Truck Nation Review
This past weekend we checked out Truck Nation, the new strategy MMO title from Travian Games & Bright Future, the team behind Rail Nation. In the game players take control of their own trucking company, responsible for hiring drivers and purchasing trucks to haul goods between cities on a lifelike European or German map.
Checking the game out for a few hours we were able to get a greater insight into some of the many systems that make up this feature packed game. Playable through your web browser the game can also be accessed through mobile devices, making it a potentially ideal game when you’re on the move.
Now we’ll be honest that the prospect of playing a game about being a truck driver didn’t exactly fill us with our usual enthusiasm, it seems like a pretty mundane theme to develop a game for; whilst there might be a lot of love for truck simulators, a game revolving around the managerial/logistics side of things sounded kind of dull. Ever the professional though we stepped into the game to see what it was like and judging the game on its own merits.
Straight away the graphical/illustrative style stood out to us, quirky looking characters told us that the game might not necessarily take itself too seriously and be a little more light-hearted, but that misconception was cleared up during the tutorial. The tutorial was long and really dull; being walked through each feature step by step was a grind as we were inundated with the details of every feature in the game and initially it feels like there is a LOT of new stuff to take in. In actuality the game is pretty simple (for better or worse) and what initially seems complicated soon levels out after about 20 minutes of gameplay.
When starting out we had a choice between a large map of Europe, dotted with key cities of importance in each country that players could choose to start from as their hometown, alternatively as the companies behind the game are German players could also choose to start on the German server on a larger more detailed map of Germany. Choosing Europe and starting in Liverpool (the city closest to us in real life) we “suffered” the same fate that we normally do in games where our hometown is available as a starting location and that is we generally start in a pretty low population area. The region was controlled by a player Association known as “The Pool”, though they hadn’t spread much further than beyond the Liverpool region and its surrounding key cities (known as “Liverpool-North”, “Liverpool-East” and “Liverpool-South” as opposed to the names of the cities that would actually sit near there). The Association system is interesting, players have the choice of going solo and simply trying to top the personal leaderboard by acquiring more Prestige than other player, or they can join a group of 25 players and form an Association and work towards controlling territory on the map and gaining Victory points to try and get an Association win.
We got invited to “The Pool” early on and out of the blue, hardly surprising as, like we said, it was a low pop area so they no doubt take up any waifs and strays that choose the area as their starting location. Whilst joining an Association does offer a lot of advantages we politely declined, as we were only playing temporarily it didn’t seem right to take up one of the limited slots and hindering their victory progress. That’s one of the things we do like about the game, typical of Travian Games, is that there is an actual end; the game is broken down into a round which lasts 12 weeks, with the players with the most Prestige and/or Victory points winning the round, and the last 2 weeks of gameplay enter “an exciting end game” to make a mad scramble to the finish line.
So to the features. Well the general process is to hire drivers (you start with 3 but as you upgrade your Logistics building you can get more drivers on your employee roster), purchase trucks, upgrade them and then select jobs for them to perform. Jobs consist of transporting stuff from one city to another, the goods you can transport depends on the type of trailer attached to your truck (you can buy any you are missing) and the type of licenses your driver holds. Players are initially limited to only performing jobs in their hometown and surrounding North/South/East/West counterparts, but will slowly unlock access to other cities to open up more lucrative job offers. That’s the general gist of the game.
Like many games of this type players will have to manage their various resources (in this case Dollars, Platinum and Research Points) to progress, but also manage their time and everything takes minutes, hours and even days to perform whether an individual job or upgrading one of the buildings in your truck dept (see below). Due to the nature of the game we were constantly hitting red lights (pardon the pun) where we had done everything we could do and were waiting for actions to finish, meaning there were more than enough times where we had to just close the game and go about our day; pretty common for these games but it does make it hard to progress to test out anything in major detail.
Of the features we checked out the idea behind the Drivers was interesting, each has their own stats which determine a variety of factors such as their Endurance and how long they can keep driving for before they need a break, along with their “Risk Tolerance”. We’re not entirely sure what this represented, but could fall in line with the fact that players can opt to transport illegal goods at a later stage for an extra cash injection, or perhaps the map features such as handling load inspectors, police and speed traps and potentially getting points on your license and a ban from driving. We didn’t get a chance to see any of these things, which was one of our big issues. The pace of the early game player was extremely slow, the game looked great, was functional and seemed well put together (albeit we had some major performance issues slowing down the game when we had multiple windows open), but the general theme which was pretty dull anyway combined with a slow pace… it just wasn’t all that fun, perhaps the “fun factor” comes in with the PvP element but we personally wouldn’t stick around that long to test it out.
The things we were a little disappointed in were the Truck Depot and the Research Tree; the depot was essentially a plot of land with a dozen buildings on it that you controlled, they offered constant sources of cash, platinum (premium currency), Prestige and research points, or improved features such as allowing you to employ more drivers to your team and having a larger pool of drivers to choose from. You could upgrade one building at a time (two if you were a Plus account holder) and they would simply just give you more of whatever resource/boost they supplied each time you upgraded; very simple and pretty boring. The Research Tree was a disappointment, in it you can spend Research Points to unlock access to new trucks and their respective speed/ acceleration/ and economy tech upgrades (that all still required purchasing individually). Whilst there are 47 trucks available the process of unlocking them is extremely linear with what would appear to be little deviation from the progress path, that said we were unable to check out the higher tiers of the research tree so we don’t know whether this changes much later in the game, but if Rail Nation is anything to go by then probably not.
Overall the game wasn’t terrible, it is a casual game that requires constant engagement, and for the types of games on the market the game looked good and we think the developers/publishers always offer up a pretty good product. However, with some dull and all too simplistic features as well as the less than thrilling theme of transporting goods, we’re not sure whether the game will appeal to a very niche type of player category that we just don’t fall into.