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Tram Sim: Console Edition – Review

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Simulation games cover a wide area of genres but public transport is one area I’ve always enjoyed carrying passengers from one station to the next has seen me invest hundreds of hours into Train Sim World, Bus Simulator 21 and Fernbus Coach Simulator and that’s just in the last few years, so when a new game pops up, promising the on-track simplicity of trains, with the inner-city bustle of buses, it’s only natural I was first in the queue for Tran Sim.

With Tran Sim: Console Edition you have the two main locations of Vienna and Munich, Vienna feels very much the primary location which absorbed the majority of time and attention, but Munich is a suitable alternative. There’s a handful of trams included from the old E, the newer Flexity and 4 variations of the ULF which roamed the streets of Vienna between the two aforementioned units, finally there’s the R2.2b from Munich There’s not a gigantic difference between each unit, and once you’ve got used to one, it won’t take long to acclimatise to another due to them mostly all proving quite easy and relaxing to drive.

You’ll deffinitely want to work through the few tutorials, because it can be a little confusing of how to start, which position to turn the key to and what VA, VB mean when you’re trying to decide the direction of travel.

After the first hour or so, and working through the initial frustration of getting things up and running, the game falls into a pleasing rhythm, the left stick is used to accelerate and break, then as you pull up to a station you can hit X to unlock doors, and when you hear the buzzer to confirm doors are closed and secure, re-lock the doors with X, slap RT to chime the bell and alert your passengers you’re on the move before pulling away to head towards the next station.

These periods are every bit as pleasing as Bus Simulator, Train Sim World or Fernbus as you carry your passengers to their destination, but unfortunately, where this is just the beginning in all of the aforementioned games, it sadly feels like the end of your enjoyment for Tram Sim.

It’s very clear the developers wanted to give an authentic experience, from the German text on the IBIS computer you’ll have to navigate to enter your route and driver numbers, to the small square signals that show a selection of dots to let you know if you should be stopping or moving forward, looking at Train Sim World, signals are pretty clear green or red, but there’s also the option to display these on your HUD, as well as future signals you haven’t yet reached, so as complicated as driving a train might be, Dovetail have done a fantastic job of making it accessible regardless of your level of train knowledge.
Trams are an area that I feel people will generally know even less about but there’s no hand holding, after the brief and vague tutorials, you’re left to glance at these signals as you drive past them, hoping you don’t collide with a car.

Another area is your direction, titles like Bus Sim and Fernbus each offer a GPS map, and direction indicators to help you navigate the streets and signal when turning, Tram Sim however tells you you should signal, but it’s not until you’re well into a corner when you actually know which rails, you’re on, so it’s impossible to signal accurately unless you’ve perfectly memorised your route and every corner.

So, Tran Sim does a great job of actually ferrying passengers around, but in trying to be an authentic simulation it’s taken a lot of game enjoyment away, I even entered the official Discord channel only to be told by one of the 3 “staff” that “This is a simulation not a game”, shocked, I shared my two cents and left the server, because I hope the actual developers realise that without acknowledging that Tram Sim is indeed a game, they risk alienating a large number of gamers outside of the very niche handful of Tram enthusiasts this one individual clearly though the game was designed solely for.

It’s fair to say there was definitely some thought towards making the game more accessible, with the option to have your vehicle started-up ready and waiting as well as turning off switch malfunctions and signal interferences, but there’s so many areas such as the IBIS computer and signals, which could have been so much more accessible (and enjoyable) with a little popup in your chosen language.

Back to gameplay and there’s a little variety in modes, with 5 scenarios, two will last about an hour each, another 2 about 40-45 mins each and the 5th a short 15 minute shunting scenario, there’s open world which lets you explore the routes and switch trams or settings during the ride, followed finally by timetable mode, which allows you to select from 3 main routes for each of Vienna and Munich and work through a set timetable with the target of getting your passengers to their destination on time, this is labelled as “what it’s like to be a real tram driver”, but it brings its own weaknesses, as combined with not knowing your route or which direction you’re actually going to turn, there’s also no visible timetable, so you don’t know if you’re early or late and your only clue will be getting too close to the tram in front of you or getting constantly caught up with, by the tram behind.

You will be awarded with TSP points for being punctual, as well as +10 if you stop at a station perfectly, but as we have no idea how to be punctual the only points you have any control over at your stopping distance. These TSP points combine to level up your profile, awarding you with an Achievement every few levels, however level 2 requires 5,000 TSP, which requires 500 perfect stops, this worked out at about 15 hours of gameplay to level up once, and considering the last achievement is for level 14 (and the game informed you later levels require more XP) that’s over 200 hours of gameplay.

There’s no unlocks, new modes or long-term goals to acquire beyind those few achievements, which really draws the question, why bother?

Over to presentation and beside the steep learning curve, there’s a few issues with menu clarity not explaining what each option does, and the lack of in-game labels are a frustration, but graphically it mostly looks pretty good, Vienna is well detailed, looks great in daylight at night and with any weather and even the rain and snow add to the gameplay rather than the frustration.
Sadly there are quite a few problems, from the poor and repetitive passenger character models, constant clipping and collision detection issues, entire sections of other trams occasionally being invisible, and a few very noticeable framerate drops, there’s the positive that texture and asset pop-in is kept to a minimum thanks to the more inner-city setting.
With audio is pretty disappointing as once you get used to the general whirs and whines of the track, you’re left with quite shallow and repetitive audio, with no option for any background music and passengers don’t even acknowledge your existence, let alone chat between themselves.

Moving on to the value of Tram Sim, and with Tram Sim at £33 it looks like a fair price on paper, but when you compare it to similar titles, things aren’t quite as clear.
a single Train Sim World 3 route (£20-£25) already offers considerably more gameplay for your pounds but you can currently buy a Standard Edition for £32, which includes 3 separate routes and with various offers available TSW3 is generally far, far better value.
Looking at Bus Simulator and the original might be 4 years old, but at £35 it’s still offering far more content, longevity and options as well as a pretty deep management aspect and Bus Simulator 21 expands on that in just about every way possible which while a little more expensive at £45 is worth every penny.

The final comparison is the latest addition of Fernbus which is a very similar £32, it’s maybe the closest comparison, but with the passenger interaction, the ongoing progression and unlocks, and a little more control over what you’re doing it still infinitely easier to recommend.

Tram Sim: Console Edition sadly proves to be it’s own worst enemy, in trying to be a simulation, it’s forgotten about being a game, leaving it a long way behind other similar titles, if you just want to aimlessly ferry passengers around, you’ll get far more entertainment from one of the commuter routes for TSW3 and in the wider Train Sim World offering you’ll get infinitely more enjoyable gameplay, more scenarios, guided routes, if you want to explore a rich, detailed city, then look at Bus Simulator which also gives you the option of deep business management.

There are good points about Tram Sim, but they’re unfortunately hidden away behind a convoluted and an unnecessarily over-complicated attempt at authenticity.
as much as I enjoyed small sections of Tram Sim, it’s just impossible to recommend above titles like TSW, Bus Sim or Fernbus, so it’s really only going to appeal to those specifically wanting to drive a tram.

Tram Sim: Console Edition

Review by Lee Palmer



There are good points about Tram Sim, but they’re unfortunately hidden away behind a convoluted and an unnecessarily over-complicated attempt at authenticity.


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