how realistic everything felt and how wide the array of tasks is. The game takes you through a lengthy tutorial before you are qualified to fully ride the train, and that’s a good thing, as it can be a lot to wrap your head around. We’re not experts, of course, so we can’t vouch for the accuracy of how these things are *supposed* to work, but nothing about the game’s controls felt unrealistic or unnatural. If you’re used to race game controls, then Train Life might take some time getting used to, as even controlling your speed requires you to use four input buttons, so it’s a bit more complicated than simply holding down your gas pedal button and going forward.

It’s probably Train Life’s biggest hurdle to overcome: the sheer amount of control and task options combined with having to memorize every option. Everything you can do is mapped to a separate key, and it can be overwhelming to find the right key for the task at the right time -especially when you have to make on-the-fly decisions. This is of course something that gradually gets easier as you spend more time with the game. It looks like Train Life is going to become a game that diehard train enthusiasts will be able to pour hundreds of hours into when it is complete, as they try to beat their personal efficiency records. With a wide variety of trains available, part of the challenge is in figuring out which train is best suited for which task, maximizing not only your profit, which you can subsequently invest into your company again, but also allowing you to beat your personal time record.

For now, the amount of content you’re getting is still fairly limited -though you’re still getting plenty of bang for your buck keeping the 15 dollar price tag in mind. Apart from the lengthy tutorial, you’ve got a career mode, which sees you as a budding train company manager. A nice touch here is that you can choose your nationality and even your starting city. There are also four separate mission tracks that you can take on, and we imagine that more will be added as the development of Train Life happily chugs forward.

Of course, there is still room for improvement besides expanding on the content already available in the game. We’ve had a few instances where pressing keys seemingly did nothing, for example, and we even had to restart the game entirely when it froze on one of the tutorial missions. You can technically skip the tutorials, but each one of them provides essential information about specific mechanics of the game, so if you’re unable to complete one of them, then you’re out of luck.

As far as presentation goes, the game’s audio is far from finished. The current voiceover in particular is incredibly grating, with the narrator sounding like a disinterested intern. The game also offers a radio option so you can listen to music in your cabin, but we couldn’t get this to work either. Visually, the game fares a bit better, with a wide variety of environments and weather effects. When the dynamic lighting works, Train Life looks fantastic, but there are a couple of graphical issues that the game struggles with in its current state. The most egregious issue is with the game’s cutscenes: when one of these plays, the frame rate of the game absolutely tanks. We understand that it’s impossible to provide prerendered cutscenes for every type of train, environment, and weather condition in the game, but right now these really hamper the overall enjoyment. There were also moments where lighting (especially in stations) gave the game an overexposed look. Finally, human character models, such as passengers in stations, looked stilted and unnatural as they walked around.

Conclusion

Even in its current state, Train Life outclasses a significant part of the competition, and we heartily recommend it to any diehard train enthusiasts reading this. It’s a bit of a tougher sell for mainstream audiences because it isn’t the most accessible title for anyone looking for a more casual experience. In theory, taking control of a train and driving from location to location, picking up passengers, and delivering goods sounds like a peaceful and relaxing experience. In practice, it’s a challenging puzzle involving micromanaging and memorizing your available options. It’s only going to get even more complicated from here too (in a good way). Just take a look at the game’s roadmap below. If this is the sort of gameplay that seems up your alley, then pick up Train Life, as you’ll probably end up loving it, even in Early Access. (And if you pick it up ahead of its Summer 2022 launch, you’ll get the Orient Express for free!)

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Train Life: A Railway Simulator - Preview, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
SebastiaanRaats


2 Comments

  1. […] months after its launch in Early Access on Steam, Simteract keeps adding content to Train Life. This is the first simulator that both let you manage as well as ride the trains in your railway […]

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  2. […] Nacon and Simteract Studio have announced the release of the third update for Train Life: A Railway Simulator, adding more content and new functions to the game. At this time, the game is still in Early Access […]

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