For years, I’ve been looking for a good way to get myself to sleep. I’m terrible at it. Maybe it’s just that I can’t get my mind to stop running, or it could just be the way that I keep my schedule. Either way, there was never anything I could do that I found both relaxing, yet distracting enough for me to stay still while I did it. I’m the type of person who has to be doing two things at once—the habitual multitasker.
When I first heard of Euro Truck Simulator 2, I thought that it was a joke. Much in the way that Goat Simulator is a joke, I didn’t think that anyone had actually taken the time to map out the European trucking experience, because in my mind, what would be the point? What was so great about truck driving?
The answer is EVERYTHING.
At first glance, the controls for Euro Truck Driving Simulator 2 can be confusing. There are buttons for lights, buttons for window wipers, you need to learn how to switch gears, and so many other things. Before I used the wizard to change the controls for my Xbox controller, I wasn’t sure what I was doing. That still didn’t take any of the majesty away from the game, however. The premise for the game itself is simple: you are a truck driver. You have your own garage, but you don’t own any trucks yet. As such, you need to take quick jobs from other companies and deliver their goods across Europe in order to earn money so you can get your own truck.
I decided that I would be listening to a podcast while I was driving. There were a backlog of podcasts that I wanted to listen to, and it would be like listening to talk radio, so it wouldn’t break the mood. The result? Pure bliss.
I didn’t notice at first how I was getting used to the gear changes and that I had stopped driving erratically by swaying around the lines. Like the driving in Saints Row IV, I found that I had to have just enough focus to keep the truck going where it was supposed to, then my mind would go on autopilot while listening to podcasts about ghosts. It was a pretty game, but standard, I thought.
Then the sun started to set and I realized that the game had a depth to it that I hadn’t been expecting. Everything took on a glow, and I could see the first twinkle of stars in the dusk of the road behind me. The world was open before me, and although I was confined to the roads, directed by my GPS, that somehow made the experience easier for me. Rather than being overwhelmed by the amount of choice needed to plot my own route, I only needed to follow the one given to me in order to reach my destination.
The gentle hum of the engines lulled my mind, soothing away the frayed edges that had been caused by work stress, and I found myself coming as close to meditating as I had in months. My mind was empty. The world fell away, and at the same time, opened up to me in the form of the German countryside.
When it comes to how realistic the game is, I honestly have no idea. I love driving, but my experience is limited to cars and automatic gear boxes. I have never driven a manual car and I’ve certain never driven a truck. There are certain quirks that you need to get used to such as the fact that your turns need to be wide and reversing is a pain in the butt, or the fact that there can be up to twelve gears for you to shift up to. I learned the hard way that you don’t want to be in top gear at the bottom of that hill you were trying to climb, and that your truck could go sliding back down to the bottom if you aren’t careful.
Time is sped up to make playing the game more enjoyable. The drives that should take five hours might take you one (unless you are driving slowly), but if you want to do that, then that’s your prerogative, too. The delivery windows provided in the game are wide, and there’s a sense that you can drive at your own pace without feeling anxious about getting there on time.
Euro Truck Simulator 2 is definitely not for everyone. If you get anxious while driving outside of video games, you might want to think twice, but for anyone else, I’d highly recommend trying the demo for the game. It might surprise you how much you enjoy driving around with a cargo of tractors. Maybe you might even find out something new about yourself as you drive through the quiet vistas with the sounds of your truck and the voices on the radio your only companions.
I certainly did.