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TSW3: The Holiday Express – DLC Review

Train Sim World is the ever-evolving behemoth from Dovetail games, which brings the world of railways to your living room, with various routes and locomotives from across the globe.
Back when I was running Xbox Infinity, we covered a wide range of routes on Train Sim World 2, from the Swiss Arosaline to the Javelin trains in London and the amazing HST of the Great Western Railway.

But for the many hundreds of miles, I never got to deliver presents to a giant Christmas tree, or stop in front of a large open fire in search of a naughty elf… That is until the Holiday Express pulled up, and while we’re a little late, we wanted to have a look at one of the latest DLC’s for TSW3 which looks like a worthwhile addition no matter what time of year it is.

Rather than ultra-realistic railroads, The Holiday Express is set inside a living room, in a similar vein to Micro Machines, you’ll see the tree towering above you, an old CRT television on one side, and a sofa and chair set around a coffee table, there’s also plenty more nostalgic nods such as a Nintendo styled game console, and even a “Game & Watch” style handheld hidden on a shelf with smart nod to Skyhook game’s Lawnmower Simulator.
Unlike most TSW routes, there’s no training modules and timetabled services, instead you have a narrative driven scenario with 7 challenges. Chapter one covers 1-6 where you’ll have to save Christmas by reversing the naughty elf’s evil deeds, before returning him to the naughty step, followed by chapter 2 (scenario 7) which gives you a freight train styled quest to swap around carriages containing blocks, to spell out the phrase “Merry Christmas”.

It’s all quite straightforward, and this continues with the sole locomotive, the RRF7, a Christmas reskin of the Santa Fe F7 seen in the Clinchfield Railroad route, and as an add-on for the Cajon Pass route.
The F7 is relatively simple to control, with the aptly named big brake on the left bumper and trigger and the acceleration on the right bumper and trigger, this allows fairly easy movement and speed management, although you’ll have to remember to push up to the full “8” power when initially taking off, to get the heavy locomotive off the mark.

The scenarios are mostly quite short and simple, with the first six all estimated at 5 or 10 minutes with a difficulty of 1/5 in 5 of the 6 scenarios and rating 2/5 in the other.
The 7th, Chapter 2 scenario is much longer and more challenging, estimated at 25 minutes, although I feel the promised 5/5 difficulty wasn’t as challenging as it sounds.

It doesn’t sound like a lot of content, considering many routes will throw hours and hours of timetabled routes on top of numerous longer and more challenging scenarios, but I did find most of the smaller challenges took slightly longer than estimated, especially when you throw in a little time to explore and collect some of the 20 golden chocolate coins which are scattered around the room.

In total the entire DLC, including all scenarios 100% and collecting all 20 coins, took me just under 3 hours to complete, which isn’t bad, but when the price of entry is £7.99, it’s a little disappointing.

It’s clear that The Holiday Express has been kept fairly simple and lighthearted for newcomers and possibly younger gamers, and I can 100% support that, it’s a really novel way of showcasing that a game about trains is far more accessible and playable than most would expect.

Graphically, it’s pretty impressive, there’s a merry festive atmosphere and with being quite a small room and not dozens of miles of scenery, it’s been easier for Dovetail to not only better populate the area, but to avoid any noticeable pop-in or framerate issues (which is quite common, especially on some of the older routes).

Audio is, “okay”, it’s really not going to leave you turning the volume up, but there’s a few cheery Christmas tunes, and the trains sound, as usual very realistic and (while I’ve never been on a SFF7 – I’m sure they’re0n accurate too).

My biggest criticism with The Holiday Express DLC has to come back to the price and overall content. At £7.99 it’s certainly a lot cheaper than most routes, making it worth considering for anyone with limited locations and locomotives, but when it’s 100% complete after a few hours, it just feels a little light.

Next Christmas, I would love to see this added to the base pack (training modules only) as a free download, because it’s a great introduction to TSW3, and could ease newcomers into the franchise with a lighthearted take on train simulation, but it doesn’t quite offer the same appeal for those who already own multiple routes.

TSW3: The Holiday Express DLC

Review by Lee Palmer

Gameplay
75%
Engagement
75%
Graphics
75%
Sound
70%
Value
55%

Summary

It’s a great introduction to TSW3, and could ease newcomers into the franchise with a lighthearted take on train simulation

70%

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